The Vossen Collection of Coptic Manuscripts

On June 21, 2016, Tom Vossen, an ancient coins dealer based in Kerkrade, the Netherlands, sent me photographs of five Coptic manuscript fragments which are in his possession. Vossen said that he purchased the fragments ten years ago from a British coins dealer at a coin fair in Trier.

I introduce here the five Vossen fragments in order to make this collection known to a wider public. For future editors of Coptic texts it is good to know that these manuscripts exist.

Upon examination, it appeared that all five fragments, designated by their owner as m1-m5, are parchment. They are written in the Sahidic dialect of Coptic, the literary language of Upper Egypt in the first Christian millennium. However, paleographical features suggest that all fragments came from manuscripts which were produced in the scriptorium of Touton, situated in Middle Egypt, in the Fayyum oasis.

There is no indication that these fragments belonged to the famous library of the Monastery of Shenoute, or the White Monastery, near Sohag, our most important source of Sahidic manuscripts. None of them connects paleographically and codicologically with any of the known manuscripts from the Monastery of Shenoute.

The fragments can be attributed to three different codices.

  1. m1-m2

m1a m1bm2a m2b

These two fragments belonged to the same manuscript. They feature an encomium on the martyr Theodore the General, attributed to Theodore of Antioch (clavis coptica 0381). This text was published according to a Bohairic manuscript in the Vatican by Eric Otto Winstedt,[1] and republished by Giuseppe Balestri and Henri Hyvernat in their collection of Coptic acts of the martyrs.[2]

A fragment kept today in the Vatican (Vat copt. 111, f. 119)[3] and several others which are in the Rijksmuseum in Leiden (F1976/4.5-8) belonged to the same codex as Vossen’s fragments. Interestingly, m1 attaches to one of the Leiden fragments.

299The Rijksmuseum in Leiden purchased the fragments in 1976 from the Dutch antiquity dealer Karl Johannes Möger. Were the Vossen fragments also handled at a certain point by Möger? We do not know.

2. m3

m3bm3aThis fragment is too small to allow identification, or at least I have not been able to do so.

2. m4-m5

m4a m4b m5a m5bThese two fragments, which belonged to the same manuscript, offer portions of an apocryphal text on the apostles (clavis coptica 0067), attributed to a fictitious author called Bachios of Maiuma, who is said to be a disciple of Cyril of Jerusalem. The text is known to survive in two other Sahidic manuscripts from the Monastery of Shenoute, both fragmentary (MONB.DH and another codex which has not received a CMCL siglum). The text has been published by Françoise Morard in a volume of essays dedicated to François Bovon.[4]

The Vossen fragment m5 reveals some different readings compared to the text edited by Morard. Furthermore, fragment m4 offers a completely new portion of the text, which does not have a parallel in the other two manuscripts.


[1] E.O. Winstedt, Coptic texts on Saint Theodore, the general, St. Theodore the Eastern, Chamoul and Justus, London, Williams & Norgate, 1910, pp. 1-72.

[2] G. Balestri and H. Hyvernat, Acta Martyrum vol. 2, Paris, Imprimerie Nationale, 1924, pp. 90-156.

[3] N.B.: This is not one of the Borgia fragments from the Monastery of Shenoute, but it was integrated to the Vatican collection much later, in 1974; see. D. V. Proverbio, “Additamentum Sinuthianum. Nuovi frammenti dal Monastero Bianco in un codice copto della Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana,” Rendiconti Accad. Lincei, Sc. Morali, s. 9, vol. 12, (Rome 2001) pp. 409-417.

[4] Françoise Morard, “Homélie copte sur les apôtres au Jugement Dernier,” in David H. Warren et al. (eds.), Early Christian Voices in Texts, Traditions and Symbols. Essays in Honor of François Bovon, Boston – Leiden, E.J. Brill, 2003, pp. 417-430.


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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4 Responses to The Vossen Collection of Coptic Manuscripts

  1. Pingback: Old and newer King James Versions and other translations #2 King James Bible versions | Belgian Biblestudents - Belgische Bijbelstudenten

  2. CW says:

    Do you know the date of this manuscript?

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