Archive for the ‘Coptic’ Category

Reading challenge, April 2015   2 comments

The study of spoken and (ancient) written languages intersect perhaps less than might be desirable, but sic semper erat, sic semper erit. Nevertheless, I would like to take a cue from Olle Linge’s Hacking Chinese ( and suggest an intentional, focused reading effort for ancient language students.

For the month of April 2015, let’s take an opportunity to push reading limits, or at least to re-kindle reading habits in this or that language. It is no secret that wide exposure to multitudes of lines is a boon to philological understanding and enjoyment. By “exposure” I mean reading with understanding. And there’s the rub. This is what makes it possible for an advanced student to do 100 pages of text (or more) in a month, and a novice to do much less: the novice requires far more frequent recourse to the lexicon, grammatical tables, perhaps a translation, etc. than the more experienced user. But the payoff is experience itself. Here is some counsel from the great sinologist George A. Kennedy:

The value of a reference work is its capacity to furnish facts quickly, and a good reference work must be a well-ordered affair. But the quickness with which these facts are appropriated depends in large part on the skill of the user. And this skill results only from diligent practice. It is not enough to know about a book of reference; one must handle it, thumb the pages, know where the index is, know what sort of information it gives. You are not qualified for research unless you can locate the facts that are available quickly.



from his Introduction to Sinology: Being a Guide to the Tz’u Hai (Ci hai), (New Haven, 1981), 1 (emphasis in original)

He has the 辭海 cí hăi in mind, here as a reference work for students of Chinese history, but his advice is equally applicable to textual experience in a language, or philological experience.

Here, then, is the challenge for the month: not a contest, but an individual exhortation to purposefully spend a given amount of time and effort moving — or more picturesquely, plowing, sailing, crunching, &c. — through a text or texts, with understanding. You pick the language, the genre, the text(s), the length. The unique thing is to read carefully more than you might normally do for this month. It might be an opportunity to work especially hard on a language you’re now closely involved with, or it might be an opportunity to return to a language you’ve not read in a while. Simply to be not too vague, here are some language suggestions in no particular order (I assume that if you know the language well enough to do this, you know some texts to read, but in any case, the Bible is usually a good place to start due to the accessibility of texts and the ease of comparison with other versions):

  • Armenian
  • Christian Palestinian Aramaic
  • Syriac
  • Arabic
  • Jewish Babylonian Aramaic
  • Greek
  • Sogdian
  • Persian
  • Georgian
  • Turkish
  • Coptic
  • Gǝʿǝz
  • Uyghur

Do more than one language, if you like. How about reading the same text in more than one language? Read from printed editions, read from manuscripts, read from chrestomathies, whatever suits you. Quant à moi, my reading goals for the month include the following texts:

  1. Persian. 10 pages in the so-called Persian Diatessaron
  2. Turkish. Ali Bey’s Bible: Jonah 1-2; Mt 4:1-11; 11:17-19; 15:21-28
  3. Coptic. “Marina” (pp. 27-33) and “Siebenschläfer” (pp. 21–24) in W. Till, Koptische Heiligen- Und Martyrerlegenden: Texte, Übersetzungen Und Indices, vol. 1, Orientalia Christiana Analecta 102 (Rome: Pont. Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1935); volumes available here. Further on this story in Coptic, see here from my hagiography bibliography.
  4. Georgian. The five texts on David & Constantine in I. Abuladze and E. Gabidzashvili, ძველი ქართული აგიოგრაფიული ლიტერატურის ძეგლები, წიგნი IV სვინაქსარული რედაქციები (XI-XVIII სს.) (Monuments of Old Georgian Hagiographic Literature, Vol. 4, Synaxarion Redactions, [11th-18th Centuries]) (Tbilisi, 1968), 359-366; and the Parable of the Man & Elephant in the two versions of Barlaam and Ioasaph.
  5. Old Turkic/Uyghur. The text on p. 53 of  W. Bang, “Türkische Bruchstücke einer Nestorianischen Georgspassion,” Le Muséon 39 (1926): 41–75 (cf. Gabain, Gr., p. 264); and the text in P. Zieme, “Ein uigurisches Sündenbekenntnis,” Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 32 (1969): 107-121.
  6. Arabic/Garšūnī. Epistle of Ps.-Dionysius to Timothy, SMMJ 263

If you like, share what you plan to read in the comments below. And any thoughts on this enterprise generally are welcome, too. Happy studying!

