The collection of Wolja Erichsen (1890-1966), now at Stanford's Green Library, documents more than 1,500 years of Egyptian history, ranging from about 650 B.C. to about A.D. 1000. It includes Egypt's important transition from paganism to Christianity.According to the press release, the quality and the quantity of text editions and studies of demotic and Coptic text editions included in Erichsen’s library is phenomenal. Many of the books in the library are limited editions published in Germany before 1940. Some of the volumes contain photographs of texts that no longer exist because the original papyri were lost or destroyed during World War II.
"The Erichsen library is one of the most significant and perhaps the last great Egyptology library in private hands," said Joe Manning, associate professor of classics. "It is difficult to overestimate the importance of acquiring this collection. Stanford's acquisition adds great momentum to our research and strengthens our profile as one of the very best places in the world to study ancient Mediterranean civilizations."
Erichsen, a professor at the University of Copenhagen, was a specialist in demotic Egyptian, the script and language of Egypt from 650 B.C. to A.D. 200, and Coptic, the last stage of the ancient Egyptian language that has particular importance for the study of early Christianity, especially since Egypt was the location of the earliest organized church.
Erichsen, for many years based in Berlin, is perhaps most famous for his important dictionary of demotic, Demotisches Glossar (1954), which is still fundamental in the field, and his Demotische Lesestücke (1937-39), a collection of demotic Egyptian texts used for teaching the language even today.
It's commonly believed that modern technology and techniques have antiquated the research of an earlier area, but the assumption does not necessarily hold in late Egyptology, a history that is very much a work-in-progress, according to Manning.
"There's a dialogue between the new and old material," he said. "Half of the known demotic texts are not even published. There are still papyri coming up out of the ground." Manning noted that, for instance, 8,000 new papyri of Greek and demotic texts were discovered in the last few seasons at a single site in Egypt. It shows that the available knowledge of the era is far from complete, and scholars are still playing catch-up. Much of the older work has not been revised or updated.
Scholars who specialize in Egyptian language and culture, especially those who are interested in demotic and Coptic texts, will be glad that these rare books are now available for research at Stanford University.
Read the news release by clicking here.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
Tags: Archaeology, Coptic, Demotic, Egypt