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THE EDFÛ MANUSCRIPTS AND THE PHILOCOPT SIR ERNEST ALFRED THOMPSON WALLIS BUDGE

February 26, 2013

budge

 Figure 1: Sir Ernest Alfred Thompson Wallis Budge by Bassano, in the National Portrait Gallery, London.

The British Orientalist, Egyptologist and Coptologist Sir Ernest Alfred Thompson Wallis Budge, or simply E. A. Wallis Budge, (1857 – 1934), is one of the great English scholars to home Copts and those interested in the study of Coptic culture, language and theology are very much indebted. It was during his job as keeper of Egyptian and Assyrian antiquities in the British Museum, in London, towards the end of the nineteenth and at the beginning of the twentieth centuries that his scholarly work was most useful to Coptic studies.

Budge was an expert in Sahidic Coptic, or what he better describes as Upper Egyptian Dialect, the dialect in which great Copts like St. Shenoute and St. Pisentius spoke and wrote. And it is this scholarly knowledge in this dialect, together with his work at the British Museum, which allowed him to undertake the great work of publishing, translating and editing what he calls the “Edfû Manuscripts”, and what others call the “Edfû Codices” – this treasure which is invaluable in the study of Coptic culture, traditions, customs and folklore; Coptic Christianity; and what Copts thought and had in mind, during that time, about the world, religion, justice, love, death, afterlife, Emente, Paradise, sin, evil, goodness, eschatology, angelology, demonology, philosophy, hermitic life, coenobium, history, etc. This Coptic gem, which he published in five large volumes, he tells us, “contain all the principal texts from the series of parchments and paper volumes that originally formed parts of the libraries of the monasteries and churches of Edfû and Asnâ[1], and are now in the British Museum.”[2] And he adds: “Thirteen of these were acquired for the Trustees [of the British Museum] by myself in 1907-8, and the remainder were purchased from Mr. Rustafjaell.[3][4]

The five great volumes, and their publication dates, are the following (you can click on them to access the wealth of their material):

  1. COPTIC HOMILIES IN THE DIALECT OF UPPER EGYPT; edited from the papyrus codex Oriental 5001 in the British museum (1910)
  2. COPTIC BIBLICAL TEXTS IN THE DIALECT OF UPPER EGYPT (1912)
  3. COPTIC APOCRYPHA IN THE DIALECT OF UPPER EGYPT (1913)
  4. COPTIC MARTYRDOMS IN THE DIALECT OF UPPER EGYPT (1914): Volume 1 (Texts); Volume 2 (Plates)
  5. MISCELLANEOUS COPTIC TEXTS IN THE DIALECT OF UPPER EGYPT (1915)

 


[1] Asna (or Esna; Latopolis in Greek) and Edfu (or Edfu or Idfu; Apollinopolis in Greek) are two ancient Egyptian cities on the western side of the Nile. They are both located in deep Upper Egypt between Luxor in the north and Aswan in the south; and although they are rich with Pharaonic, Greek, Roman and Coptic antiquities they are rarely visited by tourists as most don’t venture beyond Luxor.

[2] Miscellaneous Coptic texts in the dialect of Upper Egypt (1915); p. xxiv.

[3] Robert de Rustafjaell (c. 1876 – 1976), an American archaeologist and collector, mainly of Coptological and Egyptological material. He is also known as Col. Prince Roman Orbeliani.

[4] Miscellaneous Coptic texts in the dialect of Upper Egypt (1915); p. xxiv.

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