On readers/chrestomathies: what’s the best kind of arrangement?   10 comments

I have spoken here before of my love of chrestomathies, with which especially earlier decades and centuries were perhaps fuller than more recent times. (I don’t know how old the word “chrestomathia” and its forms in different languages is, but the earliest use in English that the OED gives is only from 1832. We may note that, at least in English, the word has been extended to refer not only to books useful for learning another language, but simply to a collection of passages by a specific author, as in A Mencken Chrestomathy.) Chrestomathies may — and I really do not know — strike hardcore adherents to the latest and greatest advice of foreign language pedagogy as quaint and sorely outdated, my own view is that readers along these lines — text selections, vocabulary, more or less notes on points of grammar — can be of palpable value to students of less commonly taught languages, especially for those studying without regular recourse to a teacher. Since I’m talking about reading texts, I have in mind mainly written language and the preparation of students for reading, but that does not, of course, exclude speaking and hearing: those activities are just not the focus.

I have gone through seventy-one chrestomathies from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries in several languages (Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, Syriac, Georgian, Old Persian, Middle Persian, Old English, Middle English, Middle High German, Latin, Greek, Akkadian, Sumerian, Ugaritic, Aramaic dialects, &c.). The data (not absolutely complete) is available in this file: chrestomathy_data. By far the commonest arrangement is to have all the texts of the chrestomathy together, with or without grammatical or historical annotations, and then the glossary separately, and in alphabetical order, at the end of the book (or in another volume). Notable exceptions to this rule are some volumes in Brill’s old Semitic Study Series, Clyde Pharr’s Aeneid reader, and the JACT’s Greek Anthology, which contain a more or less comprehensive running vocabulary either on the page (the last two) or separately from the text (the Brill series). Some chrestomathies have no notes or vocabulary. These can be useful for languages that have hard-to-access texts editions or when the editor wants to include hitherto unpublished texts, but the addition of lexical and grammatical helps would even in those cases add definite value to the work for students.

In addition to these printed chrestomathies, there are some similar electronic publications, such as those at Early Indo-European Online from The University of Texas at Austin, which give a few reading texts for a number of IE languages: the texts are broken down into lines, each word is immediately glossed, and an ET is supplied, with a full separate glossary for each language.

From a Greek reader I have been putting together off and on.

From a Greek reader I have been putting together off and on.

Over the years, I have made chrestomathy texts in various languages, either for myself or for other students, and more are in the works. (Most are unpublished, but here is one for an Arabic text from a few years ago.) I have used different formats for text, notes, and vocabulary, and I’m still not decided on what the best arrangement is.

This little post is not a full disquisition on the subject of chrestomathies. I just want to pose a question about the vocabulary items supplied to a given text in a chrestomathy: should defined words be in the form of a running vocabulary, perhaps on the page facing the text or directly below the text, or should all of the vocabulary be gathered together at the end like a conventional glossary or lexicon? What do you think, dear and learned readers?

