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Christian Manuscripts and Nazi Loot: Guest Post by Jennifer Knust

This now is the second of Jennifer Knust’s three posts on her current project, tracing the history of a Christian manuscript she came upon from the rare book collection at Duke University.  Her research led her to booksellers in London, Munich, and Amsterdamn, and implicates the Aryanization policies of the Nazis.   Who knew New Testament scholarship could be so interesting?   Find below what she has to say.

Jennifer Knust’s most popular books are To Cast the First Stone and Abandoned to Lust: Sexual Slander and Ancient Christianity.



Part II: Nazi Loot?

My own project began when Aaron Ebert, a doctoral student at Duke University, noticed that the manuscript he was studying was one of three purchased by Duke from the London bookseller Raphael King in the 1950s. Very little information about Mr. King is available, so Aaron reached out to the Ludwig Rosenthal Antiquariaat, a venerable antiquarian bookstore now located in the Netherlands that once owned another of Duke’s manuscripts also sold by King, Greek MS 018. According to an important volume on Byzantine hagiography, this manuscript, a twelfth-century collection of saints’ lives for the month of December, was in the possession of the Antiquariat in Munich sometime before 1938 (Albert Ehrhard, Überlieferung und Bestand der hagiographischen und homiletischen Literatur der griechischen Kirche von den Anfängen bis zum Ende des 165. Jahrhunderts, vol. 2, Leipzig, J. C. Hinrichs, 1938, 483-84). The current owner, Mrs. Edith Petten-Rosenthal, kindly replied to Aaron, noting that any manuscript sold from the Munich shop after 1938 was …

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The Legality, Morality, and Scandal of Acquiring Ancient Manuscripts: Guest Post by Jennifer Knust
Tracking Down Stolen Manuscripts: Guest Post by Jennifer Knust



  1. NulliusInVerba
    NulliusInVerba  July 8, 2019

    Thank you for the very informative guest posts.

  2. Avatar
    AstaKask  July 8, 2019

    This is beginning to sound like an Indiana Jones movie.

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    rburos  July 8, 2019

    The last 30 days of this blog have been FASCINATING. Under what heading will you store these–“Being a Butt”? Or maybe you could create a trophy named in Harry Frankfurt’s honor? Whichever, I find this thread to be gold.

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    Ruven  July 8, 2019

    Come on, you can’t leave us on such a cliffhanger, Dr Knust!

    • jwk37
      jwk37  July 9, 2019

      I’m also at the edge of my seat! I suppose this is what detective work is like? If I ever do find out where MS 018 was in the 1930s and 40s, I promise to let everyone know!

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    Silver  July 9, 2019

    “…the forced dissolution of some monastic libraries under the Kulturkampf policies of Otto von Bismark (1871-1887) likely made a number of such books available to the market, though this is a guess and not certain.”

    If this was, indeed, the case, do you believe that this means that efforts towards restitution should also be made in this instance? How far back in time do you feel that one should try to return artifacts to their ‘rightful’ owners?

    • jwk37
      jwk37  July 17, 2019

      This is a great question – how far back should the restitution claims go? There are no laws in place that could enable the monastery from which this manuscript likely came to sue for restitution; these laws are all post-WWII. But law and ethics do not always line up [!].

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    Bewilderbeast  July 13, 2019

    These academics peer over their specs at us, covered in dust. Meantime they’re secretly leading wildly exciting lives!!
    I just SO HOPE – yeah, and doubt – that some of the characters end up in handcuffs! Schadenfreude? OK.
    Oh, and I got a great kick out of seeing the image of that Gutenberg book – thanks!

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