Things to do when you’ve missed your train at King’s Cross (part 2)

It’s even better than platform 9 3/4

Platform 9 3/4
a_marga@flickr

One of the things not to watch at King’s Cross station is tourists talking selfies as they crash luggage trolleys into a brick wall. On top of the brick wall is the sign ‘Platform 9 3/4’, and you can also find a convenient shop nearby of Potter memorabilia.

Great though Harry Potter is, you can find an even better story hidden around the corner from King’s Cross Station.

The British Library stores every book ever printed. Its greatest treasure, which may even be the UK’s greatest treasure, is on exhibition there. This is something more valuable than the crown jewels and more influential than than The Wealth of Nations or the Magna Carta (also on display nearby) or Newton’s Principia Mathematica.

The Codex Siniaticus, the book from Sinai, is the ‘oldest Bible in the world’, and the earliest complete New Testament, dating from 320 AD.

St Catherine's Monastery
Seetheholyland.net @flickr

How it was found is unbelievable.

The first 43 pages of it were discovered in a monastic fire-basket in 1844 by German scholar and explorer Lobegott Friedrich Constantin von Tischendorf. He was visiting St Catherine’s monestary on the traditional site of Mt Sinai.

I perceived in the middle of the great hall a large and wide basket, full of old parchments; and the librarian informed me that two heaps of papers like this, mouldered by reason of age, had been already committed to the flames. What was my surprise to find among this heap of documents a considerable number of sheets of a copy of the Old Testament in Greek, which seemed to me to be one of the most ancient I had ever seen.

St Catherine's Monastery
Prayer life: good. Central heating fuel, some improvement needed. seetheholyland.net@flickr

His excitement prevented the monks from handing over the rest, but also, fortunately, from burning any more pages.

In 1859, he persuaded the monks to present the whole MS to Tsar Alexander II of Russia.  It contained about half the Old Testament and all the New Testament. After the Russian Revolution, and long after Tischendorf’s death, the revolutionary government didn’t want it, and the British bought it.

Golly.

 

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