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Introduction: The Society in the 1992-93 year took the bold step of leasing an office space to start a center for Coptic studies. As the center went into operation, the need for bigger space to accommodate the collections housed as well as to facilitate their use by the users. Through God's grace a larger office space was available in the same building, which is located close to St. Mark Coptic Church in Los Angeles, the first Coptic church on the West Coast.
The new Center is conveniently divided into four separate rooms. Two rooms on the west side of the same size as the previous office space and two smaller rooms on the east side with a hallway that runs North-South. There is also a large walk-in closet for storage, located at the end of the hallway. Each room will be utilized for a specific function or functions. We decided to identify each room with a name of a Coptic Saint in the common tradition of the Copts. The choice of name on the whole reflects the function for which such room is being used for. The name assignment given here are tentative at this time. As one enters the center and walks south toward the closet and then return north to exist he would see the following:
1. St. Athanasius Room: This is the first room on the right (west) and it has the book library reading room. The library is arranged in accordance with the several categories included in the general field of Coptic Studies, such as Coptic Art, Bible, Hagiography, Patristic, Language, Law ... etc. There is also a section that has periodicals dealing with Coptic Studies such as the Bulletin of the Society for Coptic Archaeology, Le Monde Copte, and others. It is equipped with a computer for searching the contents of the library. The choice of name was due to the enriching effect that St. Athanasius's writings had on the ecclesiastic literary tradition of the Copts.
2. St. Cyril I Room: This is the second and last room on the right (west). It has the classroom space used for the seminars sponsored by the Society. Currently the Society has an Introductory course in Coptic and an advanced translation class. St. Cyril's name is synonymous with right teachings of the Coptic Church, so it would seem appropriate to name such room after him.
3. St. Shenouda the Archimandrite Room: This is the microfilm library room, located at the Southeast side of the Center. It houses the Coptic Microfilm Library. This library represents the greatest accomplishment made by the Society and the one that makes it unique among all places frequented by seekers of the Coptic Heritage. It is equipped with several microfiche viewers and nearly 17,000 microfiche cards, containing over 170,000 microfilmed-frames of manuscripts and about 13,000 microfilmed frames of research material. We believe that St. Shenouda's contribution to the Coptic Heritage is similar to that of this collection to the revival of such heritage.
4. St. Abraam Room: This is the second and last room on the east side of the Center just before heading out of the door. It serves the functions of a computer center and an office space. The main computer of the Center is located there. It is a 486-IBM compatible PC with an external 150-MB external Bernoulli Disk Drive and a laser printer. Stored in that computer hundreds of data files that contain literally thousands of pages of Coptic texts and English translations. They are stored in ASCII, MLS, and Word for Windows formats. There are also other computers there that are utilized for specific computer applications. Other files used in the operation of the Society will also be housed in this room. Because of the non-profit status of the Society, the name of St. Abraam, the friend of the poor, seemed a good choice. Also St. Abraam was indirectly responsible for us making the move to this new space.
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Several years ago the Society made plans to organize the literary treasures of the Coptic Church into multi-group series of publications. Preliminary work on this massive 300-volume plus series began with the collection of the written sources such as manuscripts as well as published texts. It was followed by computerization of such texts and translation of some. The first fruit of such effort will be, God's willing, the Gospel of St. Matthew. This to be published in three parallel versions, the Bohairic, Sahidic, and Middle Egyptian dialects plus a reference column containing King James English version. Later editions of this work will include all the variant readings available in the manuscripts as well as fragments from other Coptic dialects. Other works have started on most of the Biblical series of the collection.
Through the effort of the group participating in Advanced Coptic Seminar, we have a translation of the 10th century Bohairic manuscript of St. Anoub (Abanoub) martyrdom. This work is planned to be published next year. The publication will include, in addition to the Coptic text and its literal English translation, a glossary list of all the Coptic and Greek words used along with the proper names and Geographical terms used. Now work is being done on a 13th century unique manuscript that records the martyrdom of St. John of Phanidjoit (not in the Synaxarium).
Many other liturgical, Hagiographic, and Patristic texts in Coptic has been computerized and await their eventual publication.