The Martyrdom of Macrobius in Gǝʿǝz (and Arabic)   5 comments

Yesterday Alin Suciu posted a notice of a Bohairic Coptic leaf with some lines from the martyrdom of Macrobius that was recently found in a Syriac manuscript from Saint Mark’s Monastery in Jerusalem. He also mentioned the entry for that martyr in an Arabic synaxarion (published in PO 16.2, 190-193). The same entry also exists in the Gǝʿǝz synaxarion (published in PO 46.3, 304-309). The saint is commemorated on 2 Baramhāt (ⲡⲁⲣⲉⲙϩⲟⲧⲡ; see Crum 269a for the forms) in the Copto-Arabic synaxarion and 2 Mäggabit in the Gǝʿǝz synaxarion. (According to the Mensium tabulae in BHO, this date corresponds to Feb. 26 — “15 février” in the FT of PO 16 is an error; it is correctly given as “26 février” in the running title — but according to Colin’s table in PO 48.3, the Ethiopian date is Mar. 11.)

Alin notes that the new Coptic leaf has “part of the episode when Macrobius is boiled by the governor Armenius in grease, oil and pitch.” Saints’ lives sometimes exist in two lengths: a shorter notice in the synaxarion and a longer — sometimes considerably longer — one, which may be a vita (or sīra), collection of miracles, martyrdom account, an encomium, or a combination of these types, and which may circulate on its own, that is, not in a calendrical series like the synaxarion. Naturally, many more saints are listed in the synaxarion than have their own separate stories, and when more than one kind of hagiographic text exists for a particular saint, the episodes of the stories may vary more or less, whether in the same language or across languages. The Copto-Arabic and the Gǝʿǝz texts referred to above for Macrobius are essentially the same, but distinct from that of the longer encomium published by Hyvernat. Here is the beginning, with an ET of the Arabic and different readings in the Gǝʿǝz in brackets, of the synaxarion entries:

  • في مثل هذا اليوم استشهد القديس الطوباني انبا مكراوي الاسقف كان هذا الاب من اهل اشمون خريسات من اكابرها فجعل اسقفا على مدينة نقيوس
  • በዛቲ ፡ ዕለት ፡ ኮነ ፡ ቅዱስ ፡ ወብፁዕ ፡ አባ ፡ መክራዊ ፡ ኤጲስ ፡ ቆጶስ ፡ ሰማዕት። ዝንቱ ፡ ቅዱስ ፡ ኮነ ፡ እምሰብአ ፡ ሀገረ ፡ እስሙንዙራይስ ፡ እምልሂቃነ ፡ ዚአሃ ፡ እምደቡበ ፡ ግብጽ።ወተሰይመ ፡ ኤጲስ ፡ ቆጶሰ ፡ ላዕለ ፡ ሀገረ ፡ ነቂዮስ።
  • On the same [G. “this”] day the blessed saint Anba Macrobius the bishop was martyred [G. “became a martyr”]. This father [G. “saint”] came from the chiefs of Ešmūn-Ḫarīsāt [G. ʾƎsmunzurayǝs] and he was made bishop over the city of Nikiu.

The synaxarion entries do not have the detail of the longer martyrdom text that partially survives in the Coptic leaf, and there is nothing about boiling the martyr. All they have to say about Armenius, governor of Alexandria (والي الاسكندرية, መኰንነ ፡ ሀገረ ፡ እስክንድርያ፡), and his tortures at this point is the following. The texts are formally different enough that they merit separate translations.

  • فلما بلغ ارمانيوس ما يصنعه القديس من الايات امر ان يعذب بانواع العذاب بالعصر وبقطع الاعضاء وان يلقى للاسد الضارية وان يغرق في البحر وان يوضع في اتون النار وكان صابرا على هذا جميعه غالبا بقوة المسيح
  • When news of the miracles the saint was doing reached Armenius, he commanded that he be tortured with various kinds of torture — by pressing and by cutting off limbs — that he be thrown to the savage lions, that he be drowned in the sea, and that he be placed in a furnace of fire. He was enduring all of this, conquering in the power of Christ.
  • ወሶበ ፡ ሰምዐ ፡ ሄርሜንዮስ ፡ መኰንን ፡ በእንተ ፡ ተአምራት ፡ ዘገብረ ፡ ቅዱስ ፡ አባ ፡ መክራዊ ፡ ወአዘዘ ፡ ከመ ፡ ይኰንንዎ ፡ በዘዘዚአሁ ፡ ኵነኔ ፡ ወኰነንዎ ፡ በመንኰራኵራት ፡ ወመተሩ ፡ መልያልያቲሁ ፡ ወወገርዎ ፡ ለአናብስት ፡ መሠጥ ፡ ወአስጠምዎ ፡ ውስተ ፡ ባሕር ፡ ወወደይዎ ፡ ውስተ ፡ እቶነ ፡ እሳት። ወኮነ ፡ ቅዱስ ፡ ውስተ ፡ ኵሉ ፡ ኵነኔ ፡ መዋዒ ፡ ወጽኑዕ ፡ በኀይሉ ፡ ለእግዚእነ ፡ ክርስቶስ ፡ ወያነሥኦ ፡ ጥዑየ ፡ ዘእንበለ ፡ ሙስና።
  • When Armenius the governor heard about the miracles that the holy Anba Macrobius had done, he commanded that he be tortured with various kinds of torture, and they tortured him with wheels, cut off his limbs, threw him to savage lions, drowned him in the sea, and put him in a furnace of fire, and the saint was prevailing in all of this torture, strong in the power of our Lord Christ, and he will raise him whole without decay.

In addition to the obvious text-critical interest that studying multiple versions of this or that hagiographic text might conjure, in the case of probably or definitely dependent texts, questions of translation technique might be asked (and, hopefully, answered). Those interested more in the narrative content of the stories and in their use in cult and devotion, too, have plenty of material for study in eastern Christian hagiography. And while there is already far more available across these languages than any one person could completely study, new pieces continue to appear, especially in previously unploughed fields of manuscript collections, as this Coptic leaf shows, a textual witness to a particular continuum that spans Coptic, Arabic, and Gǝʿǝz.

Thanks to Alin for his notice and discussion of the Coptic fragment!

Herbert Pierrepont Houghton (1880-1964)   2 comments

I came across this morning a short article by Herbert Pierrepont Houghton on Georgian nouns. I’d known his name from The Coptic Verb, Bohairic Dialect and from this bookplate, which is affixed to the inside front cover of Chaine’s Grammaire éthiopienne (Beirut, 1907), now part of HMML’s collection.

Houghton's bookplate

Houghton’s bookplate

From 1923-1950, Houghton taught in the classics department at Carleton College, which is only about 120 miles from where I write these lines. According to a brief mention on Carleton’s website, he first studied at Amherst College before earning his doctorate in 1907 from Johns Hopkins. At Carleton, he taught Greek, but also linguistics — a subject not taught nearly as much then as now — Old English, and Sanskrit. As will be seen from his publications (vide infra), however, these were hardly the full extent of his interests. Incidentally, we may note his attention to and appreciation of typography and book design, when we consider the preface to the second edition of his work on the Amharic verb: “This new edition is printed in Garamond type on India eggshell paper… The cover is purposely of a roseate hue resembling one of the shades used in the flag of Ethiopia, the country of which Amharic is the official language.”

His signature in HMML's copy of Chaine, Grammaire éthiopienne.

His signature in HMML’s copy of Chaine, Grammaire éthiopienne.

As I have said before (here, for example), tactile, or even visual-digital, reminders of our forebears can bring a kind of intellectual pleasure, a sign that we, too, participate in their kind of communio sanctorum, and that is one reason why personalia can be so meaningful (to a small group of people, admittedly!).

Transliteration (Houghton's?) in Grammaire éthiopienne

Transliteration (Houghton’s?) in Grammaire éthiopienne

Here are a few of Houghton’s works, listed in chronological order. NB: some of the books (in italics) are very short.

The Moral Significance of Animals as Indicated in Greek Proverbs (Amherst: Carpenter and Morehouse, 1915).

“Saving Greek in the College”. The Classical Weekly 10.9 (Dec. 11, 1916): 65-67.

