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December 17, 2013

coptic woman2Figure 1: A Coptic woman “Femme copte / chretienne” in the collection of Paul Frecker, 1869


The above is a rare photo of a Coptic woman dated to 1869. An inked inscription at the back of the photo reads Femme copte / chretienne / Egypt 1869. The photographer is unidentified. The picture forms one of the photo collections of Paul Frecker, who was British 19th century photography dealer based in London. The photograph was taken when Pope Demetrius II (1861 – 1870) was Patriarch and Ismail Pasha (1867 – 1879) was Khedive of Egypt.

Two other rare photographs from the 19th century, which formed part of Paul Frecker’s collection but now in the possession of The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography, are reproduced below:

 coptic scribe2Figure 2: Coptic scribe, late 19th century, photographer unidentified


This photograph shows a Coptic scribe (the inscription at the back gives the title). I suspect it was taken by the same photographer of “Femme copte / chretienne,” and most probably in the same year. Notice the white turban which Copts only started wearing after 1856, when the old Islamic injunction to confine Copts to wear only black or dark turbans, to distinguish them from Muslims, was revoked after intervention from the European Powers. Of note, the Coptic scribe does not carry his distinctive profession’s tools: the ink cartridge and crayon.


coptic deacon

Figure 3: The album of this photo has an inked inscription, “Coptic priest.” I, however, doubt this. I would say this is a Coptic deacon, and perhaps was being trained under his father to become priest. The Coptic Church does not ordain a man priest until he reaches the age of 30 years. Priesthood often ran in families and a son follows a father at the same church. The photographer is again unidentified but I think the same photographer took the same photos, and in the same year, that’s in 1869.



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