"The Cable Guy": Constantine Simonides and Codex Mayerianus

Tommy Wasserman, Malcolm Choat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Constantine Simonides (1824[?]–1890[?]) is known as one of the greatest manuscript forgers in history. During the 19th century, he travelled to many countries in Europe trying to sell forged as well as authentic manuscripts to collectors, scholars, and curators of prominent libraries. During his second stay in England, from 1858 to 1865, he used genuine papyri in the collection of Joseph Mayer in Liverpool to make forgeries of Biblical papyri, ecclesiastical writings, historical and geographical works, and letters. This article focuses on arguably the most spectacular of all his forgeries, “Codex Mayerianus,” an alleged first-century papyrus codex containing the autograph of Matthew alongside texts of James and Jude, which Simonides edited in 1861, before any (genuine) New Testament papyri had been published. We discuss its purported provenance, external features, text, and accompanying critical edition, and how it was introduced and received by contemporary scholars and the wider public. We argue that its creation is best understood in terms of Simonides’ efforts to promote his own expertise, and identify for the first time the model Simonides used for this famous forgery.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-218
Number of pages42
JournalBulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Forgery
  • Papyrology
  • Papyrus
  • Constantine Simonides
  • New Testament
  • Fake
  • New testament papyri
  • Joseph Mayer
  • Greek New Testament manuscripts
  • forgeries
  • Codex Mayerianus
  • Matthew 19:24


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