“Review of The Sanskrit Indeclinables of the Hindu Grammarians and Lexicographers by Isidore Dyen”. The Classical Weekly 34.8 (Dec. 9, 1940): 88-89.

“Languages of the Caucasus: Georgian Noun Formation and Declension”. The Classical Weekly 36.19 (Mar. 29, 1943): 219-223.

Herbert Pierrepont Houghton (from the Carleton website)

Herbert Pierrepont Houghton (from the Carleton website)

“Review of Verbs of Movement and Their Variants in the Critical Edition of the Ädiparvan by E. D. Kulkarni”. The Classical Weekly 37.6 (Nov. 15, 1943): 68-69.

Languages of the Caucasus: Two Studies (Northfield, Minn.: Mohn, 1946).

Aspects of the Amharic Verb in Comparison with Ethiopic. 2d ed.. (Northfield, Minn.: Mohn, 1949).

“Gildersleeve on the First Nemean”. The Classical Journal 49 (1954): 215-220.

“The Coptic Infinitive”. Aegyptus 35 (1955): 275-291.

“The Seventh Nemean”. The Classical Journal 50 (1955): 173-178.

The Basque verb,: Guipuzcoan Dialect (Northfield, Minn.: Mohn, 1944). Cf. The Verb in Guipuzcoan Basque (Charlottesville, Va., 1956).

“Coptic Substantive Relationship”.  Aegyptus 36 (1956): 153-177.

“The Coptic Sentence”. Aegyptus 37 (1957): 226-242.

“The Coptic Apocalypse”. Aegyptus 39 (1959): 40-91.

“The Coptic Apocalypse, part III, Akhmîmice: «The Apocalypse of Elias»”. Aegyptus 39 (1959): 179-210.

The Coptic Verb, Bohairic Dialect (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1959). Originally (Northfield, Minn.: Mohn, 1948), online at HathiTrust.

“A Study of the Coptic Prefixed Prepositional Particles”. Aegyptus 39 (1959): 211-222.

An Introduction to the Basque Language, Labourdin Dialect (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1961).

“The Akhmîmic Dialect of Coptic, with a brief Glossary”. Aegyptus 42 (1962): 3-26.

“The Coptic Gospel of Thomas”. Aegyptus 43 (1963): 107-140.

Editions, or editions and translations?   Leave a comment

First off, in answer to the title’s question, the optimum scenario is to have texts and editions. No question: that way, those closely involved with the language and literature and those outside this group can both get some benefit and have opportunity and even incentive to interact with the text. And even for the eventual case of every text edition, an included translation or translations is not too much to wish for. But in our own meantime, are translations always necessary? Let’s not kid ourselves that most of the literatures in the ancient, late antique, or medieval worlds of the east is of much more than even passing interest to that many people, even in translation. Let’s not kid ourselves further that in all but the rarest cases there might be some real pecuniary value to translation activity in these literatures. This is work done by a small number of scholars for a small number of scholars, and even if we wish any of these fields were more largely populated with active laborers, those laborers would not be ones who work chiefly with translations, but with texts in the appropriate original languages.

It may be a truism that translation is always time-consuming and often hard work, but I repeat the fact anyway. No one who has spent time at it, even if that person knows both languages well, will describe it as easy work requiring little time or thought. I find translating snippets not bad at all, and even enjoyable: I can relish the challenge and put sufficient time into it without drowning in the great mass of uncertainties that almost naturally seem to be attached to the interpretive task. Not so with full texts, when there is page after page of it to slog through. Now, producing useful editions of texts is also hard work, but not in the same way. In some cases, this latter labor can even come down to reading and transcribing manuscripts, or sometimes even a single manuscript, making perhaps some emendations here and there to correct the text, but doing so all the while having also recorded the manuscripts’ real reading (this rule was hardly adhered to steadfastly in prior centuries).

