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In 1974, when David I. Owen joined the Cornell faculty, he was told by Erle Leichty of the University of Pennsylvania that A. Leo Oppenheim of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago had briefly studied and catalogued a collection of tablets in the Cornell University Olin library (now held in the Division of Rare and Manuscripts Collection [RMC] of the Cornell University, Karl E. Kroch Library). Upon his arrival at the university, Prof. Owen located the collection, then stored in the basement of the library, and began to prepare it for publication. While studying the RMC tablets, Owen, with Oppenheim’s brief catalogue in hand, located an earlier catalogue of the collection prepared by Edward Chiera, also of the Oriental Institute, in 1929 (see Owen 1991b: 34 and fn. 1 for more information). In 1946, Otto Neugebauer apparently examined the RMC tablets, but none of his notes were located. About the same time, Albrecht Goetze copied nine tablets of the collection, some of which were reproduced in Stone and Owen 1991.

Twenty-three of the RMC tablets date to the Ur III period (ca. 2100-2000 BC). They were all published by D. I. Owen (1991a). The largest group of RMC tablets dates to the Old Babylonian period (ca. 2000-1595 BC). There are 140 administrative documents, of which six are letters copied by A. Goetze (to appear in YOS 17) and transliterated by M. Stol (Owen 1991b). Another Old Babylonian tablet, which provided important information on the reign of king Sin-iddinam of Larsa (1849-1843 BC) was published by A. Goetze (1950; the tablet, which now has the number Cornell 96, was published by Goetze as “CUL 78”). The remaining 133 Old Babylonian tablets were transliterated and copied by M. Sigrist. Both of these scholars generously made their transliterations available for inclusion in the online database, although their manuscripts still await publication. Two of the tablets are mathematical and were identified and catalogued in Neugebauer and Sachs (1986 [1945]). Cornell 31 is a multiplication table with the principal number 25 (Neugebauer and Sachs 1986: 21 no. 78), and Cornell 58 is also a simple multiplication table with the principal number 7,30 (Neugebauer and Sachs 1986: 22 no. 99,4). An additional multiplication table, Cornell 76, seems to have escaped the authors. It has the principal number 3,45.

Two of the tablets are Middle Babylonian and five are Neo-Babylonian; several remain of uncertain date.

The tablets were donated to the Cornell University Library by Mr. Henry Jay Patten, a “distinguished alumnus” who graduated from Cornell University in 1884 and was an alumni trustee from 1915-1920 (Owen 1991b: 35 fn. 4). It is unclear when Patten acquired the collection and when he donated it to Cornell University (for more information see Owen 1991b: 35 and fn. 4).

Three archaic tablets (Cornell 196-198) were donated to the library in the year 2000.

Part of the online data was prepared by Dr. Nicole Brisch and Lisa Kinney-Bajwa during the years of 2004-2006, and the project under the supervision of Prof. Owen will be continued by Dr. Alhena Gadotti.

Goetze, A. 1950. “Sin-iddinam of Larsa. New tablets of his reign.” Journal of Cuneiform Studies 4: 83-118.
Neugebauer, O. and Sachs, A. 1986[1945]. Mathematical Cuneiform Texts. American Oriental Series 29. [Original edition published in 1945]. New Haven, Connecticut: The American Oriental Society.
Owen, D. I. 1991a. Neo-Sumerian Texts from American Collections. Materiali per il Vocabulario Neosumerico 15. Roma: Multigrafica Editrice.
——. 1991b. “Additions to the Old Babylonian Archive of Mannum-mešu-lisur in the Olin Library, Cornell University.” In Stone and Owen 1991: 34-37.
Stone, E. I. and Owen, D. I. 1991. Adoption in Old Babylonian Nippur and the Archive of Mannum-mešu-lissur. Mesopotamian Civilizations 3. Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns.