by GEOFFREY S. SMITH
A Fragment Makes History
A few months ago, I received a much-anticipated email that read, “The courier is scheduled to deliver the Willoughby Papyrus to the Ransom Center tomorrow.” The next morning, I anxiously watched as members of the Center’s conservation staff carefully removed from the oversized shipping package a small black archival box, no more than 8 inches square. They slid off its sleeve, opened the protective cover, and placed the object on the table in front of me for inspection. Mounted between two plates of glass was an ancient papyrus fragment of the Gospel of John, no larger than a credit card.
The manuscript was fragmentary, and some of the Greek letters were not easy to make out, but it had not suffered any damage since I had last seen it in person, nearly seven years earlier. I could finally breathe a sigh of relief. The “Willoughby Papyrus,” as it is known, had made it to The University of Texas safe and sound.