It might be argued that a translation helps readers know for certain how an editor (and, in this case, translator) understood the text. Yes, so argued, and so conceded. But I counter that necessarily knowing how this or that editor/translator understood part—and cumulatively, all—of a text pales in importance to making that text itself more accessible to other readers (of the original language). In other words, the focus should be the text and its place as a linguistic document within a literary tradition, not how this or that scholar has understood it. The latter, while not by any means unimportant, is secondary. In addition, at the very least, a suitable introduction and a commentary would partly answer this question with regard to the opinions of the editor (and non-translator!).

There is today not necessarily the question of recouping costs, which was the case in earlier generations. Electronic texts, even a PDF that can be both electronic and then physical with the push of a button, are relatively easily and very cheaply made, and even with good typography, provided the maker knows something about it and is not stuck in the MS Word-only daydream (which is, in fact, sometimes a day-nightmare for Mac users, and that even from the point of view of practicality, much less aesthetics!). Open access journals available online mean not only less cost to publishers and to readers, they also mean more potential readers, since these resources are discoverable so simply via searching and linking.

How does the question fare in the history of oriental scholarship? Just a few examples: Where would be in terms of material for Jacob of Sarug, the Syriac Martyr Acts, etc., had Paul Bedjan (or his publisher) decided that French translations were requisite for the thousands of pages he edited? I fear we would hardly have so many thousands of pages in Syriac edited by him anymore! What about Wright’s editions of the Travels of Ibn Jubayr, the Kāmil of Al-Mubarrad, and the later Syriac translation of Kalila wa-Dimna. What of Paul de Lagarde’s numerous text editions? We would be better off if all of these texts had translations, and indeed some of the texts just mentioned eventually have found their translators, but if the necessity of translation had loomed over the head of Bedjan, Wright, or Lagarde, it is hardly likely that we would have the texts edited by them that we have, and we would thus have much less within reach so much literature. We can be glad, then, that they did not give in to fear of this sword of Damocles before putting out these published texts in Syriac and Arabic, and not also in English.

Again, I want to make clear that I am not discounting the worth of translations, and even multiple translations into more than one language in use. But I am questioning if every edition of every text needs, or absolutely requires, a translation. What about, at least for some texts, aiming first at editions with good introductions, and in some cases with commentary and perhaps even a glossary, so that it will be especially useful to students? The translation can be something that comes later, perhaps by the editor, perhaps by someone else.

We do not even enter into the thorny question of editing principles: I use “edit”, “edition”, etc. in their etymological sense of “publish”, “give out (to the public)”. The question for now is simply that of the title above: should scholars be required, by their own or external compulsion, in every case to produce a translation alongside any newly edited or re-edited text? My own answer, as will be obvious by now, is “no”, but I think discussion of the question may prove fruitful for the fields concerned.

The Nachlass of William Macomber (1921-2008)   8 comments

From the perspective of an interest in eastern Christianity, the foundational name at HMML is that of William Macomber, a name well known to scholars of eastern Christianity thanks to his numerous manuscript catalogs and articles, but there has unfortunately been no attempt to highlight his work and offer a personal account of his life. His family recently (Nov 7, 2011) donated several boxes of his papers and other belongings to HMML, where Dr. Macomber had served as cataloger of oriental manuscripts beginning in 1974, and this is a fitting time to say a very little bit about him and his work, and about his papers now at HMML.

At a study carrel at HMML, Oct 1974

Macomber (July 27, 1921-December 6, 2008) was born in Duxbury, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard with an A.B. in comparative philology and classics in 1942, after which he was a lieutenant in the US Navy (Pacific theater). He later went on to earn an M.A. from Boston College, a licentiate from the Gregorian University (Rome), a licentiate from the Oriental Institute (Rome), and a doctorate from the same place (1964). He taught English and mathematics at Baghdad College in 1951-52 and theology and philosophy at Al-Hikma University, Baghdad, where he was also head of the theology department, in 1962-64. He was prefect of studies at St. Peter’s Seminary in Baghdad from 1965-1968 and extraordinarius professor of oriental liturgy at the Oriental Institute in Rome from 1967-1974, when he came to HMML and worked mostly on the then new Ethiopian Manuscript Microfilm Library (EMML). He had been a Jesuit priest, but left the order and married in 1976. In the 1980s, he was later the cataloger for several microfilming projects by Brigham Young University.

