“The largest, the most perfect, the best preserved, and the best illuminated of all the papyri”.These are the words of Sir Ernest Alfred Thompson Wallis Budge regarding the Papyrus Ani, which he himself acquired for the British Museum in 1888 after it was found in a XVIII dynasty tomb near Thebes.
The Book of the Dead
The Book of the Dead is the modern name of a funeral text from the Ancient Egypt, used from the beginning of the New Kingdom to 50 BC. The text features a collection of magic-religious formulas which were to protect and aid the deceased in his journey towards Duat – the realm of the dead, said to be fraught with hardship and peril – and toward immortality.
There was never a standard and unique edition of the Book of the dead and no edition is identical to another: the papyri preserved up to modern days feature many selection of magical formulas, religious texts, and illustrations.
The Importance of the Papyrus Ani to Understand Egyptian Religion
The prayers reveal Egyptian beliefs about death and the afterlife. The text is significantly important to comprehend Egyptian religion. This papyrus is one of the most influential texts in history, and it has been – especially for Egyptians – a religious reference for more than 3.000 years.
The Papyrus Ani According to its Discoverer Sir E. A. Wallis Budge
The Papyrus of Ani, which was acquired by the Trustees of the British Museum in the year 1888, is the largest, the most perfect, the best preserved, and the best illuminated of all the papyri which date from the second half of the XVIIIth dynasty (about B.C. 1500 to 1400).
Its rare vignettes, and hymns, and chapters, and its descriptive and introductory rubrics render it of unique importance for the study of the Book of the Dead, and it takes a high place among the authoritative texts of the Theban version of that remarkable work.
Although it contains less than one-half of the chapters which are commonly assigned to that version, we may conclude that Ani's exalted official position as Chancellor of the ecclesiastical revenues
and endowments of Abydos and Thebes would have ensured a selection of such chapters as would suffice for his spiritual welfare in the future life. We may therefore regard the Papyrus of Ani as typical of the funeral book in vogue among the Theban nobles of his time.
When first found, the papyrus was of a light colour, similar to that of the papyrus of Hunefer (B. M. No. 9901), but it became darker after it had been unrolled, and certain sections of it have shrunk somewhat.
It contains a number of chapters of the Book of the Dead, nearly all of which are accompanied by vignettes; and at top and bottom is a border of two colours-red and yellow. At the beginning and end of the papyrus spaces of six and eleven inches respectively have been left blank.
The inscribed portion is complete, and the loss of the few characters which were damaged in unrolling does not interrupt the text. It was written by three or more scribes; but the uniformity of the execution of the vignettes suggests that fewer artists were employed on the illustrations. The titles of the chapters, rubrics, catchwords, etc., are in red.
Who Was Ani and When Did he Live?
All the different sections of the papyrus were not originally written for Ani, for his name has been added in several places by a later hand. As however such additions do not occur in the first section, which measures 16 feet 4 inches in length, it must be concluded that that section was written expressly for him, and that the others were some of those ready-written copies in which blank spaces were left for the insertion of the names of the deceased persons for whom they were purchased.
The papyrus of Ani is undated, and no facts are given in it concerning the life of Ani, whereby it would be possible to fix its exact place in the series of the illustrated papyri of the Theban period to which it belongs.
We have 3 facsimiles of the manuscript "Papyrus Ani":
- El Libro de los muertos (Papiro de Ani) facsimile edition published by CM Editores, 2019
- Der Papyrus Ani - Special Edition facsimile edition published by Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA), 1978
- Der Papyrus Ani - Standard Edition facsimile edition published by Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA), 1978