Colophons in Sumerian and Akkadian Literary Manuscripts from 3rd and 2nd Millennium BCE Mesopotamia
The practice of inserting scribal remarks to the end of a manuscript in ancient Mesopotamia dates back to the mid-third millennium and it was continued until the end of the cuneiform tradition. Colophons, nonetheless, underwent significant changes in time and space: they differ regarding their form, content and function from both a synchronic and a diachronic viewpoint.
Colophons were no conventional elements of Sumerian and Akkadian manuscripts, but freely added components providing various pieces of meta-information, e.g. on the length of the composition, the identity of the scribe, the location or condition of the source, as well as the place and date of production. Manuscripts with colophons may come from various contexts ranging from exercises of apprentice scribes to master copies of scholars. Though colophons are easy to discern on cuneiform tablets as they are visually divided from the body of the text, there is no estimate how many of the extant literary manuscripts contain colophons. The neglecting of paratexts is due to the research focus of the past decades. Scholars attempted the edition of literary compositions by reconstructing the text on the basis of several fragmentary manuscripts, thus the individual manuscripts and their unique features received less attention.
The aim of this project is to investigate the intertwining of literary production and the scribal practice of inserting colophons during the 3rd and 2nd millennium BCE. A catalogue of respective manuscripts and an edition of the extant colophons is a desideratum at present. This database would serve as a solid basis for the study of related scribal practices applying the methodological apparatus of manuscript studies. Beyond that, the relevance of colophons for the Mesopotamian cultural history is to be outlined.