Keeping up with Coptic

The digital needs for the Coptic script are becoming better served in recent years, with the introduction of a standard encoding for the full block of the script, a romanization table for use in libraries, a Windows system font (Segoe UI Historic), a Noto font (Noto Sans Coptic Regular 2.0, available for document use with Catalina) and fonts such as Antinoou (, Copte Scripte (, and Ifao N Copte (  The collaborative digital resource lists at least 2330 individual Coptic papyri, with another 2920 marked as ‘Egyptian/Coptic’.  More work could evidently be done to add metadata in Coptic script to these entries for easier access, and in adding full text in Coptic script to enhance searchability and readability.  In OCLC’s Worldcat database, there are 1463 titles listed as being in the Coptic language, although of these, perhaps only up to sixty or so have metadata recorded in the Coptic script as yet.

Dr. Stephen Emmel, a founding editor of the Journal of Coptic Studies (JCS) and former student of Dr. Bentley Layton, was one of the key proponents of guiding the Coptic script through the Unicode encoding process.  I worked with Dr. Emmel on developing the ALA-LC romanization table for Coptic, found here:  The design of the table had to diverge in some ways from the system used in JCS.

Keyboard layouts for Coptic can be found on Gboard (for Android and iOS) and on KeymanWeb, but not yet natively for Windows 10.

Fig. 1.  Image of P.CtYBR inv. 3553, a Coptic request for Materia Medica, from the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

There is a nice guide to Coptic manuscripts, four of which are noted to have been digitized (out of 1600), at the British Library website here:  The guide also points to collections of online images of manuscripts held at other institutions.  The Coptic Gnostic Library, published by Brill, is also a great resource, with full searchable Coptic text of the Nag Hammadi Codices.  The offerings of Gorgias Press are noteworthy too:

There are more intriguing details about Coptic to be covered, exploring dialectical differences and relations to other earlier Egyptian scripts.  But we will leave those for another day in later posts to come.

6 thoughts on “Keeping up with Coptic

  1. I’m rather curious about something, what exactly is the system used by Journal of Coptic Studies? I can’t seem to find it. Also, why did the ALA-LC table had to diverge from the one used by JCS, why couldn’t it be the same?

    1. Hi, it appears in the back of the print journal issues, but I don’t think it’s in the electronic version. JCS employed some conventions that aren’t used in ALA-LC tables.

      1. Ah, I see now, thank you for the response. If is it not to much of a hassle, could you give me a photo of JCS’s system?

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