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Rare Work by Archimedes Auctioned

October 29, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ A 1,000-year-old parchment volume that is the oldest known copy of Archimedes’ work sold for $2 million at auction Thursday to a private American collector.

The 174-page work contains the notes and calculations for two of the Greek mathematician’s most famous theories _ ``On Floating Bodies″ and ``Method of Mechanical Theorems.″

The buyer was not identified.

Bidding for the work, known as the Archimedes Palimpsest, lasted just a minute and a half in an intense session at Christie’s auction house.

Other bidders included the Greek government, which has said the work was stolen from a library and rightfully belongs in Greece.

The buyer will make the work available to scholars, said Felix De Marez Oyens, a Christie’s book expert.

The work’s pre-auction value was put at $800,000 to $1.2 million.

A palimpsest is a work written on parchment on which one manuscript has been erased and another written over it.

The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem has said the Archimedes Palimpsest was stolen from a library in Constantinople, now Istanbul. The patriarchate went to federal court in New York on Wednesday to try to halt the sale, but a judge refused, saying the seller had clear title to sell the manuscript.

The seller’s identity was not disclosed. Christie’s said only that it is a French family that has owned the manuscript since the 1920s.

Archimedes lived in the ancient Greek city of Syracuse in Sicily and was killed in 212 B.C. by the Romans during the Second Punic War. He is credited with many engineering developments, including catapults, pulley hoists, machines for pumping water and grappling irons used to tip ships over.

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