The collection of Coptic manuscripts in Utrecht University Library

Berlin, Heidelberg, Copenhagen, Lund, Oslo, Princeton, Utrecht: these cities all have in common that their university libraries possess papyri or other objects which used to belong to the German coptologist Carl Schmidt (1868-1938). In 1956, as the last one in line, Utrecht acquired some special papyri and parchment manuscripts, a few containing unique texts.

Bargaining over papyri in 1944

These Coptic manuscripts were not the first to be included in the collection of the University Library. In October 1944 while the Allied liberated the Dutch provinces of Zeeland and Noord-Brabant, librarian Abraham Hulshof closed a deal with bookseller Ernst Fischer (1866-1951) from Freiburg im Breisgau. For 1,700 Dutch guilders he obtained fifteen fragments of Greek and Demotic papyri from a mummy cartonnage and a Coptic fragment about merchandise, and some medieval manuscripts, including one from Melk Abbey in Austria (now Ms. 10 B 1).

Although there are some unexplained details, the papyri were probably unearthed by Egyptologist Augustus Eisenlohr (1832-1902), later professor in Heidelberg. His widow sold them to Fischer in 1909, at the time living in Weinberg near Heidelberg, through the agency of G. Korn from Ludwigshafen. The fragments are now catalogued as Ms. 10 D 1.

The acquisition of the Schmidt collection

The collection of papyri and parchment manuscripts which had once belonged to Carl Schmidt was of greater importance however. This collection was acquired for the University Library by Prof. Gilles Quispel (1916-2006) in 1956. He bought it from Schmidt’s niece, G. Kunta-Schmidt. Previously, Quispel had received the microfilm of a part of the fragments and discussed them with Paul E. Kahle Jr. (1923-1955). The latter was particularly enthusiastic about the dozens of Coptic fragments; the Demotic and Greek fragments he considered to be of less value. Still, Utrecht University decided to buy the entire Schmidt collection, and the most important pieces were exhibited in the Theological Institute in 1956. For this occasion they were mounted under glass, and given the numbers 1 to 14. This was not always done with the greatest accuracy: in some cases the number was put on the verso side. Six other pieces were also mounted under glass, but remained unnumbered, probably because they were not part of the exhibition. In the following years research was done on the fragments by Quispel, Jan Zandee (1914-1991) and Roelof van den Broek (1931-). The fragments are roughly dated between 200 and 800; where and how Schmidt obtained them is still a mystery.

Missing sheets

The fragments of the apocryphal ‘Acts of Andrew’ were considered the most important, but also the fragments of ‘The Life of Eupraxia’, ‘The Martyrdom of Saint Pantaleon’ and a part of the homily ‘On the Virgin Mary’ were published. Sheets of the latter text and some others, including the ‘Second Eulogy on the life of Claudius of Antioch’, turned out to have been offered for sale to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor as early as 1930. The university decided against the acquisition, but the photographs were kept of which one is of a sheet missing in the Utrecht collection. It is unknown if this sheet is somewhere else or has been lost.

Cataloguing

In 2017 Roelof van den Broek completed his Catalogue of the Coptic manuscripts in the Utrecht University Library (pdf, 2017), which contains an extensive discussion on the provenance of the fragments as well as transcriptions of the fragments which had not been published before. In most cases the fragments are from the Bible, in particular the Psalms which include fragments of a Lycopolitan Psalter. He published a separate article on a Greek-Coptic magical papyrus.

Digitisation

In 2017, the Coptic fragments of the Schmidt collection were digitised, and also Ms. 10 D 1. Immediately after the acquisition these fragments were kept apart in boxes 1 to 5, while the Greek and Demotic fragments were all put in box 6. Below you will find an overview of the Coptic fragments from the boxes 1-5 (B1-B5; the B is for Box), the catalogue numbers in parenthesis and the page number in the digital presentation between square brackets.

Ms. 10 D 1, No. 6 (24) – Documentary papyrus (digitised separately).