As mentioned above, Macomber is especially known for his catalogs. These range from brief handlists to fuller descriptions and cover (at least) Gǝ`ǝz, Arabic, Syriac, and Coptic manuscripts. Macomber was the first cataloger for the EMML project mentioned above. Getatchew Haile, who fondly refers to Macomber as his mentor, later joined him in this work on the EMML collection and continued in this task after Macomber’s retirement. These catalogs, now ten in number (with the eleventh not far behind to be published), were prepared by Macomber alone (vols. 1-3), by Macomber and Getatchew (vols. 5-7), and by Getatchew alone (vols. 4, 8-10). While a bare form of this data is available through Oliver, the full catalogs, much more detailed, are a treat to study. Macomber himself gave reports and announcements about the EMML project in various places, e.g. Le Muséon 87 (1975): 397-403, History in Africa 3 (1976): 203-204, and in the 1980 conference volume Ethiopian Studies, ed. G. Goldenberg, pp. 389-396. The catalogs were reviewed as they appeared, such as a notice of the EMML project, including remarks on vols. 1 and 2, by L. Van Rompay in Orientalia Lovaniensia Periodica 8 (1977): 217-222. Macomber’s other cataloging for various collections and languages is spread over journal articles and books, some of which are at least a little difficult to find, but a number of which we are fortunate have easy access to thanks to CPART at BYU. (The catalogs at CPART and the Coptic documents mentioned below were made with Multi-Lingual Scholar; see a review of the software from 1989 here.)

A now bearded Macomber being presented with vol. 2 of the EMML catalog, Sept 1976

Of Macomber’s articles, which mostly deal with liturgical texts and manuscripts, I will only mention a few. His study “The Oldest Known Text of the Anaphora of the Apostles Addai and Mari,” OCP 32 (1966): 335-371, contains a wealth of information on some middle eastern manuscript collections, not to mention unique liturgical details, as does his “List of the Known Manuscripts of the Chaldean Ḥuḏrā,” OCP 36 (1970): 120-134. On a different genre of texts is his “Newly Discovered Fragments of the Gospel Commentaries of Theodore of Mopsuestia,” Le Muséon 81 (1968): 441-447, which contains remarks on the east Syriac exegetical tradition. His “New Finds of Syriac Manuscripts in the Middle East,” ZDMG Suppl. I.2 (1969): 473-482, remains both an interesting and informative view of Syriac manuscript collections in Iraq and Turkey by someone who knew them especially well. Due to his work at the Pontifical Institute of Oriental Studies (Rome) and the Jesuit Iraq Mission, Macomber spent much time in the Middle East. He says, “I have seen well over 2300 manuscripts that were previously unknown in the West, and of these more than 2000 were Syriac” (p. 473). A great number of the collections Macomber had inspected are now available at HMML in color digital copies. In Le Muséon 88 (1975): 391-395, OCP 43 (1977): 308-334 and 45 (1979): 75-98 he described and studied the Kacmarcik Codex, a 14th-century Arabic and Greek manuscript at HMML (see further Samir Khalil, “Le Codex Kacmarcik et sa version arabe de la Liturgie alexandrine,” OCP 44 [1978]: 75-106). Worth mentioning, too, is Macomber’s article “Ethiopian Liturgy” in The Coptic Encyclopedia, vol. 3, pp. 987-990. Finally, his edition and English translation Six Explanations of the Liturgical Feasts by Cyrus of Edessa: An East Syrian Theologian of the Mid Sixth Century appeared in 1974 as CSCO vols. 355-356 (= Scr. Syri 155-156).

