The title of the “Book of Dead” or “Book of Going out in Daylight” has been discussed numerous times and translated in various ways. These studies have made it evident that no “canonical” title for the composition existed in the New Kingdom.1 In this article, two titles for the Book of the Dead that are important for the transmission history of the composition are discussed.2 They have been known since the time of Edouard Naville, but their import has not been appreciated, likely because his description of the two papyri in Turin on which they are appended was misleading. In the Swiss scholar’s introduction to his fundamental study of the Book of the Dead in the New Kingdom, they are presented in the following manner:3

Zwei lange und vorzüglich erhaltene Stücke, welche man beim Abwickeln einer Mumie gefunden hat. Die Schrift ist groß und sehr deutlich … Diese beiden von einander unabhängigen Fragmente, die beide ohne Vignetten sind, enthalten, das eine Kap. 78 und das andere die Schlußrede von 125. Über jedem steht ein besonderer Titel in hieratischer Schrift, deren Charactere klein und wohl abgerundet sind.4

From his description it is not evident that the two “especially well-preserved pieces” (vorzüglich erhaltene Stücke) are actually complete rolls (Fig. 1, Fig. 2). They were written for the same owner, Khonsumes, who was a wab-priest and chief of weighers in the temple of Amun.5 The hieroglyphic writings of his name and titles are the following:

  • Name: Khonsumes
  • a. (P. Turin Cat. 1828/2, line 3)
  • b. (P. Turin Cat. 1828/1, line 65)2
  • Title 1: Wab-priest
  • (P. Turin Cat. 1828/2, line 2; P. Turin Cat. 1827/1, line 64)
  • Title 2: Chief of weighers in the temple of Amun
  • (P. Turin Cat. 1828/2, line 2; P. Turin Cat. 1828/1, line 64)

Nothing is known about the original provenance of the two papyri or the circumstances under which they were found, except that they were acquired by the government of Piedmont in 1823–1824 as part of Bernardino Drovetti’s collection.6 Like most of the papyri in the Museo Egizio collected by Drovetti and his agents, they probably come from Thebes. The information provided by Naville that they were discovered during the unravelling of a mummy should be taken cum grano salis, but the dark brown discoloration of the sheets might testify to the truth of his statement.7

Description of the papyri

The texts on both rolls were written vertically in retrograde hieroglyphs framed by lines. They were penned by the same scribe and inscribed against the sheet joins, i.e., the texts are written from the end of the roll towards the beginning (from left to right). The first roll (P. Turin Cat. 1828/2 – Fig. 1) measures c. 24 × 181 cm and contains an abbreviated version of BD 78 in 64 columns.8 The second roll measures c. 24 × 186 cm (P. Turin Cat. 1828/1 – Fig. 2) and is inscribed with the closing speech of BD 125 in 65 columns.9 At the beginning and end of both rolls, protective sheets are affixed, made from eight smaller strips glued two by two to the beginning and end of the rolls. The strips at the beginning and end of the first manuscript have a width of c. 24 × 11, × 9.5, × 7 and × 7 cm (from right to left). The strips of the second roll c. 24 × 11, × 10.5, × 7.5 and × 9.5 cm. It is clear that some of the protective sheets were added to the first roll after the frame had been drawn, since the top and bottom lines that hem in the last column continue underneath the protective sheet. In the second roll, the last column (and hence, we can assume, the whole text) was inscribed after this protective sheet had been added, since the hieroglyphs just barely overlap the edge of the strip. The inscribed parts of the two papyri consist of 7 sheets each with an average width of c. 20.5–21 cm.

P. Turin Cat. 1828/2. Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.

P. Cat. 1828/2. Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.

P. Turin Cat. 1828/1. Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.

P. Turin Cat. 1828/1. Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.

The date of the papyri cannot be established with any great certainty. Naville and Munro agree in assigning them to the Ramesside Period.10 The texts are austerely abbreviated. On the first roll, BD 78 ends in the middle of the chapter with the sentence:

  • (P. Turin Cat. 1828/2, line 64)
  • iw 1r Hr s.t=f
  • “Horus is upon his seat.”3

The second roll begins with the closing speech of BD 125(c) and ends, after reciting about two thirds of the known text, with the otherwise unattested addition that Khonsumes is:

  • (P. Turin Cat. 1828/1, line 65)
  • mAa xrw m sbA pw aA n.t imn.tyw
  • “justified in this great gate of the Westerners.”11

Although abbreviated, the texts are flawlessly written; only a few random mistakes can be detected, such as the omission of a sign. Apart from the first line(s), the two texts are written in black. The rubric passage of the first roll reads:

  • (P. Turin Cat. 1828/2 lines 1–2)
  • ir.t xpr.w m bik nTry aq pr.t m dwA(.t) nb.t mr(r)=f in
  • “Assuming the forms of a divine falcon and going in and coming forth from every cavern as he desires, by…” The addition, “going in and coming forth from every cavern as he desires” is otherwise unattested in both BD78 and the corpus as such.12

The rubrum of the second roll reads:

  • (P. Turin Cat. 1828/1, line 1)
  • inD-Hr.Tn nTr.w ipw
  • “Hail to you, ye gods!”

