6th-8th century Coptic Greek dictionary
Lot 1002
COPTIC-GREEK WORD BOOK AND GLOSSARY. Manuscript on vellum, 10 leaves recto and verso (of which the final three are blank) being a single quire, 16mo (approx 68 x 63 mm), [Egypt, 6th or 7th century],
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Lot Details
COPTIC-GREEK WORD BOOK AND GLOSSARY.
Manuscript on vellum, 10 leaves recto and verso (of which the final three are blank) being a single quire, 16mo (approx 68 x 63 mm), [Egypt, 6th or 7th century], in small Greek-Coptic uncial letters. On the verso of the first leaf there is an elaborate cruciform full-page strapwork ornament; text is from f.2r through f.7r. Custom chemise and green half morocco case. First two text leaves worn with small losses and a portion illegible, small hole through first three leaves.
Provenance: Bernard Breslauer, Catalog #102, item 2.

VERY EARLY MINIATURE CODEX GLOSSARY AND A UNIQUE SURVIVAL OF ITS TYPE. This manuscript was described by the late Lawrence Feinberg, then of Columbia University, and selections were quoted in the Breslauer catalog: "A complete book of ten small vellum leaves ... The glossary contains approximately sixty words of Greek origin. Its purpose, perhaps also suggested by the partially damaged title, was to supplement the user's spoken as well as written vocabulary. Many of the words are difficult and secular: e.g. ... a teacher of law ... politician ... military tribune. Coptic equivalents are generally given ... A number of Greek names of Old and New Testament books are included (see f.4v). A noteworthy and unique feature of this glossary is that Greek words are listed in their assimilated Coptic forms with consequent Copticized spellings. A lexicon of Greek words in Coptic has not yet been completed and this manuscript can supply a number of additional entries, some of which are remarkable in the normally other-worldly Coptic context: e.g. ... an industrious person; ... a natural philosopher, defined here as ... one who speaks about nature. No other glossary of this type is known and only one Greek-Coptic glossary of any kind survives. Dating from the 6th century it was edited by H.I. Bell and W.E. Crum, "A Greek Coptic Glossary," Aegyptus 6 (1925) 177-226. Only small fragments of a few other glossaries are extant ... It may be surmised that this book served as a 'pocket' lexicon for a professional scribe, or one studying for the civil service or some high position in the clergy. As such it affords a rare if not unique view into one aspect of Coptic education. Written in a sloping uncial of a type which persisted for several centuries, the manuscript is difficult to date ... It is by no means impossible (indeed it is likely) that this book may be as old as the 6th or 7th century. In 706 Arabic became the official language of Egypt and the use of Greek and Coptic for official documents thereafter waned. Certain technical terms within the glossary fell out of use with the Arabic conquest." The illustration which opens the manuscript appears Arabic in style and such examples of early Arabic book ornamentation are very rare in their own right.
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