Conservation of the Papyrus Gissensis 40, initially undertaken by Hugo Ibscher, had to be resumed after the document suffered water damage during and after World War II

Hugo Ibscher’s conservation and glazin

The first restoration of the Constitutio Antoniniana papyrus was the work of Hugo Ibscher (1874–1943), the foremost conservator of his day, at the Berlin papyrus collections on Museum Island. He completely cleaned the Papyrus Gissensis 40, pieced fragments together, backed the document with a layer of paper, and then framed the papyrus between glass plates.

Hugo Ibscher, by Unknown [public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

During World War II, the Oberhessisches Museum in the Altes Schloss (Old Castle) in Giessen burned to the ground following a bombing raid in December 1944. The complete correspondence pertaining to the papyrus collection that had been stored in Giessen, which might have provided us with more detailed information, was destroyed

Mitigation of damage caused by flooding in 1945

The Constitutio Antoniniana papyrus was damaged when water seeped between the glass plates enclosing it as a result of flooding at the end of World War II. This damage, which went unnoticed for some time, called for rapid action with the limited available resources (see section on Known History of the Constitutio Antoniniana). Mold had set in and the upper glass plate was cracked. The plates of this and other affected papyri were opened for drying in the library’s book bindery in 1946/47 and the papyri cleaned, dried, and then reglazed. This procedure was not entirely successful for the Constitutio Antoniniana. Paper used as backing and papyrus fibers had become inseparable, and the papyrus could no longer be detached from the cracked front glass plate. The scope of restoration was severely limited; only a second papyrus that had been placed under the same glass on the reverse side of the Constitutio Antoniniana could be detached. The dark mold spots and color changes visible today on the Constitutio Antoniniana date from this time. Some smaller fragments were lost. But these measures at least stabilized the Constitutio Antoniniana papyrus

Restoration in Leipzig in 2009

Thanks to financial support from the non-profit foundation of the bank Sparkasse Giessen (Gemeinnützige Stiftung der Sparkasse Gießen), the Constitutio Antoniniana underwent further conservation in the restoration workshop of Leipzig University’s papyrus collection in 2009, accompanied by considerable public interest. Analysis showed that the fungal mold was no longer active. Because the papyrus remained bonded to the original front glass panel, a glass passe-partout was mounted around the original plate. Openings were left at the corners to allow for air circulation.

If you are interested in learning more about techniques for restoring and conserving papyri, please see the volume edited by Graf/Krutzsch (2008).

You will find more information on the papyrus collection at the University Library Giessen in the >>next section<<.