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June 19, 2012

 Figure 1: Charles Loring Brace (1826 – 1890).[i]

Charles Loring Brace (1826 – 1890) was an American Philanthropist who lived in New York and was interested in social reform, particularly in the field of child poverty. He also had other interests including Christianity and the study of the characteristics of different peoples and the differences and relationships between them (ethnology). In 1863 he wrote a fascinating book: The Races of the Old world: A Manual of Ethnology.[ii] Amongst the races he wrote about was the Coptic race.[iii] In his book, he calls the Copts, The Kopts. I simply copy the text related to the Copts, with the notes he had attached to it,[iv] mainly to indicate his sources:

The Kopts*

It is remarkable that the only Christian tribe of any importance in Egypt should be direct descendants of the ancient Egyptians. Their language — the modem Koptic — is the representative and offspring of the ancient Koptic. Their faces are said to correspond wonderfully with the faces painted on the monuments or represented in the ancient sculpture, the same high cheek bones, large lips, light beard, broad nose, brownish complexion, and ears placed high in the head ; presenting the same — as a French writer expresses it — “air de majesté et de puissance,”**[v] which so impresses the traveller, on those calm and grand faces of Egyptian sculpture.*** The Kopts, like their ancestors, are of a grave and melancholic temperament, and like them, possess much talent for administration and calculation. They are prudent and industrious, and often very shrewd and cunning. They are employed chiefly as accountants and interpreters.**** In language they make great use of the Arabic. Their creed resembles in many points that of the Roman Catholic Church, except that they believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone.[vi] Their priests are ignorant, rigid and prejudiced, but harmless.

The Kopts are met with principally in Upper and Middle Egypt, and but few comparatively in the Delta.

The agricultural Kopts do not differ in appearance from the Fellahs.

The language in its two dialects — the Sahid and Memphite — still show the ancient division into Upper and Lower Egypt.[vii]


* Lepsius’ Discoveries. L’Univers, Egypte Mod. Bayle St. John. Wm. H. Yates. Lane.

** M. Gisquet. Gliddon’s Indig. Races.

*** A close examination shows that there were varieties of physical type in ancient Egypt as there are in the modern.

**** Prichard.

[i] From The life of Charles Loring Brace: chiefly told in his own letters; edited by his daughter, with portraits (New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1894).

[ii] The Races of the Old world: A Manual of Ethnology by Charles Loring Brace (New York, C. Scribner, 1863).

[iii] The other people of Egypt he speaks of are the Fellahs, or ‘Laborers’, as he explains.

[iv] Ibid; pp. 188, 520.

[v] “Air of majesty and power”.

[vi] This is, of course, an inaccurate estimation of the differences between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, who differ mainly on Christology. The differences started in 451 AD at the Council of Chalcedon.

[vii] The Races of the Old world; pp. 188-9.

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