Coptic Resources in The CUA Libraries: Part One

Henry Hyvernat  (1858-1941), the youngest member of the original faculty of The Catholic University of America, spent fifty-two years in distinguished service to The Catholic University of America. He was Professor of Oriental Languages and Biblical Archaeology (1889-1895/96) as part of the Faculty of Theology, and then Professor of Semitic Languages and Biblical Archaeology (1895/96-1910/1911) in the new School of Philosophy’s Department of Letters.  He served as Professor of Semitic Languages and Literatures (1911/12-1940/41) in what is today the Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures (School of Arts and Sciences).  He is best known as a scholar of Coptic, the language of Christian Egypt.

The Hyvernat Papers are housed in Special Collections (#56 University Archives). They cover a span of some sixty-five years, from 1876 through and beyond his death in 1941. The growth and development of Coptic studies as a modern academic discipline can be tracked in the Hyvernat Papers. Series 1. General Correspondence [17 manuscript boxes = 7.33 linear ft.] is a “Who’s Who” of several generations of Coptologists and Orientalists. Series  2. Professional Correspondence. Morgan Collection [6 manuscript boxes = 2.5 linear ft.; currently on loan to the Semitics/ICOR library] contains much information about one of the major twentieth-century discoveries of ancient Christian documents in Egypt, the library associated with the Coptic Monastery of St. Michael near the modern town of Hamuli in the Egyptian Fayyum. These Papers relate to the purchase of the manuscripts by the American financier J. Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), Hyvernat’s commission to work on them, and Vatican Library restoration work on the manuscripts.

Theodore Christian Petersen, C.S.P.

The Research Papers of two other CUA Coptic scholars are housed in the Semitics/ICOR Library.  (1) The Papers of Fr. Theodore Christian Petersen, C.S.P. (1883-1966) [3 filing cases = 24 linear ft.], Hyvernat’s student, colleague, and eventual successor in the Semitics department and the Institute of Christian Oriental Research (ICOR) after Hyvernat’s death.  The Papers contain Petersen’s collaborative work with Hyvernat on the Coptic manuscripts of the Morgan Library & Museum and Petersen’s own studies of Coptic manuscript ornament and Coptic bindings. Included are the various manuscript drafts of Petersen’s unpublished study of Coptic bindings in the Morgan Collection.  An edition of Petersen’s study of the Morgan Coptic bindings is expected this year. The Petersen Papers also include a 1935 manuscript copy of Hyvernat’s unpublished “Catalogue of the Coptic Manuscripts in the Pierpont Morgan Library” (452 leaves). (2)The Papers of Prof. Paulinus Bellet, O.S.B. (1913-1987) [2 filing cases = 15 linear ft.]. His own research was centered on the Coptic Bible and the Coptic manuscript tradition. Bellet served as Coptic editor for the Madrid Biblia Polyglotta. His Papers also include facsimile copies (microfilm and photographs) and transcriptions of Coptic manuscripts, and card file indexes.

Since March 2018 the Semitics/ICOR Library has partnered with the University Libraries Resource Management (Preservation) and then with the University Libraries Electronic Resources and Services to begin digitizing some of the Coptic research materials here. In April 2019 Katherine DeFonzo, GLP, Semitics/ICOR Library, took on primary responsibility for digitizing the ICOR collections.

Three Coptic resources are now available in Islandora:

(1) Bybliothecae Pierpont Morgan codices coptici photographice expressi 56 vols. in 63 and 1 index vol.  (8,582 images)

This is CUA’s copy of the 1922 folio facsimile edition of the Morgan Coptic codices (Hamuli Collection) prepared by Hyvernat. Only twelve sets were printed. Two of the twelve sets were reserved for the Morgan Library (now the Morgan Museum and Library) and for The Catholic University of America. The remaining ten sets were distributed around the world to the Vatican Library, the Egyptian government, and to major American and European universities and libraries. Forty-seven of the fifty-six volumes of the edition include the Hamuli codices at the Morgan Museum and Library; four volumes include the Hamuli codices at the Cairo Coptic Museum; five other volumes include Morgan Coptic manuscripts not from Hamuli. Two of the twelve sets, those at CUA and at the Morgan Museum, include facsimiles of additional related leaves not present in the other sets.