It is noteworthy that the passages are not introduced, as is normally the case, by the headings “chapter” (r) or “to be said by” (Dd mdw in), since this may go some way in explaining why separate titles where appended to the two manuscripts.

The two titles

The two hieratic titles mentioned by Naville are inscribed in the middle of two strips of papyrus both measuring 5 × 24 cm. It is clear from gaps between the strips and the two papyri that they were joined horizontally to the beginning of the manuscripts in modern times, likely when, at an unknown date, they were unrolled and mounted on Lyon silk and cardboard.13

Their length, conforming to the height of the rolls, and the fibres and cuts along the upper and lower edges of the strips clearly show that they were excised in antiquity from the protective sheets of the papyri. It is likely that they were used as labels glued to the rolls, most likely along their outer edge.14 As an alternative, they might have been used to bind the rolls: in this case, the uninscribed ends of the strips would have been glued together. Assuming an overlap of 1–1.5 cm, to be subtracted to the 24-cm circumference of the band encircling the roll, the rolled-up papyrus would have had a diameter of slightly more than 7 cm. The strips would thus have been long enough to bind the rolls. In either hypothesis (labels or binding strips), the titles written upon the strips would have served a practical purpose, namely, to facilitate consultation by the mortuary priest, who would be thus informed about the content of the papyri without having to unroll them.15

Both titles were penned by the same scribe and are written from right to left in a minute hieratic book hand. The palaeography of the two titles could indicate that they were penned during the late Ramesside Period or the Third Intermediate Period, but too little text is inscribed on the strips for palaeographical considerations to be diagnostic.16 They can be transcribed, transliterated and translated as follows:17

  • Title 1 (P. Turin Cat. 1828/2 – Fig. 3)

P. Turin Cat. 1828/2 – title. Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.

P. Turin Cat. 1828/2 – title. Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.

  • tA mDA.t aA.t imy(.t) dwA.t nty (Hr) ir.t=s n Ax.w nb{.t}(.w) iqr(.w) r tm rdi.t sxm xfty.w nb n im=f m Ss mAa4
  • “The great book ‘What Is in the Netherworld’, which was made for every excellent transfigured spirit in order to prevent the enemies of the Lord of the West from having power over him, (as) a truly excellent (thing)”.
  • Title 2 (P. Turin Cat. 1828/1 – Fig. 4)

P. Turin Cat. 1828/1 – title. Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.

P. Turin Cat. 1828/1 – title. Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.

  • tA mDA.t pr(.t) m hrw nty tw.t(w) (Hr) ir(.t)=s n Ax.w nb(.w) iqr(.w) m Ss mAa r HH n sp
  • “The book ‘Going Forth by Day’, which was made for every excellent transfigured spirit as a truly excellent (thing) for a million times”.

Unlike the manuscripts unto which they are appended, the titles are written in Late Egyptian. This is evidenced by the use of the definite article at the beginning of both titles and the use of the construction nty + first present in the second title.


Since both titles are unattested and no similar short versions of the Book of the Dead dating from the New Kingdom have been found so far, it is difficult to properly evaluate the role that the two manuscripts played in the history of the transmission of the composition. In my opinion, two scenarios can be envisaged:

  1. The titles are contemporary with the manuscripts and an example of the ad hoc genesis of the Book of the Dead. As such, the papyri would be an early example of a “tomb-library” consisting of two or more funerary papyri.18 This would entail that the modern title “Book of the Dead”, besides designating a collection of “chapters” or “spells” (r.w), also denotes a collection of “books”.
  2. The titles are not contemporary with the manuscripts and the papyrus scrolls were made from an older roll that ended with the closing speech of BD 125. At a later date, this manuscript was appropriated, cut into two or more sections and new protective sheets added. Indicative of this procedure is the abrupt ending of chapter BD 78 (P. Turin Cat. 1828/2) in the first roll5 and the trimmed edge preceding the first column of the second roll (P. Turin Cat. 1828/1).