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The introduction of computers in Coptic studies has been a blessing so far. It allowed us to manipulate Coptic texts to serve the needs of the users as well as a preservation medium for such vast collection. In the past years we encouraged many of our youth to participate in this process either by utilizing their own PC's or by the Society lending them the Hardware and the Software necessary for such participation. Even though a movement started, but the progress is still not what was hoped for. But, with God's help, we are hopeful that the seeds sown will bring the appropriate fruits in their own appropriate measure. We encourage those who have participated to increase their level of participation as well as encourage others to join in such a wonderful, blessed, and useful endeavor.
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With the opening of the center more attention was given to the acquisition of such books that would be needed by those interested in studying the different aspects of the Coptic Heritage. During this past year we were successful in acquiring a complete set of the Coptic texts published by the CSCO in Louvain, Belgium along with the volumes that included an English translation of such texts. We also acquired numerous Coptic art and language books published in Egypt recently, which is seeing a revival in such field. Another notable addition to the collection was a handsome volume on Coptic Fabrics.
More acquisitions are planned, as resources are made available to adequately assist anyone interested in Coptic Studies with working on any of its numerous disciplines. Such acquisitions contemplated are the handsome 12-volume set of the Facsimile edition of the Nag Hammadi manuscripts.
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The formation of the Coptic Microfilm Library has truly been the greatest accomplishment of the Society. In spite of the great size and wide scope of this collection, there is more work to be done. There are important collections in Germany and Russia that has not been touched by us yet. It is hoped that this will change this year. Also, in spite of the gigantic microfilm collection (480 Manuscripts) that we got from the Coptic Museum, there are over 3,600 manuscripts in three major collections in Egypt that are not accessible to us. It is hoped that access to these treasures will be made through the new microfilming project being planned by the Church now.
Our acquisitions was dominated of course by the arrival of the 33-microfilm reels of the Coptic Museum manuscripts. This group include several hundred manuscripts in Coptic, Copto-Arabic and Arabic. The subject matter is mostly Biblical, Theological, and Liturgical works. All in all there were about 70,000 microfilm frames of manuscripts, of which about 20% is Coptic or Copto-Arabic. This entire group was converted to Microfiche format and is ready to be used. The Brigham Young University in Utah, the sponsor of the microfilm project, has recently send us a nearly 1600-page written inventory of this collection and other that have not been requested by us yet. Such copy will be available in the Center's Book Library.
The Society also acquired microfilms of other manuscripts from the three major Coptic collection in Europe, i.e. the Vatican (V), the British Library (BL), and the National Library of Paris (P). These acquisitions contained about 7,500 microfilm frames of Coptic, Copto-Arabic and Arabic manuscripts. There are several thousands more frames on order from the libraries of Oxford, Manchester, and Leipzig. Categorically the received copies are arranged as follows:
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The Society conducted, in the Center, a new 15-week introductory Coptic Language Seminar From April to August of this year. The seminar was an expanded version of the one given this year at Pope Shenouda III Theological Seminary in March of this year. Both seminars were conducted by the same person, namely Hany N. Takla, the Society's President. The 15-week seminar notes is being prepared for publication with an accompanying set of cassette tapes, and a supplemental instructor volume with solutions to the exercises given and suggested examinations to be given. A new session, along the same format, started in mid-September.
There are two advanced classes that are conducted on a permanent basis. The first is the advanced Coptic translation class, and the second is new workshop to train advanced Coptic students in transcribing manuscripts and manuscript collation. The first class is currently working on a very unique 13th century Coptic manuscript of the martyrdom of a saint from the Ayyubite Dynasty (12-13 Century). The class has finished the preliminary translation of the Coptic martyrdom of St. Anoub (Abanoub). That new workshop is unique and was made possible by the present of the large microfilm holdings of Coptic Manuscripts acquired by the Society. All the classes are in the Bohairic dialect.
In the future the Society will be organizing seminars in Coptic History and Ecclesiology, as well as introductory Sahidic Coptic seminar. Efforts are also being done in preparing comprehensive Coptic language courses for the different age groups to be used in Coptic Churches in America
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Prepared by Hany N. Takla 4/17/96
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