The Bybliothecae Pierpont Morgan codices coptici photographice expressi… is housed in the Semitics/ICOR Library. Shelved nearby is Hyvernat’s working set of bound photostats (reduced size) of the manuscripts. Some of the photostat images appear to show evidence of binding details no longer fully visible in the facsimile edition.

(2) 1911 Galleys of a dealer’s catalog of the Hamuli Coptic manuscripts written by the French Egyptologist Émile Chassinat (1868-1948) with the assistance of Hyvernat. The dealer’s catalog was never published because the financier J. Pierpont Morgan (1867-1943) purchased most of these manuscripts in 1911. The two sets of galley proofs were extensively annotated by Hyvernat. They provide access to the manuscripts before the purchase, and before restoration work was done on the manuscripts. (286 images).

(3) Hyvernat’s unpublished catalogs of Coptic manuscripts in European libraries: Hyvernat. Coptic MSS Berlin [1889] Berlin and London (95 images) , Hyvernat. Coptic MSS Vatican Library (167 images),  Hyvernat. Coptic MSS Clarendon Press  [1886-1887]   (261 images), Hyvernat. Crawford and Curzon Collections [n.d.] (167 images), Hyvernat. Coptic MSS Bibliothèque nationale. Paris [ca. 1886; later entries 1931] (123 images), Hyvernat. Coptic MSS Bodleian Library [n.d.] (173 images).

Manuscript collections are not static. The physical condition, location, and local identification of individual items and collections may change over time. Hyvernat’s catalogs provide valuable information about these collections as they were when he visited them–a snapshot in time. In 2017 Mark Sheridan OSB, CUA alumnus and former rector and dean of faculty, Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm, Rome presented a public lecture on the value of Hyvernat’s 1886/1887 Clarendon Press catalog in tracking these manuscripts in the Bodleian Library (Oxford):  “Hidden in Plain Sight: On the Trail of the Clarendon Press Manuscripts from Mullen Library (CUA) to the Bodleian (Oxford)” .

CUA Papyri

The Catholic University of America has a teaching collection of Coptic, Greek, and Arabic papyri (mostly fragmentary) acquired by Msgr. Henry Hyvernat (1858-1941) in the early twentieth century. This includes 157 numbered items (CUA Museum Hyvernat Collection), along with one Demotic papyrus fragment. The materials are housed in the Semitics/ICOR library.

Bibliographical Note

1977. Leslie S.B. MacCoull, “An Account of Fodder for Pack-Horses,” Zeitschrift fūr Papyrologie und Epigraphik 25 (1977) 155-158.
1985. Leslie S.B. MacCoull, “Coptic Documentary Papyri in the Hyvernat Collection.” Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte 27 (1985) 53-60.
2015. James G. Keenan, “Payment Order for Cavalry Fodder: SB XIV 12116,” Zeitschrift fūr Papyrologie und Epigraphik 193 (2015) 244-248.
2016. Nikolaos Gonis, “A Receipt and Credit Note from Sixth-Century Hermopolis,” Archiv fūr Papyrusforschung 62.1 (2016) 119-120.
2020. Lajos Berkes and Nikolaos Gonis, “Monastic Wine Distributions in the Eighth Century: Papyri from The Catholic University of America,” Journal of Coptic Studies 22 (2020) 1-27.

In 1984 former ICOR Curator Dr. Leslie S.B. MacCoull drew public attention to the CUA collection with her edition of 57 of the papyri. In 2006-2008 Visiting Associate ICOR Curator and papyrologist Dr. Chrysi Kotsifou focused on much-needed conservation initiatives, working with APIS (Advanced Papyrological Information System) representatives. In January 2008 at her suggestion the University Libraries, the Institute of Christian Oriental Research (ICOR) and the Center for the Study of Early Christianity sponsored a two-day conservation seminar in the Semitics/ICOR Library to instruct a group of CUA Libraries staff, faculty and graduate students in the conservation, imaging and cataloging of papyri. Invited participants were trained in APIS-level standards of papyrus conservation. Over the next 18 months the Semitics/ICOR Library held 19 papyrus conservation workshops and successfully treated 107 papyri, removing acidic cardboard mounts and tape; cleaning and aligning papyri fibers, making joins, checking for mold, and glass-mounting papyri. Writing was found under the cardboard mounts of more than one-third of the treated papyri.

