Nag Hammadi Library
In December 1945, two peasants, Muhammed and Khalifah 'Ali of the al-Samman clan were digging for fertilizer at the base of the Jabal al-Tarif cliff, using the saddle-bags of their camels to carry the earth back. The cliff is about 11km north-east of Nag Hammadi. They tethered their camels to a boulder, and came upon a buried jar as they were digging around the base of the boulder. Muhammed 'Ali told J.M.Robinson that at first he was afraid to break the jar -- the lid may have been sealed with bitumen, as a blackish substance is present on the lid -- for fear a jinn might be inside, but then he thought that gold might be contained in it instead, so he broke it with his mattock. Out flew particles of papyrus.
Today all the Nag Hammadi codices are in the Coptic Museum in Cairo.
Publication was obstructed by the desire of various scholars to publish works first, with a full (and so lengthy to prepare) commentary. US scholar James Robinson became interested in the 1960's, and using contacts at UNESCO was able eventually to bypass this exhibition of obscurantism. The full collection was published in facsimile by Brill between 1972-1984 as the Facsimile edition of the Nag Hammadi Codices. There is a 17-volume English edition, entitled The Coptic Gnostic Library, and full English translations in the Nag Hammadi Library in English. Robinson also visited Nag Hammadi in the 1960's and 1970's, and tracked down those who found them and wormed out them the story of the find.
All the codices are fourth century papyrus. The find consists of 12 codices, plus 8 leaves from a 13th, and contains 52 texts. Duplications mean the number of unique works is 45. The Berlin Papyrus 8502 is grouped with them, although found separately, because of its related contents. The texts were originally written in Greek, and later translated into Coptic, not always very well (e.g. the passage of Plato). The passage of Plato in fact has been reworked also.