Cataloging the Epigraphic Squeeze Collection at Columbia

With images of nearly 700 inscriptions from Greco-Roman antiquity, Columbia University has one of the largest epigraphic squeeze collections in North America. Assembled in stages over the course of the late 19th and 20th centuries primarily as a teaching collection, it is today a valuable research and pedagogical tool for students and scholars alike given that some of the original stones have gone missing over the last century or are in appreciably worse condition than when the impressions were taken. The collection has been underused since the late 1960s, in no small part because of the state of the catalog, which was organized according to long-outdated editions from the late 19th century and which existed only in unwieldy card catalog and paper versions. This spring, with generous support from the Columbia History and Classics Departments, Classical Studies Program CLST, and the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, David Ratzan, the Curator of Papyri, Core Lecturer, and recent CLST graduate (Ph.D. 2011), along with two graduate students, Lucia Carbone (CLST) and Caroline Wazer (HIST), undertook to reorganize and digitally re-catalog the entire collection. Phase I of the project began on May 1, 2012, and over the course of the following three weeks the team recorded, numbered, and cataloged 962 separate pieces representing 640 inscriptions, 593 Greek, 45 Latin, 1 Etruscan, and 1 Cypriot. The earliest pieces date from the 7th cent. BCE while the latest are from the 3rd or 4th cents. CE. The last 42 squeezes will be cataloged in early June and the full catalog will be made available online by Oct. 1, 2012, along with some documentation of the provenance and history of the collection. Phase II, which is still in the planning stage, will involve integrating the collection in some fashion with Prof. John Bodel’s U.S. Epigraphy Project at Brown University.

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