B1.1 (13.2) – Pseudo-Theophilus of Alexandria, On the Virgin Mary, pp. 67-70 of codex [1, 2]

B1.2 (13.1) – Anonymous, On the Virgin Mary, pp. 33 and 34 of codex [3, 4]

B1.3 (13.1) – Anonymous, On the Virgin Mary, pp. 31 and 32 of codex [5, 6]

B2.4 (15) – Constantine of Assiut, Second Encomium on the life of Claudius of Antioch

[7, 8]

B2.5 (16) – Theodore of Antioch, Encomium on Theodore the Anatolian [9, 10]

B2.6 (13.1) – Anonymus, On the Virgin Mary, pp. 41 and 42 of codex [11, 12]

B2.7 (2) – Psalm 9:28-39 and 10:1-4 [13, 14]

B3.8 (36) – Magical papyrus (Greek and Coptic) [15, 16]

B3.9 (23) – Magical papyrus [17, 18]

B3.10 (8.1) – Zechariah 5:1-4 [19]

      (8.2) – Note on Sarapion and Dorotheus [20]

B3.11 (17.1) – Act of Andrew, pp. 13 and 14 of codex [21, 22]

B4.12 (17.1) – Act of Andrew, p. 15 of codex [23]

      (17.2) – Story of Joseph and his brothers, pp. 15 and 16 of codex [23, 24]

B4.13 (17.1) – Act of Andrew, pp. 9 and 10 of codex [25, 26]

      (17.2) – Story of Joseph and his brothers, pp. 21 and 22 of codex [26, 25]

B4.14 (17.2) – Story of Joseph and his brothers, pp. 17 and 18 of codex [27, 28]

B4.15.1-11 (35) – Lycopolitan Psalter (see also B5.11, same codex) [29, 30]

B4.15.1 (35.14) – Psalm 118:10-12 and 26-28 [29, No. 1; 30, No. 2]

B4.15.2 (35.3) – Psalm 33:19-23 and 34:8-10 [30, No. 1; 29, No. 2]

B4.15.3 (35.16) – Unidentified Psalm [29, No. 3; 30. No. 5]

B4.15.4 (35.12) – Psalm 76:11-16 and 77:3-7 [29, No. 4; 30, No. 4]

B4.15.5 (35.4) – Psalm 36:25-26 and 38-39 [30, No. 3; 29, No. 5]

B4.15.6 (35.1) – Psalm 3:5-8 and 4:7-9 [30, No. 11; 29, No. 6]

B4.15.7 (35.17) – Unidentified Psalm [29, No. 7; 30, No. 10]

B4.15.8 (35.18) – Unidentified Psalm [29, No. 8; 30, No. 9]

B4.15.9 (35.19) – Unidentified Psalm [29, No. 9; 30, No. 8]

B4.15.10 (35.10)– Psalm 70:8-11 and 21-22 [30, No. 7; 29, No. 10]

B4.15.11 (35.5) – Psalm 37:17 and 38:6-7 [30, No. 6; 29, No. 11]

B4.16 (4.1) – Psalm 75:11-77:6 (same codex as B4.17) [31, 32]

B4.17 (4.2) – Psalm 89:10-91:6 (same codex as B4.16) [33, 34]

B4.18 (18) – The Life of Eupraxia [35-36]

B4.19 and 20 (19) – The Martyrdom of St. Pantaleon [37, 38, 39, 40]

B5.1 (14) – Anonymous, Homily on the Archangel Michael [41, 42, 43, 44]

B5.2 (25) – Unidentified (Life of Saint / Martyrdom?) [45, 46]

B5.3.1-3 (21) – Letter [47, 48]

B5.4.1 (3) – Psalm 28:6-10 [49, 50]

B5.4.2 (26) – Unidentified [51, 52]

B5.4.3 (27) – Unidentified [53, 54]

B5.5.1 (11) – 1 Corinthians 14:22-25 and 34-39 [55, 56]

B5.5.2 (1) – Genesis 29:32-30:11 [57, 58]

B5.5.4 (7) – Daniel 1:19-20 [59, 60]

B5.6.1 (28) – Unidentified [61, 62]

B5.6.2 (12) – 2 Timothy 1:5-8 and 9-10 [63, 64]

B5.7 (22) – Letter [65, 66]

B5.8.1 (29) – Unidentified [67, 68]

B5.8.2 (30) – Unidentified [69, 70]

B5.8.3 (6) – Psalm 115:9-116:1 [71, 72]

B5.8.4 (10) – 1 Corinthians 1:21, 27-28 and 30 [73, 74]

B5.8.5 (31) – Unidentified [75, 76]

B5.9 (32) – Unidentified [77, 78]

B5.10 (20) – Two prayers [79, 80]

B5.11.1-11 (35) – Lycopolitan Psalter (see also B4.15, same codex) [81-100]

B5.11.1 (35.2) – Psalm 9:6-10 and 17-21 [81, 82]                          

B5.11.2 (35.6) – Psalm 40:3-5 and 41:2-4 [83, 84]

B5.11.3-4 (35.7-8) – Psalm 70:3-6 and 16-19a [85, 86]

B5.11.5 (35.9) – Psalm 70:7-8 and 19b [87, 88]

B5.11.6 (35.11) – Psalm 72:16-19 and 73:2-3 [89, 90]                  

