Association internationale de Papyrologues

International Association of Papyrologists

In memoriam Theodore Cressy SKEAT


Discours prononcé durant l'Assemblée Générale de l'AIP réunie à Helsinki le 7 août 2004
Speech delivered during the General Assembly of the AIP gathered in Helsinki on August 7th, 2004
par - by: Dorothy J. THOMPSON

Theodore Cressy Skeat, who died on 25 June 2003 aged 96, was an Honorary President of our Association from 1968, and before that he was a Member of the Comité International from 1947. Born in 1907, Skeat was a distinguished palaeographer, papyrologist, and codicologist who spent 41 years of his career at the British Museum as Assistant Keeper (from 1931), Deputy Keeper (from 1948) and finally Keeper and Egerton Librarian in the Department of Manuscripts from 1961 to 1972. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1963, though he resigned on a point of principle in 1980.

For papyrologists, the best known of Skeat's many works is probably his Reigns of the Ptolemies (first published in 1954 and reissued in 1969). This invaluable guide with its tables of dates has a place on the shelves of anyone who works on Ptolemaic texts. As an editor his publications have been described as 'models of the way in which papyri should be presented'. For 14 years, from 1955 to 1968, he was joint editor, with Sir Eric Turner, of the Graeco-Roman Memoirs of the Egypt Exploration Society (the series that publishes the Oxyrhynchus Papyri), and during this period no fewer than 18 volumes were added to the series. Skeat had a considerable input into all of these. As a papyrologist, his most notable publications were Papyri from Panopolis in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin (1964) and, in 1974, his volume of Greek Papyri in the British Museum, P.Lond. VII: the Zenon archive, which completed the publication of papyri from that large archive in major museums. This was and remains an important publication. At the time he expressed dismay at its price of £30.00; others of us considered it an impressive bargain. Overall, Skeat was energetic, productive, painstaking and meticulous in his scholarship.

Papyrology was only one side of Skeat's scholarly work; many of his important publications were in biblical studies, new testament texts and book-production. He collaborated with Sir Harold Idris Bell on Fragments of an Unknown Gospel (1935), with Colin Roberts on The Birth of the Codex (1983) and earlier with H.J.M. Milne on Scribes and Correctors of the Codex Sinaiticus (1938). Another important article on that codex appeared in the Journal of Theological Studies for 1999, and a collection of his biblical writings will be published by Brill this month.

Skeat was a retiring individual who shunned the limelight yet he always offered a warm welcome to colleagues and students alike. With Skeat as Keeper, the Manuscripts Room of the British Museum was a friendly place to work, where at least one beginner student who came to look at papyri received a guiding hand and a personal welcome, the use of his transcripts together with those of Bell and a strong sense of having entered an extraordinarily supportive profession.