Thursday, August 29, 2019


Monika R. M. Hasitzka (ed.), Koptische dokumentarische Texte aus der Papyrussammlung der österreichischen Nationalbibliothek. Corpus Papyrorum Raineri Band XXXIV​. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2018. Pp. viii, 262; 76 Tables. ISBN 9783110580693. €129,95.

Reviewed by Christian Barthel, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt a. M.; Leibniz project "Polyphony of Late Antique Christianity"​ (

Version at BMCR home site

The present volume of the Corpus Papyrorum Raineri (CPR) continues the steady stream of documentary sources emanating from the vaults of the Austrian National Library in Vienna. Here the editor, Monika Hasitzka, publishes 83 Coptic texts, chronologically ranging from the sixth-seventh century to the eleventh, preserved on papyrus, paper, and a single one on parchment. Their provenance can often only be broadly attributed through the Coptic dialect used. The majority of the documents were written in Sahidic, a good quarter in Fayyumic. But there is also the occasional Greek passage or signature (No. 82-83) and—duly noted by Hasitzka—a list of garments (No. 56) that was predominantly written in Greek. 1

The documents are otherwise divided into two sections: 1. Lists (No. 1-56) and 2. Letters (No. 57-80) and Legal Contracts (No. 81-83). Each edited text is accompanied by a paleographical description, a German translation, a short synopsis of the content and possible context of the document, and a primarily philological commentary. But on ocassion, the commentary can contain historical notes (No. 19, 27, 32, 35, 41, 43, 53, 71). Section 1 contains a wide array of documents that not only include the (usual) lists of taxes (No. 12, 18, 19-22), expenses (No. 13, 25-27, 29-40,42-43), and inventories (7-10), but also more unique items such as a monthly roster of ships that docked (?) at Ma-n-pindrat (No. 1), and two registers (No. 52-53), possibly from the ninth century, of offerings (προσφορά) connected to the Christian mortuary cult. Many of the lists published in section 1 contain previously unknown or unattested variants of Coptic names as well as a series of new ones. This section notably expands the valuable list of Coptic names already published by the same author. 2 A few documents, dated between the seventh and ninth century, also mention late Roman offices such as the pagarch, komarch, and the dioiketes (No. 19; 70-71) and thus add to our growing understanding of the administrative structures of (early) Islamic Egypt in the context of village institutions.3

Highly unusual for a book of this scope, but a welcome addition nonetheless, is the inclusion of an appendix (p. 186-191) devoted to the history of the discipline. Hasitzka here publishes the correspondence of Walter E. Crum and Walter C. Till pertaining to a letter of a certain Phoibammon that is addressed to Theodose (No.70), which she discovered in the storage box of the one parchment document published in this collection. Crum's letter discusses the various issues and difficulties of this text as well as his Sahidic translation and Till's annotated transcription of the Fayyumic text. The reader is therefore presented with a rare opportunity to delve into the various stages of the editorial process of such a complex text prior to its initial publication. The book closes with the usual indices and 76 tables of high quality.

A major strength of this volume is the insertion of discursive notes within the commentaries. Even if one is inclined towards a different reading, Hasitzka's willingness to elaborate on why she chose a specific reading, while at the same time giving possible (and plausible) alternatives, is highly illuminating.4 These discursive notes can occasionally become overabundant, but in general provide a sense of clarity and serve as a guide for specialists and non-specialists alike. A case in point is a contract (No. 81) containing a series of signatures of witnesses, where 15 possible readings for πλ() are discussed. These minor blemishes of course do not stain the overall value of this work, which is certain to aid and facilitate further work on Coptic papyrology.


1.   In the same vein the last volume of the CPR (XXXI) dedicated to Coptic documentary and literary sources also included a Greek text (No. 5).
2.   M. R. M Hasitzka, Namen in koptischen dokumentarischen Texten. Available online.
3.   In addition to the references provided by Hasitzka, see now L. Berkes, Dorfverwaltung und Dorfgemeinschaft in Ägypten von Diokletian zu den Abbasiden (Philippika 104), Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz 2017; P. M. Sijpesteijn, Shaping a Muslim State: The World of a Mid-Eighth-Century Egyptian Official, Oxford, OUP 2013.
4.   Such extensive discursive notes are not always common in Coptic text editions. Compare for instance the different format of the "Koptisches Sammelbuch (KSB)" in Gesa Schenke's review of KSB III. BMCR 2008.02.53. ​

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