Colophons are formal notes written by a scribe at the end of a tablet. They provide information about the circumstances of the tablet's production. This can include elements such as the name (and title) of the scribe; the text being copied; the object on which the original was found; the processes the scribe has followed; the purpose for which the copy was made; the place and date of production. Not all tablets were given colophons.

Tablets from the Library of Ashurbanipal contain several different types of colophon. Most are of a special type not yet attested elsewhere. These library colophons all contain a statement recording that they belonged to the palace of Ashurbanipal, usually followed by detailed information and a prayer. Alongside these are examples explaining that the tablets belonged to the library of the temple of Nabu, patron god of the scribal craft. Others originally belonged to individual scribes. Most of these belonged to the family of Nabu-zuqup-kenu, a scribe who served Ashurbanipal's great grandfather and grandfather. Others belonged to less well-known scribes from around his empire.

The library colophons are now the subject of an AHRC-DFG-funded collaborative project between the British Museum and Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich. They offer valuable information about the size, scope, and origins of Ashurbanipal's collection.

Jonathan Taylor

Jonathan Taylor, 'Colophons', Ashurbanipal Library Project, The Ashurbanipal Library Project, Department of the Middle East, The British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG, 2022 []

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