B5.11.7 (35.13) – Psalm 109:1-3 and 110:7-9 [91, 92]                  

B5.11.8 (35.15) – Psalm 135:25-136:2 and 137:2-6 [93, 94]         

B5.11.9 (35.20) – Unidentified [95, 96]                                          

B5.11.10 (35.21) – Unidentified [97, 98]                            

B5.11.11 (35.22) – Unidentified [99-100]                                      

B5.12.1 (5) – Psalm 103:10-18 [101, 102]

B5.12.2 (9) – Jesus Sirach 16:17-20 and 26-29 [103, 105]

B5.12.3 (9) – Jesus Sirach 16:20-23 and 30-17:2 [104, 106]

B5.12.4 (33) – Unidentified [107, 108]

B5.12.5 (34) – Unidentified [109, 110]

Further reading

  • Broek, R. van den, ‘De apokriefe Handelingen van Andreas. Fragmenten. HS Kopt. Ms. 1’, in: K. van der Horst et al. (eds.), Handschriften en oude drukken van de Utrechtse Universiteitsbibliotheek (Utrecht, 1984), p. 202-204.
  • -----, ‘Handelingen van Andreas (Het Koptisch Fragment uit Utrecht)’, in: A.F.J. Klijn (ed.), Apokriefen van het Nieuwe Testament, II (Kampen, 1985), p. 163-166; heruitgegeven in: J. Slavenburg (ed.), Het grote boek der apokriefen: geheime vroegchristelijke teksten (Deventer, 2009), p. 331-333.
  • -----, ‘Verborgen verhalen’, in: M. Leeflang & K. van Schooten (eds.), Heilige Schrift – Tanach, Bijbel, Koran (Zwolle & Utrecht, 2016), p. 79-80.
  • -----, ‘A Greek iatromagical papyrus (Utrecht Copt. Ms. B3.8)’, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 202 (2017), p. 208-213.
  • -----, Catalogue of the Coptic manuscripts in the Utrecht University Library (Utrecht, 2017) (pdf). Link to Digitaal Repertorium: Collectie Koptisch (Digital Repository: Collection Coptic).
  • ----- & J.-M. Prieur (eds.), ‘Le Papyrus Copte Utrecht 1. Édition du texte copte par R. van den Broek et traduction annotée par J.-M. Prieur’, in: Prieur, Acta Andreae. Textus. Corpus Christianorum, Series Apocryphorum, 6 (Turnhout, 1989), p. 653-671.
  • MacDonald, D.R., The Acts of Andrew and the Acts of Andrew and Matthias in the City of the Cannibals. Society of Biblical Literature, Texts and Translations 33 (Atlanta, Georgia, 1990), p. 242-253.
  • Quispel, G., ‘An unknown fragment of the Acts of Andrew (Pap. Copt. Utrecht N. 1)’, Vigiliae Christianae 10 (1956), p. 129-148.
  • ----- & J. Zandee, ‘A Coptic fragment from the Life of Eupraxia’, Vigiliae Christianae 13 (1959), p. 193-203.
  • -----, ‘Some Coptic fragments from the Martyrdom of St. Pantoleon’, Vigiliae Christianae 16 (1962), p. 42-52.
  • Zandee, J., ‘Josephus contra Apionem. An apocryphal story of Joseph in Coptic’, Vigiliae Christianae 15 (1961), p. 193-213.
  • -----, ‘Vom heiligen Theodorus Anatolius. Ein doppelt überlieferter Text (Koptisches Manuscript Utrecht 5)’, Vigiliae Christianae 37 (1983), p. 288-305.
200 - 800
Papyrus and parchment
BJ May 2018
From Manuscript 10 D 1, Collection of Demotic, Greek and Coptic manuscripts
Apocryphal Acts of Andrew
[35] The life of Eupraxia
[03] On the Virgin Mary
[15] Greek-Coptic magical papyrus
[23] Story of Joseph and his brothers
[37] The Martyrdom of Saint Pantaleion
[29] Fragments from the Lycopolitan Psalter
[79] Prayer

Collection of Coptic manuscripts (Schmidt Collection), B1-5.

  • Egypt, c. 200-800
  • Papyrus and parchment, fragments of 57 fol., various sizes
  • Several hands
  • Coptic script, in various forms
  • Coptic documents; one Greek-Coptic magical papyrus
  • No illustrations or decoration
  • Some initials are enlarged
  • Loose folios, some mounted under glass
  • From the collection of Carl Schmidt (1868-1938), sold by his niece G. Kunta-Schmidt in 1956 to Gilles Quispel (1916-2006) for the Utrecht University Library