Here is a very rough and selective outline of what’s included in Macomber’s papers given to HMML:

  • Cataloging notes, article drafts and proofs, and study notes. These are partly handwritten, partly typewritten, and partly printed from computer files. On an individualistic note, Macomber used extremely small handwriting and for most of the pages he made notes on he filled them from top to bottom, edge to edge.
  • Copies of manuscripts. These are mostly paper copies, but there are also several microfilms (and one microfiche). There are some Syriac manuscripts, but the great majority are Arabic-Coptic parallel liturgical or grammatical texts, both complete and selected portions.
  • Copies of research materials. These are photocopies, some coil-bound, some unbound, of books, sections of books, and articles dealing with Coptic (the majority), Syriac, and (Christian) Arabic. There are over twenty coil-bound volumes that have a short contents page loose at the beginning. A number of these came from the Catholic University of America: in a letter to Macomber from the librarian, she mentions that she had sent him over 5000 pages of Coptic texts!
  • Offprints. There are of course offprints of Macomber’s own writings, and of most of these there are several copies. There are also many offprints from Syriac, Coptic, and liturgical scholars.
  • Correspondence. There are perhaps 45-50 letters (merely an estimate) written to Macomber dealing with various scholarly activities, mostly pertaining to his manuscript and liturgical research. There are also a few copies of letters that Macomber himself wrote to other individuals.
  • Drafts of nearly completed projects. These include:

1. Index to the Miracles of Mary in Gǝ`ǝz. This reference work is a list of the 643 miracles of Mary known in Gǝ`ǝz literature. For each miracle, Macomber offers a short synopsis, a reference to published texts and translations if they exist, non-EMML manuscripts, EMML manuscripts (up through about no. 3000), and the incipit (in transliteration, not Ethiopic script). This important reference work will take its place beside the analogous “Répertoire des Salam et Malke’e contenus dans les manuscrits éthiopiens des bibliothèques d’Europe” of M. Chaîne, ROC 18 (1913): 183-203, 337-357.

Drafts of the Coptic dictionary

2. On another subject entirely is a long work, various parts of which exist in several drafts, an edition and translation of the Scala Magna (Al-Sullam Al-Kabīr), one of several Coptic-Arabic dictionaries made in Egypt beginning in the 13th century. (On the sullam, see W. Vycichl, “Sullam” in The Coptic Encyclopedia, vol. 8, p. 204.) In a letter dated Feb. 25, 2003, Macomber delineates five parts of the finished work: 1) introduction and other front matter (67 pages), 2) the sullam, Coptic-Arabic with English translation (277 pages), 3) textual variants (389 pages), 4) footnotes to the English translation, and 5) indices for Coptic, Arabic, English, Greek, scientific names, and biblical references (499 pages). The longstanding excellence of Crum’s Coptic dictionary (1939) notwithstanding, a Coptic dictionary specifically devoted to Bohairic has definite value, not only for coptologists interested in Bohairic texts or language, but also for Arabic scholars, thanks to the original format of the sullam. Incidentally, Macomber’s intense Coptic studies were especially the occupation of the last two decades of his life. In his 1977 CV he claims to have only “some acquaintance” with Coptic, while he is “expert” in Syriac and “competent” in Latin, Greek, Arabic, and Gǝ`ǝz. [UPDATE (26 Mar 2012): I am informed that Macomber’s Scala Magna, under the editorship of Laurence Tuerlinckx and Andrea Schmidt, is to be published in the CSCO.]

I am reminded almost every day of Macomber’s work cataloging manuscripts and studying texts in Syriac, Arabic, and Gǝ`ǝz, not least because I work at the very place he did. The study of orientalia christiana at HMML really begins with him, and it was a good beginning. With the collection of manuscripts in these languages available at HMML much larger and more varied than when he was active here, his legacy continues to inspire.

Posted December 13, 2011 by adamcmccollum in Cataloging, Coptic, Gǝ`ǝz, Personalia, Scholarship

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