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THE COPHTI (COPTS) IN PURCHAS HIS PILGRIMES OR HAKLUYTUS POSTHUMUS

December 25, 2013

 purchasSamuel Purchas by Henry Richard Cook, stipple engraving, 1820, in the National Portrait Gallery, London

Samuel Purchas (c.1577 – 1626) was an English clergyman who was geographic editor and compiler of reports by travellers to foreign countries.[1] In 1625, he published the encyclopaedic Hakluytus posthumus, or, Purchas his Pilgrimes in four volumes.[2] In 1905, J. MacLehose and sons reprinted the work in several volumes in Glasgow.

Purchas is important to the Copts and Coptologists on two counts:

First, he used in his history, among other books, the work of the Coptic historian, Jirjis al-Makin or George Elmacin (1205 – 1273)[3] which is titled, al-Majmu’ al-Mubarak المجموع المبارك (The Blessed Collection) – a voluminous, universal history from Adam to his own days. It is to be noted that Thomas Erpenius or Thomas van Erpe (1584 – 1624), the Dutch Orientalist, translated the second part of al-Majmu’ al-Mubarak into Latin; and the translation and original Arabic was published in 1625 under the title, Historia Saracenica.

Second, he has spoken about the Copts, whom he calls “Cophti”, at several pages of his work. The passages about the Cophti deserve a separate study to verify Purchas’ accuracy, which is generally not held high. Anyway, I think his writings about the Copts are very interesting, and I put up the relevant links to the 1905 Glasgow reprint, Volume 1, which is now available at Internet Archive for Coptologists to study:


[1] He, himself, was not a traveller.

[2] Full title of the work, Haklvytvs posthumus, or, Pvrchas his Pilgrimes. Contayning a history of the world, in sea voyages, & lande-trauells, by Englishmen and others … Some left written by Mr. Hakluyt at his death, more since added, his also perused, & perfected. All examined, abreuiated, illustrates w[i]th notes, enlarged w[i]th discourses, adorned w[i]th pictures, and expressed in mapps. In fower parts, each containing fiue bookes. [Compiled] by Samvel Pvrchas. The reader can access the four volumes at Global Gateway, here.

[3] Full name is Jirjis ibn Abi Yasir ibn Abu al-Makarim ibn al-‘Amid al-Makin. See entry by Aziz S. Atiya in Coptic Encyclopedia, Volume 5 (New York, 1991).

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