Summer has arrived and once again visitors from the United States and from Ethiopia are coming to view and study the Gə‘əz manuscripts at CUA. These 241 Christian codices and 4 sets of codex quires are part of a larger collection of 836 materials, including 377 healing or magic scrolls as well as 218 Islamic Arabic manuscripts from Ethiopia. Almost all of this collection has been donated to CUA by Gerald and Barbara Weiner.
On Saturday June 25, 2022 Mr. Michael Tizale led a group of 20 students and parents from Debre Tabor Egziabher Ab Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Durham, North Carolina ደብረ ታቦር ቅዱስ እግዚአብሔር አብ የኢትዮጵያ ኦርቶዶክስ ተዋሕዶ ቤተክርስትያን on a field trip to see the Christian Ethiopic manuscripts in this library. Other recent visits have been made by members of the Ethiopian diaspora communities in Los Angeles, California and Columbus, Ohio, as well as the Washington Metropolitan area.
[Image 1: Mr. Tizale with Weiner Codex 446 (EMIP 2734) Acts of Gäbrä Mänfäs Qəddus, ገድለ፡ ገብረ፡ መንፈስ፡ ቅዱስ፡ Gädlä Gäbrä Mänfäs Qəddus; Homily of Gäbrä Mänfäs Qəddus, ድርሳነ፡ ገብረ፡ መንፈስ፡ ቅዱስ፡ Dərsanä Gäbrä Mänfäs Qəddus; Miracles of Gäbrä Mänfäs Qəddus, ተአምረ፡ ገብረ፡ መንፈስ፡ ቅዱስ፡ Tä’ämmǝrä Gäbrä Mänfäs Qəddus early 20th c. The codex is open to f.132v : image of Aba Samuel and a lion]
On July 2, 2022 Dr. Rodas Tadese Abebe and his sister Asegedech visited the collections with CUA alumnus Kessis-Netsereabe Taye. [Image 2: Dr. Rodas holding Weiner Codex 358 (EMIP 2393) Miracles of ’Äbunä Zär’ä Buruk, ተአምረ፡ አቡነ፡ ዘርአ፡ ቡሩክ፡ Tä’ämmǝrä ’Äbunä Zär’ä Buruk.1697]
While he was here Dr. Rodas filmed another presentation on the Gə‘əz manuscripts in the ICOR collections for audiences in Ethiopia and the United States [Image 3]. Dr. Rodas has done much to draw attention to these materials.
The Semitics/ICOR Library regularly receives requests to visit the collections. The library’s rooms house the Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures. Visits can be scheduled for Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Weekday afternoon hours also can be arranged. Please contact the curator by email or phone to schedule a visit.
Dr. Monica Blanchard
Curator, Semitics/ICOR Library
035 Mullen Library
The Catholic University of America
620 Michigan Ave., N.E. Washington, DC 20064
A finding aid has been completed for the recently processed Papers of Fr. Paulinus Bellet, OSB, a distinguished Coptic scholar. These Papers are one of several important Coptic archival collections housed in the Semitics/ICOR Library.
Fr. Bellet (1913-1987) was born in the Catalonia region of northern Spain. He became a monk of the Abbey of Montserrat and obtained his degree in Oriental Languages from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. Beginning in 1957 he served as the editor of the Coptic texts included in the Biblia Polyglotta Matritensia, travelling extensively to consult manuscripts in various European libraries. This work informed his interest in the Coptic manuscript tradition. In 1962 the Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures at The Catholic University of America was looking for a Coptic scholar to join the faculty. The Abbey of Montserrat and Catholic University arranged to bring Fr. Bellet to CUA, where he taught Coptic, Ethiopic, and Hebrew in the Semitics Department. He also taught his native Catalan language in the Department of Modern Languages. Following his retirement in 1977, Fr. Bellet continued to teach and work as a lecturer in the Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures.
The Bellet Papers include research and lecture notes; professional and personal correspondence; lexical and other card indexes; facsimiles of Coptic and Latin manuscripts in European libraries; and twelve copper mezzotint plates and a metal stamp of the Ancient Christian Writers series. The plates and stamp had belonged to his CUA colleague Rev. Johannes Quasten (1900-1987). The Bellet Papers consist of the following series: Correspondence, Research Materials, Notebooks, Professional Files, Student Materials, and Photographic Material. Notebooks are housed in a filing cabinet, and the lexical material has been kept as it was originally organized in twelve drawer boxes. The rest of the Papers are organized and housed in twenty-six archival boxes. An inventory of periodical materials in the Bellet Papers is being compiled.
Fr. Bellet died in 1987 before completing work on his edition of the Middle-Egyptian Coptic text of the Acts of the Apostles in Glazier Codex (G67). His drafts and notes were sent to Dr. Hans-Martin Schenke who published the edition in 1991. Fr. Bellet’s Catalan library is now maintained by the Paulí Bellet Foundation in Kensington, MD. His personal diaries were returned to Montserrat in 1987.
The Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures honors the work and memory of Fr. Bellet with the annual Bellet Lecture in his honor.