Image from Library Papyrus Conservation Workshop
Library Papyrus Conservation Workshop
Participant at Library Papyrus Conservation Workshop
Library Papyrus Conservation Workshop

More attention has been paid to the collection over the past five years. In 2015 James G. Keenan re-edited CUA p75.73 with a new interpretation of this 6th century Greek payment order for cavalry fodder. In 2016 Nikolaos Gonis published a revised edition of CUA p75.02, a 6th century Greek fragmentary text of the reimbursement of an oil worker named Apollos. This year Lajos Berkes and Nikolaos Gonis have published a collection of 17 CUA texts in their article, “Monastic Wine Distributions in the Eighth Century: Papyri from The Catholic University of America.” The texts include a collection of wine delivery orders (Greek-Coptic 8th century), as well as 6th/7th and 7th/8th c. fragments of letters, receipts and accounts. On the first page of this article they provided a succinct description of the CUA collection: “The papyri of the Catholic University of America are mainly Coptic, but there are some (unpublished) texts of the Roman period as well. The bulk of the collection seems to stem from a monastic context.”

CUA p75.20 Wine distribution account.

Papyri from the CUA collection were reviewed in a May Gallery workshop directed by Meghan Howard (Semitics dept. graduate student) following her March 27, 2019 Hyvernat Eve Lecture, “From the Nile to the Seine: Working with Coptic Documentary Papyri from the Collection of the Sorbonne.” In July 2019 Jacco Dieleman, Research Associate Professor (Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures) identified the Demotic papyrus fragment in the collection as part of a larger papyrus scroll from the so-called Tebtunis Temple Library. Papyri were featured in the Oct.-Dec. 2019 May Gallery exhibit for the Center for the Study of Early Christianity’s Christian Culture Conference: “Treasures New and Old: Christian Cultures and Culture in the Patristic Age.” In the Spring 2020 academic semester Janet Timbie, Adjunct Associate Professor (Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures) introduced a new course: SEM 783 Studies in Coptic Epigraphy supported by the Coptic epigraphic (papyri and ostraca) and manuscript collections in the Semitics/ICOR library.

His Eminenence Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Ethiopia Visits Mullen Library

On Wednesday October 25, 2019 Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel and the Ethiopian ambassador to the United States Fitsum Arega visited the Semitics/ICOR Library to view a special exhibit of manuscripts selected from 183 Christian parchment codices in the ICOR collections. They are part of the Gerald and Barbara Weiner gift of 727 Ethiopian manuscripts deposited in the ICOR collections (183 Christian parchment codices, 367 scrolls, and 177 Islamic manuscripts with connections to the historic Ethiopian city of Harar). Material from the Clementine Library in the Rare Books Collections also was on display. The Clementine Library bears witness to the study of Ethiopic in the Roman colleges during the 16th through 18th centuries.

The Semitics/ICOR collections support research in Ethiopic studies. The study and teaching of Ethiopic language and literature began at CUA in 1895 with the establishment of a program in Semitic and Egyptian Literatures. Today CUA’s Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures offers M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Ethiopic (Ge`ez). Prof. Aaron Butts directs the Ethiopic programs. Dr. Jeremy Brown, Visiting Assistant Professor, selected the manuscripts on display and guided the Cardinal and Ambassador and other visitors through the exhibit on the garden level of Mullen Library. Woinishet Negash of CUA’s Institute for Policy Research arranged this visit. Below, in the front row: Dr. Jeremy Brown, Visiting Assistant Professor (Semitics Dept.), Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel, Ethiopian Ambassador Fitsum Arega, Prof. Janet Timbie (Semitics Dept.), Katie DeFonzo (Semitics/ICOR Library GLP), and Woinishet Negash, (Institute for Policy Research). In the back row: Meghan Howard, Michael Hensley, and Dawit Muluneh, (Semitics dept. students in Ethiopic classes), Prof. Shawqi Talia (Semitics dept.), Prof. Robin Darling Young (School of Theology and Religious Studies), and Dr. Monica Blanchard (Curator, Semitics/ICOR Collections) Visit of Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel