Lot 6
  • 6

Psalter, in the Sahidic dialect of Coptic, manuscript on vellum [Upper Egypt (perhaps the White Monastery, near Sohag), ninth century]

10,000 - 15,000 GBP
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  • Vellum
a bifolium, each leaf 317mm. by 240mm., 30-34 long lines, in calligraphic slightly backward sloping Coptic uncial, headings in red (perhaps by another scribe, in a script leaning distinctly to the right), folio numbers at upper left of versos, decorative line-fillers formed of horizontal flourishes and dots ending with leafy terminals (one line in green), two large penwork initials with leafy extensions coloured in green, three large painted initials in leafy designs with ornamental extensions in black infilled with green and red, worn, one side glued and stained, frayed edges, some holes affecting text, between perspex, red cloth case gilt (by Aquarius)



Sold in these rooms, 23 June 1987, lot 130; Quaritch, Bookhands, III cat. 1088 (1988), no.57; Schøyen MS 86.

Catalogue Note


Psalms 24-28, in the Sahidic dialect of Upper Egypt, translated in the third or even late second century; cf. E.A. Wallis Budge, The Earliest Known Coptic Psalter, 1898, and P. Nagel, 'Der sahidische Psalter', Der Septuaginta-Psalter, ed. Aejmelaeus and Quast, 2000, pp.82-96. The text here is continuous and so was the central bifolium of a gathering. The script and ornament probably reflect late antique prototypes: cf. J. Leroy, Les manuscrits Coptes et Copte-Arabes illustrés, 1974, pls.22, 1-2. The leaves are very probably from the hoard of more than 9000 Coptic fragments discovered by Gaston Maspero in 1883 in a secret chamber at the 'White Monastery' or Monastery of Saint Shenouda (d. 466, its most famous abbot), near Sohag in Upper Egypt, now widely dispersed but including a very large group in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (cf. S. Emmel, Shenoute's Literary Corpus, I, 2004, pp. 18-24, with many references; and lot 13 in the sale in these rooms, 7 July 2009). Fragments of comparable Psalters from the White Monastery are described in A. I. Elanskaya, The Literary Coptic Manuscripts in the A. S. Pushkin State Fine Arts Museum in Moscow, 1994, pp.411-20 (bought in 1889), and lot 60 in the sale in these rooms, 22 June 1999 (bought in 1887-88).