Please contact the Semitics/ICOR Library for more information.
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.
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:
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  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)” .
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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)
Magical Protection: Ethiopian Prayer Scrolls and Egyptian Oracular Amuletic Decrees
Presented by Solange Ashby Bumbaugh ICOR Fellow Monday,
February 5, 5:30-6:30 May Gallery, Mullen Library The Catholic University of America
Sponsored by the Institute of Christian Oriental Research (ICOR) in conjunction with the Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures Address inquiries to Dr. Aaron Butts (email@example.com).
Mount Serabit in the Sinai desert of Egypt is the site of the discovery of some of the earliest examples of West Semitic alphabet writing. This Proto-Sinaitic script has been called the first alphabet. The exhibit focuses on the work of the 1930 Harvard-Catholic University Joint Expedition to Serabit-el-Khadim and on the contributions of Fr. Romain Butin, S.M. who served as research epigrapher.
Some 11 items from the Père Albert Jamme, M.Afr. Collection have been loaned to the Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery for its upcoming exhibition, “Unearthing Arabia: the Archaeological Adventures of Wendell Phillips,” October 11, 2014-June 7, 2015, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
The Père Albert Jamme, M.Afr. Collection in CUA’s Semitics/ICOR Library brings together in one place 55 years of work (ca.1946-1999) by an eminent scholar of the languages and scripts of pre-Islamic Arabia.
Fr. Jamme (1916-2004) was a faculty member of CUA’s Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures between 1953 and 1997. He served as research epigrapher for important archeological expeditions to the Arabian peninsula.
The Jamme Library is a large ‘integrated’ epigraphic collection in which the evidence of inscribed stones, latex and paper squeezes or impressions, photographs, slides, rubbings, and line drawings of the inscriptions can be studied side by side with Fr. Jamme’s site maps, work notes and published studies, with the comparative lexical data of his Old South Arabian and Old North Arabian card indexes, and with his professional correspondence and research archives. Additional support is provided by his reference library of books and serials.
Work is underway to improve access to this important collection. It is the focus of a digitization project in Mullen Library. The collection, which has been in offsite storage, also is being rehoused in an epigraphic seminar room within the Semitics/ICOR library.
Digital Imaging of Christian Near Eastern Collections at CUA
Join our team of volunteers
A Cultural Heritage Project
The Catholic University of America Libraries houses an important collection of early and rare books on the Christian Near East, along with support collections of manuscripts, antiquities, photographic and archival resources. The use of digital technology to increase access to these Coptic, Syriac, Arabic, Armenian, Georgian, and Ethiopic holdings is a desideratum. It will benefit scholars who are hampered by lack of access to materials in this specialized field of studies; it will benefit members of the Christian communities in the Middle East, Africa, India, and in the worldwide Diaspora for whom the materials are part of their cultural patrimony. Background
In 2001-2004 The CUA Libraries, in cooperation with Beth Mardutho/The Syriac Institute and Brigham Young University’s Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts (ISPART), engaged in several projects to digitize Syriac materials at CUA. These were parts of larger ventures to establish a Web-based library for Syriac studies: Beth Mardutho’s eBeth Arké; The Syriac Digital Library and a Web-based Eastern Christian reference collection: Brigham Young University and The Catholic University of America’s Syriac Studies Reference Library. More recently CUA and Dr. George Anton Kiraz, President and Co-Founder of Gorgias Press, Director of Beth Mardutho have collaborated on a facsimile reprint edition of the important Arabic journal al-Machriq (Beyrouth, Imprimerie Catholique 1-64, 1898 –1970).
A New Digitization Project: May 10 –July 10, 2012
On May 10, 2012 CUA Libraries begins a new digitization project for Beth Mardutho’s eBeth Arké II. This two month project will focus on the CUA Syriac collections; it also may include other materials in the Semitics/ICOR Library.
Local Coordinators: Monica J. Blanchard, Curator, Semitics/ICOR Collections; Manuel Ostos, GLP, Semitics/ICOR Library.
Training by Beth Mardutho: May 10, 2012
Our expectation is to run two equipment stations 40 hours per week (80 work hours per week). The Project Workroom (030 Mullen Library) will be open Monday-Thursday (9am-7pm); Friday (9-5 pm); Saturday hours are a possibility as well.
A Call for Volunteer Digital Project Technicians
Volunteer Digital Project Technicians will receive basic training from Beth Mardutho in the use of capture software, care and maintenance of the imaging station equipment, how to position and handle materials, image proofing, metadata and file management.
The Semitics/ICOR Curator will provide relevant subject area instruction, guidance in handling fragile and rare books, manuscripts, and artifacts, as well as quality assurance and work flow management training.
Volunteer Digital Project Technicians may come with a variety of skills and interests or simply a desire to learn.
Students, faculty, staff, alumni and others are invited to volunteer.
Volunteers who contribute a total of 30 hours or more of work time during this 2 month period will receive a certificate of service.
Library practicum opportunities for CUA SLIS students will be considered.