(London) A collection of Christian liturgical texts written in Coptic presented by Christie’s as “one of the oldest books in existence” sold at auction for £3.06 million ($5.4 million) on Tuesday in London under the name Crosby-Schøyen Codex, announced the auction house.

This manuscript written in Coptic on papyrus between the middle of the 3rd century and the 4th century, according to experts, is “the oldest book of Christian liturgical texts”, including in particular the First Epistle of Peter and the Book of Jonah, underlines Christie’s.

It is also the oldest book belonging to a private collection in the world.

Composed of 51 sheets (of the 68 making up the original book) preserved today between plexiglass plates, each page containing between 11 and 18 lines written in two columns, this text was written by a single scribe.

It was discovered with other papyri and parchments in the early 1950s in Egypt and acquired by a Swiss collector, Martin Bodmer, before changing hands several times over the following decades.

This manuscript is also “one of the rare well-preserved witnesses” to the appearance of the book as a means of transmitting texts, using a technique that evolved little until the invention of printing in the 15th century, adds the auction house. .

It owes its name to an American donor Margaret Reed Crosby, who allowed the University of Mississippi to acquire it, and to the Norwegian collector Martin Schøyen, its last owner.

It was sold with other pieces from the Schøyen collection.

This sale is far from the records reached by some other ancient manuscripts, such as the Sassoon Codex, the oldest Hebrew Bible, sold last year for more than $38 million by Sotheby’s in New York.

Or the 30 million euros paid by Microsoft founder Bill Gates in 1994 to acquire Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester.