Circa 300 CE
By the fourth century, the use of parchment for books was so widespread in the West that we can speak of a general transition from papyrus to parchment in the book-making process. This was of decisive importance for the preservation of literature because only very few papyrus fragments from medieval libraries have survived, since the European climate is inimical to this material. Nonetheless, in the sixth century AD the law codes of Justinian I were distributed from Byzantium in papyrus as well as in parchment manuscripts. One of the latest western papyrus books preserved (c. saec. VII-VIII) [circa 7-8th century] is a Luxeuil codex containing works of Augustine, in which interleaved parchment leaves protect the middle and the outside of the gatherings” (Bischoff, Latin Palaeography, Antiquity and the Middle Ages  8).
The Oldest Bible
The world’s oldest Bible, the Codex Sinaiticus, has been digitized online after being housed in four separate locations for over 150 years.
The surviving sections of the world’s oldest Bible have been pieced together and unified online Monday, creating a unique opportunity for scholars to learn more about the centuries-old manuscript.
As part of a four-year joint project, the Codex Sinaiticus, has been digitized for the first time, reuniting sections held by the British Library in London, the Monastery of St. Catherine in Sinai, Egypt, the National Library of Russia and Leipzig University Library in Germany, according to Reuters.
The Codex Sinaiticus was hand-written in Greek by four scribes in the mid-fourth century, around the time of Constantine the Great, the Roman emperor who embraced Christianity.
The Codex, which was originally around 1,400 pages long, is now a collection of 800 pages and fragments.
The text was written on vellum, a type of animal hide, and the pages that have survived include the entire New Testament and the earliest surviving copy of the Gospels, written after Christ’s death by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Half of a copy of the Old Testament is also among the pages that remain. The rest has been lost over time.
“The Codex Sinaiticus is one of the world’s greatest written treasures,” Scot McKendrick, head of Western manuscripts at the British Library, told Reuters.
“This 1,600-year-old manuscript offers a window into the development of early Christianity and first-hand evidence of how the text of the Bible was transmitted from generation to generation,” said McKendrick.
The pages include numerous revisions, corrections and additions, thought to have been added as the manuscript was passed down over time.
With each page measuring 16 inches tall by 14 inches wide, the Codex “is arguably the oldest large bound book to have survived,” McKendrick told Reuters.
“Critically, it marks the definite triumph of bound codices over (papyrus) scrolls – a key watershed in how the Christian Bible was regarded as a sacred text,” he stated.
Reuniting the remaining pages of the Codex has helped to reveal other mysteries surrounding the oldest Bible, including more information about who made it and how it was produced.
Experts at the British Library told Reuters that the project has already produced evidence that suggests that a fourth scribe worked on the texts. Three other scribes have previously been recognized as authors.
Each institution owns various amounts of the Codex, but the British Library, which was the first to digitize pages of the book in London, possesses the most.
The joint project to compile all the pages online began in 2005, with the objective of preserving the ancient manuscript and creating an online archive.
The collection will also include previously unpublished pages of the Codex, which were found in a blocked-off room in 1975 at St. Catherine’s Monastery. Several of these pages are in poor condition, which has made them difficult to study.
McKendrick said the project should finally allow scholars to be able to view the documents as part of a whole, making their studies more complete and comprehensive.
While there are still many unknown answers about the origins of the Codex – such as how the manuscript came to be, which religious order commissioned it, and how long it took to produce – unifying the book on the Internet will hopefully initiate new research into the manuscript.
“It is our hope this will provide the catalyst for new research and it is already creating great interest,” Juan Garces, project manager of Greek manuscripts at the British Library, told Reuters.
The Bible can be viewed online for free at http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/ . The collection includes modern Greek translations, in addition to certain sections which have been translated into English.