I find the second scenario more plausible, because the titles are written in Late Egyptian and begin “the great book ‘What Is in the Netherworld’…” (tA mDA.t aA.t imy(.t) dwA.t) and “the book ‘Going Forth by Day’…” (tA mDA.t pr(.t) m hrw), respectively. These elements have nearly verbatim parallels in the titles found inscribed on the edges of the verso of funerary papyri from the Twenty-first and the Twenty-second Dynasties.19 Furthermore, it was standard practice during this period to provide the deceased (priest) with two papyrus rolls inscribed with these two titles and place at least one of the manuscripts between the legs of the mummy.20 Although these two titles were usually appended to the compositions that we designate today as the “Amduat” and the “Book of the Dead”, respectively, the first title was also given to different kinds of funerary manuscripts, and sometimes the content of papyri bearing this title is hardly distinguishable from that of Book of the Dead manuscripts.21 Finally, the appropriation and reuse of New Kingdom funerary equipment is well-attested in the Third Intermediate Period, and papyri would hardly have been exempt from this practice.22 The reason for not washing out the name and titles of the previous owner might either be an expression of piety or indicate that the original ownership of the papyri was inconsequential for their revised ritual use, or, most likely, a combination of both considerations.23


Al-Ayedi, Abdul Rahman, Index of Egyptian Administrative, Religious and Military Titles of the New Kingdom, Ismailia 2006.

Backes, Burkhard, “ʻWas zu sagen ist’ – zum Gesamttitel des Totenbuchs”, in: Burkhard Backes, Marcus Müller-Roth and Simone Stöhr (eds.), Ausgestattet mit den Schriften des Thot. Festschrift für Irmtraut Munro zu ihrem 65. Geburtstag (SAT 14), Wiesbaden 2009, pp. 5–27.

Burkard, Günter and Hans-Werner Fischer-Elfert, Ägyptische Handschriften, IV (VOHD 19/4), Stuttgart 1994.

Christiansen, Thomas and Kim Ryholt, The Carlsberg Papyri 13: Catalogue of Egyptian Funerary Papyri in Danish Collections (CNI Publications 41), Copenhagen 2016.

Cooney, Kathlyn M., “Coffin Reuse: Ritual Materialism in the Context of Scarcity”, in: Alessia Amenta and Hélène Guichard (eds.), Proceedings First Vatican Coffin Conference 19-22June 2013, Vatican City 2017, pp. 101–12.

Daressy, Georges M., “Les cercueils des prêtres d’Ammon (deuxième trouvaille de Deir el-Bahari)”, ASAE 8 (1908), pp. 3–38.

Das altägyptische Totenbuch – Ein digitales Textzeugenarchiv,

Fabretti, Ariodante, Francesco Rossi and Ridolfo V. Lanzone, Regio Museo di Torino: Antichità Egizie (Catalogo generale dei musei di antichità e degli oggetti d’arte raccolti nelle gallerie e biblioteche del Regno, Serie Prima – Piemonte I), I, Torino 1882.

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Naville, Edouard, Das aegyptische Todtenbuch der XVIII. bis XX. Dynastie, I–III, Berlin 1886.

Niwiński, Andrzej, Studies on the Illustrated Theban Funerary Papyri of the 11th and the 10th Centuries B.C. (OBO 86), Freiburg 1989.

Rammant-Peeters, Agnes, Les pyramidions égyptiens du Nouvel Empire (OLA 11), Leuven 1983.

Ryholt, Kim, “A Decorated Band for Tying a Papyrus Roll”, in: Kim Ryholt (ed.), The Carlsberg Papyri 7: Hieratic Texts from the Collection (CNIP publications 30), Copenhagen 2006.

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Verhoeven, Ursula, Untersuchungen zur späthieratischen Buchschrift (OLA 99), Leuven 2001.

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P. Turin Cat. 1828/2. Above: Title and Col. 1. Below: Cols. 1–26.

P. Turin Cat. 1828/2. Above: Title and Col. 1. Below: Cols. 1–26.

P. Turin Cat. 1828/2. Above: Cols. 26–50. Below: Cols. 50–64.

P. Turin Cat. 1828/2. Above: Cols. 26–50. Below: Cols. 50–64.

P. Turin Cat. 1828/1. Above: Title and Cols. 1–4. Below: Cols. 4–27.

P. Turin Cat. 1828/1. Above: Title and Cols. 1–4. Below: Cols. 4–27.

P. Turin Cat. 1828/1. Above: Cols. 27–50. Below: Cols. 50–65.

P. Turin Cat. 1828/1. Above: Cols. 27–50. Below: Cols. 50–65.