27 - 28 June 2006
COPTIC OLD TESTAMENT, leaf from a Bible in Sahidic dialect, MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Upper Egypt, 9th century]
250 x 190mm overall. Two columns of thirty-four lines written in black ink in Coptic uncial, with part of Genesis chapter 24, verses 1-14 (torn at edges, not affecting legibility, cockled). Preserved between glass.
Coptic was the final stage in the evolution of the language of the Ancient Egyptians. The Coptic alphabet is based on the Greek alphabet with the addition of extra letters derived from Demotic forms of Egyptian script for sounds not found in Greek. It is still the language used for the liturgy of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Coptic is known in four dialects. Sahidic was used early in the Christian era, scriptures being translated into it from at least the third century, and was the dialect of Upper, that is southern Egypt. In earlier scholarship it was known as 'Thebaic' after Thebes, the principal city there. In the 11th century it was superseded by Bohairic, the form that continues in use in religious ceremonies.
Genesis in Sahidic survives only in fragmentary manuscripts and cannot be entirely reconstructed.
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