August 25, 2002
8:24 AM   Subscribe

A 63-year old Norwegian bus company owner has amassed one of the worlds largest collections of ancient manuscripts valued at over 110 million dollars. His story, how the collection is used and his plans for the sale proceeds are all first-class and an inspiration to private collectors of antiquities.
posted by stbalbach (15 comments total)
he sounds like a great guy--so many private collectors don't let scholars use their collections for research....thanks stbalbach!
posted by amberglow at 8:46 AM on August 25, 2002

The story how he allegedly obtained the Dead Sea Scrolls does not make sense.

The researchers got them as presents, yet parted with them for a modest fee - they were professors by that time remember - and just sold them to a Norwegian bus company owner - expert collector. The new owner then discovers using methods of modern science that there is valuable writing on the Scrolls ... nice fairy tale.
posted by neu at 8:58 AM on August 25, 2002

Either he doesn't want people to know that he paid an arm and a leg for them (or traded something else valuable for them--"I'll trade you a Gutenberg Bible, and four Sumerian fragments with text for your blank Dead Sea Scroll fragments"), or this was forty years ago, or those professors were yokels, I think.
posted by amberglow at 9:08 AM on August 25, 2002

Some of his pieces from Afghanistan Buddhisms Dead Sea Scrolls are controversial.

neu-- what doesnt make sense? He's the worlds most well known collector of ancient manuscripts, is friendly and co-operative with the research community, has the money to properly take care of and share antiquities, it makes total sense.
posted by stbalbach at 9:09 AM on August 25, 2002

His web site has photos of the scrolls and they sure do have writing on them.

posted by Mutant at 9:16 AM on August 25, 2002

neu, also remember that the ability to recover faded and seemingly invisible text is very recent. You've seen stories of scientific and conservational analysis of paintings that reveal the underpainting or altogether different works.

St, this was interesting from the link: Since the fall of the Taliban, talismans have been produced for sale in Bamiyan which incorporate a fragment of ancient Buddhist text
I didn't know Buddhism did the talisman thing...
posted by amberglow at 9:21 AM on August 25, 2002

Considering the fate of the Bamiyan statues, I think he should be lauded for acquiring those texts and providing for their preservation.

Amberglow: Protection objects and the power of texts and statues etc. has a place in ritual varieties of Buddhism. Text is a big part of this. As I understand it, statues must be prepared by being filled with rolled up mantras before they actually mean anything. So, the message of the text is primary. Of course, there shouldn't be attachments to such objects, nor should they be considered to exist in any more lasting sense than everything else. If they are helpful in practice, then they have power. They aren't to be bought to help your gambling, as I hear happens among what I guess would be "non-practicing" Buddhists.
posted by mblandi at 9:54 AM on August 25, 2002

thanks mblandi--I know very little about Buddhism, and thought this: ...there shouldn't be attachments to such objects, nor should they be considered to exist in any more lasting sense than everything else... was of more importance.

Well, if it works for them...although I wish they weren't cutting up irreplaceable ancient scrolls.
posted by amberglow at 10:14 AM on August 25, 2002

Yeah, no kidding.
posted by mblandi at 11:01 AM on August 25, 2002

neu would be shocked to learn how many invaluable antiquities are in private hands, I'm sure.

The imaging technologies used on the scrolls is another spin-off from space technology, in this case the charge coupled devices (CCDs) that were used in the Hubble Space Telescope {high-res image}, and are now commonplace in digital cameras. A history of the project shows that it began in 1994, which is the year that the documents were acquired, one from a widow. There's one project sponsored by Xerox, another by Princeton. Some cool facts about the scrolls {scroll halfway down}. Some of the best of this imaging work is done at Brigham Young University. Previous MeFi threads on ancient documents from a library in Herculaneum.
posted by dhartung at 11:37 AM on August 25, 2002

it really makes you wonder what was just thrown away in the past because it looked like nothing was written on it...
posted by amberglow at 12:25 PM on August 25, 2002

amberglow: or deliberately undervalued and sold by corrupt people.

dhartung: thanks for the list of Web sites. The JPL link was especially useful, thanks. I only have contact with roboticians there and rarely care to check out every page.

What I was referring to was not related to when CCD cameras were invented and for what purpose. I am not sure that the fragments were the personal property of those two professors if they acquired them during their research when they were still students - it is hinted in the article that the lawfulness of the ownership of individual articles of the collection is still questionable.
posted by neu at 12:45 PM on August 25, 2002

This is a clear demonstration of reading something without actually reading it.

A 63-year old Norwegian bus company owner

When I first read that, it said 'Norwegian bus driver', so I was very impressed to learn a bus driver could have such colossal assets. Then I read that the 'driver' lives on a luxury cruise liner.. so I planned to come back here and raise hell and say that the guy is not a bus 'driver' at all.

I re-read your headline again, it still said driver. Then again, word by word, and realised what an idiot I was. Is it a bad sign when you have to read something several times word by word to realise what it actually says? :-D
posted by wackybrit at 7:22 PM on August 25, 2002

Strange magic, wackybrit, as I succumbed to the same phenomenom...

Another coincedence is today's atypical APOD which parallels this topic.
posted by Fupped Duck at 10:17 PM on August 25, 2002

Me three on the bus driver thing. The Voynich Manuscript referred to on the APOD page fascinates me. Called by some "the most mysterious manuscript in the world" and by others simply a hoax, it's been keeping researchers busy for a long time now. (Info here and here.) There are a number of b&w images from its pages at this site (faster downloads than the images linked from the APOD page), but to really appreciate these drawings, you need to view them in color. Unfortunately, it appears the Yale library has chosen to remove or hide the images they once had online. You can see a few paltry examples, though, if you do a Google image search for "Voynich gallery" or "Voynich images."
posted by taz at 12:09 AM on August 26, 2002

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