I recently took a trip to a local seminary library hoping to find some good information on purple parchment manuscripts of the New Testament. Since many of the purple manuscripts are closely related textually and in time, I was hoping to find some detailed information about why they might have been created, where, and for whom. Unfortunately, my short trip was rather frustrating and I simply could not find the information I was looking for, so I'm afraid I don't have much to post on the subject, but I will provide a few links that might be of interest.
There are quite a few manuscripts on purple parchment that were most likely dyed using purple secretions from a mollusk known as the Murex Trunculus. The most well known of these manuscripts of the New Testament are probably Codex Purpureus Petropolitanus (N), Codex Sinopensis (O), Codex Rossanensis (Σ), and Codex Beratinus (Φ), all written in the sixth century. In addition to their expensive purple dye, the manuscripts were also written in silver and/or gold ink and contained elaborate illustrations of Biblical scenes.
In reaction to such extravagance, that was also apparently common in the 4th century, the church father Jerome stated in one of his epistles that "Parchments are dyed purple, gold is melted into lettering, manuscripts are decked with jewels, while Christ lies at the door naked and dying."
I was able to find some excellent images of Codex Purpureus Rossanensis (just click on the numbers), though they are mostly illustrations. Codex Rossanensis is kept in the Museo Diocesano di Arte Sacra. (There is a link in the middle of the page, Codex Purpureus Rossanensis, that will take you to more information and some images of the codex. The information is in Italian, so you might make use of Babelfish if you are like me and do not know the language.) Ever wanted your own copy of the beatiful Codex Rossanensis? Well, now you can have one if you have some spare change lying around. The Skriptorium has a reproduction of Rossanensis for sale on their website.
I was also able to find a few images of Codex Beratinus on the website of UNESCO. According to an interesting document about Codex Beratinus on the UNESCO website, the nomination form for Codex Beratinus for the "Memory of the World Register":
In the 1970s, in accordance with an intergovernmental agreement, the “Codex Purpureus Beratinus Ф” was sent to China, where it was restored using the technique of hermetically sealing the pages in a vacuum between two sheets of glass. After being restored, the “Codex Purpureus Beratinus Ф” was divided into nine volumes, which are now kept at the Albanian National Archives in Tirana, in a strongroom financed by UNESCO.
There are plenty of other purple manuscripts of both the Old and New Testament. Hopefully I'll find some more interesting information about them one of these days. If anyone knows of a good resource on purple manuscripts, please post a comment. Thanks.