Guest Post: Ivan Miroshnikov – An Unpublished Coptic-Latin Dictionary from the Nineteenth Century

I am happy to host again here Ivan Miroshnikov, this time with an article concerning a very interesting discovery which he made in a Russian library.

After the Allies won the World War II, many so-called ‘items of cultural value’ were moved from Germany to the Soviet Union as restitution. The items, including numerous books, were divided between various Soviet museums and libraries. This is how the Library of Foreign Literature in Moscow came into the possession of the book collection of Hans Conon von der Gabelentz and his son, Georg von der Gabelentz. According to the library’s website, the collection is ‘a marvelous example of a private professional library

E105,5-86Photo: The ex libris of the von der Gabelentz family

One of the items stored at the library’s department of rare books is a 4° manuscript, written on watermarked paper, called Dictionarii aegyptiaci vol<umen> II. The title is written on the back of the volume and it might had been given to the book at a later date. The book is a Coptic-Latin dictionary that apparently was never published. The volume starts on page 180 and ends on page 368. It covers the words that start with letters Θ to Ψ. There are no chapters on words starting with ΟΥ and Ω, which means that a third volume was at least in project. The first volume that might have had an introduction and the author’s name is missing. It is possible that a part of the collection is stored in some other Russian library (curiously enough, some books of the von der Gabelentz family collection belonged to the Moscow Planetarium before they were transferred to the Library of Foreign Literature).

1776376Photo: Page 180 of the dictionary (page 1 of its second volume)

The dictionary includes both Egyptian-Coptic and Greek-Coptic words. The Egyptian-Coptic words are marked as either ‘Theban’ of ‘Memphite’. The Greek-Coptic words are sometimes duplicated in their conventional form with diacritic symbols.

The manuscript seems to be a draft. Each page is divided into two parts, so that the author might fill the left part and leave the right part blank for later additions and corrections.

The author’s name is never mentioned in the manuscript. It seems that the most probable candidate for authorship is Hans-Conon von Gabelentz (1807-1874), not his son Georg (1840-1893). One argument in favor of such a suggestion is that a small piece of Herzoglich Sachsen-Altenburgisches Amts- und Nachrichtsblatt dated 1 May 1838 was found between pages 312 and 313 of the volume.

Even though the dictionary itself is obviously outdated, it still might be of some importance for those interested in the history of Coptic lexicography. Hopefully, the manuscript will be digitized next year, even though the libraries in Russia are greatly underfunded and understaffed. All in all, I will be glad to offer my help to those who are interested in studying and publishing the dictionary.


About Alin Suciu

I am a researcher at the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities. I write mostly on Coptic literature, Patristics, and apocryphal texts.
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One Response to Guest Post: Ivan Miroshnikov – An Unpublished Coptic-Latin Dictionary from the Nineteenth Century

  1. Thank you for sharing this interesting find! Here at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, we have several drafts of William Macomber’s (much more recent!) hitherto unpublished Bohairic dictionary, and most of these drafts have very many handwritten additions, corrections, etc. by Macomber. Perhaps I should write a blog post on it before long.

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