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March 4, 2013


 Figure 1: Afrikanische Völker: from the Meyers encyclopedia, (Leipzig and Vienna , the Bibliographic Institute, Fourth Edition, 1885-1892; 1888). Showing: 1 & 2, Mpongwe from Gabon; 3, Arab from Morocco; 4. Arab from southern Tunisia; 5, Fellah; 6 & 7, Copts; 8, Koto from Niger; 9, Fan; 10, Berber; 11, Dar Fur Negroes; 12, Nubians (Hallenga); 13, Congo Negroes; 14, Zulu; 15, Bagirmi-boy; 16, Monbuttu; 17, Niam-Niam; 18, Schulineger; 19 & 20, Abyssinian; 21 & 22, Hottentots; 23, Bechuana girl; 24, Akka; 25 & 26, Bushmen; 27, Sakalawe of Madagascar; 28, Swahili of Zanzibar; 29 & 30, Somali.[1]

The Meyers Konversations-Lexikon (or Meyers Lexikon) is a famous German encyclopaedia that was published in various editions from 1839 to 1984.[2] The work was inaugurated by the dynamic Joseph Meyer (1796 – 1856). The monumental work included, inter alia, a survey of the Völker (peoples or nations) of the world, with plates displaying figures of African peoples, Asiatic peoples, American peoples, etc., and with individual notes of each nation. The Copts (Kopten) he included with the African nations (Afrikanische Völker), as indeed their geographical position dictates. I have published the relevant plate at the top. Below, I publish an inset that shows the figures of the Coptic man and woman (figures 6 and 7 in the plate), which, I believe, have not done justice to the Copts, and cannot be taken as representative of them (but it must be stressed there is a spectrum in the physiognomy of the Copts):


Figure 2: Inset from Fig. 1 showing the Coptic man and woman (number 6 & 7).


Figure 3: A less shiny version of Fig. 2.

Under the topic “Kopten (Copts)”, the Meyers Lexikon (1888) included the following text to which I add an English translation:[3]

Afrikanische Völker

Bild 1.148d: Afrikanische Völker. Völker.

Ein Volksstamm in Ägypten, die christlichen Nachkommen der alten Ägypter. Während sie in Unterägypten vor der Zeit der mohammedanischen Eroberung nicht unvermischt geblieben sind, haben sie sich in Mittel- und Oberägypten, ihrem Hauptverbreitungsbezirk, ziemlich rein erhalten, wiewohl es scheint, daß schon in den Adern der alten Ägypter, wie wir aus Abbildungen ersehen, besonders in den niedern Klassen, Negerblut rollte. Sie zeigen in ihrer Körperbeschaffenheit noch den altägyptischen Typus: eine breite, meist niedrige Stirn, schwarzes, leicht gekräuseltes Haar, eine meist gerade, scharf geschnittene Nase, dazu Augen, welche von länglichem Schnitt, aber groß und immer von merkwürdig strahlendem Schwarz sind. Die Hautfarbe wechselt von Gelblich bis Braun (s. Tafel »Afrikanische Völker«, Fig. 6 u. 7).


African nations
1.148d Image: African nations. Peoples.

A tribe in Egypt, the Christian descendants of the ancient Egyptians. While, in Lower Egypt, from the time of the Mohammedan conquest, they have not remained unmixed, in Middle and Upper Egypt, their main region of distribution, they remained quite pure (although it seems that some Negro blood was infused in the veins of the ancient Egyptians, as we can see from figures, especially in the lower classes). They still show in their body composition the Egyptian type: a wide, mostly low forehead; black, slightly curly hair; mostly straight, sharply cut nose; in addition the eyes which are oblong, but large and black always strangely beaming. The skin colour changes from Yellowish to brown (see panel “African nations“, 6 and 7).

[1] The German text: 1, 2. Mpongwe vom Gabun. – 3. Araber aus Marokko.  – 4. Araber aus dem südl. Tunis. – 5. Fellah. – 6, 7. Kopten.  – 8. Koto vom Niger. – 9. Fan. – 10. Berber (Dachelaner). – 11. Dar  Fur-Neger. – 12. Nubier (Hallenga). – 13. Congoneger. – 14. Zulu. – 15. Bagirmi-Knabe. – 16. Monbuttu. – 17. Niam-Niam. – 18. Schulineger. – 19, 20. Abessinier. – 21, 22. Hottentoten. – 23. Betschuanen-Mädchen. – 24. Akka. – 25, 26. Buschmänner. – 27. Sakalawe von Madagaskar.  – 28. Suaheli von Sansibar.  – 29, 30. Somali. N.B. The writer apologises for using the word “Negro” here but is keen about giving the equivalent translation.

[2] In 1934 it merged with the Brockhaus Encyclopaedia.

[3] The text is longer than this, including history and theology of the Copts, but I have only focused on the physiognomy of the Copts described.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 21, 2014 12:47 am

    The Ancient Egyptians were mostly black like the rest of those pictures combined. The early Coptics were black and white ie Greek and Egyptian. Simple. This is why the Copts had a mixed Jesus and not a white rosy Jesus.

    • Dioscorus Boles permalink*
      July 22, 2014 4:06 pm

      Not really, with all due resoect to black people. The Copts, who descend from ancient Egyptians were olive-coloured.

      • 42Sesh permalink
        September 8, 2014 4:11 am

        what color are olives? Black and green. Some Egyptians were black most were dark brown. ie

        That is what the Copts who decent from ancient Egyptians are mixed with. How do you not know this?

      • Dioscorus Boles permalink*
        September 8, 2014 8:35 am

        With respect, these were mercenary soldiers from Nubia. The real Egyptians are not a pure race – but they were neither black nor the white/blonde type.

  2. Dioscorus Boles permalink*
    December 1, 2014 9:04 pm

    Herodotus was wrong on this as he was wrong on many other things on Egypt. About Ximi being the name of Egypt and that that means black: by black is meant the black soil that forms the Nile Valley which was comoressed on each side by the desert. This is not a matter of contention.
    As I said before, the Egyptians were neither black nor blonde but, well, Egyptians!

  3. August 19, 2015 10:13 pm

    Reblogged this on My



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