The Book of the Dead of the ‘merchant’ Kenna measures 17.7 metres in length, making this papyrus the longest manuscript in the collection of the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden.The museum’s first director, Caspar Reuvens (1793-1835), acquired it in 1835 at an auction at Sotheby’s in London. It was part of the estate of the English consul general in Alexandria,Henry Salt, whose Greek agent Yanni Athanasi had discovered it around 1825.
The book was lying folded across the mummy, in twelve pieces. This has caused quite a bit of damage to the outer sheet, the mummy being covered with resin or oil. The manuscript’s quality of execution is extraordinary. Certain spells have been executed in colour, which is a rare thing indeed, because scribes only used red and black as a rule. Great attention was given to the vignettes, so much so that at times too little space remained to accommodate the text.
The vignette pictured here, shows the so-called Judgment of the Dead. The deceased’s ethical actions are being weighed by Maat, the goddess of justice. The god of the art of writing,Thot – in the shape of a hamadryas baboon – is taking down the goddess’s judgment, which is favourable in this case. So the ‘Eater of the Dead’ does not need to come into action. Anubis takes Kenna before Osiris, to ‘see the faces of all good people’. This Book of the Dead was Caspar Reuvens’ last acquisition. On his journey home he died of a stroke, with the Book of the Dead in his luggage.