Preserving Egyptian Coptic Heritage through Conservation, Scholarship and Educational Dissemination

 

A BRITISH COUNCIL GRANT PROVIDES THE LEVANTINE FOUNDATION’S CONSERVATION FIELD CAMPAIGNS AT DEIR AL-SURIAN, EGYPT

The Levantine Foundation is delighted to announce a grant from the British Council’s £30 million Cultural Protection Fund, in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Fifty one grants were issued to support projects in the Middle East and North Africa. The Levantine Foundation was established in 2002 by Elizabeth Sobczynski. Its founding purpose is to preserve cultural heritage in the Near East. Its first major project is at the Deir al-Surian, (monastery) in Egypt. During numerous conservation field campaigns based at the monastery, the collection has been re-housed, surveyed and the conservation of different language codices and fragments have been completed in collaboration with conservation professionals from England and Europe and international scholars in Arabic, Coptic, Ethiopic and Syriac from various universities around the world. The grant will enable a team of five book conservators to spend the month of May and November 2019 at the Deir al-Surian. Among the codices earmarked for conservation are texts dating from 6th-13thcentury in Syriac, Coptic and Christian Arabic.

They will be digitally documented before, during and after treatment and data saved in a bespoke Deir al-Surian database. The new librarian Fr. Amoon will be directly involved in preparation for and follow up to each campaign, as well as in outreach activities. Three novices/local interns selected in collaboration with the Monastery will receive training throughout the campaign in aspects of conservation, including making archival boxes for vulnerable codices.In December 2019 a seminar and reception will be hosted at the residence of HM British Ambassador to Egypt in Cairo. The forum will give the Foundation an opportunity to review work undertaken in the library, to highlight its significance, to share its conservation achievements to invited guests and to formally thank the scholars and the conservators who have generously assisted with the cataloguing and the working campaigns at Deir al-Surian.

The large number of manuscripts and fragments that remain in the monastery represent an inheritance of inestimable scholarly value and form an essential part of the cultural heritage for the World.

The Levantine Foundation has benefited from many partnerships and collaborations with international scholars. This year it is Dr. Yury Arzhanov, Division of Byzantine Research, Institute for Medieval Research, Austrian Academy of Science; Prof. Dr. Alessandro Bausi and Dr. Denis Nosnitsin, Asien-Afrika-Institut, Hiob-Ludolf-Zentrumfür Äthiopistik, Hamburg University; Professor Stephen J. Davis, Department of Religious Studies, Yale University and Associate Research Professor Hania Sholkamy, The Social Research Centre and Teaching Faculty in the Sociology,  Egyptology, Anthropology Department, the American University in Cairo. The first ever catalogue of the Syriac Collection was published by Peeters Publishers  in 2014 and researched by Dr. Sebastian Brock of Oxford University and Professor Lukas Van Rompay of Duke University USA.                                                                 

WE ARE GRATEFUL TO THE BRITISH COUNCIL CULTURAL PROTECTION FUND AND THE DEPARTMENT FOR DIGITAL, CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT FOR THEIR GENEROUS GRANT TOWARDS THIS IMPORTANT PROJECT

 

2018 April 11-13, University of Copenhagen, The 17th Seminar on The Care and Conservation of Manuscripts at The Arnamagnean Institute A joint paper titled “Preserving the Oldest Coptic Monastic Collection in Egypt: The Deir al-Surian Library was presented by Elizabeth Sobczynski and Flavio Marzo. The presentation consisted of two parts. The first part presented by Sobczynski outlined the history of the library, its historical importance and the future goals of the foundation. In the second part Marzo described the conservation of the 5th century Four Gospels manuscript in Syriac undertaken in 2010.

 

2018 February 26 – March 3, Deir al-Surian Library The Study of the Ethiopic Manuscripts of Dayr as-Suryan  Dr. Denis Nosnitsin and Dorothea Reule, M.A., researchers of the Project “Beta masaheft” based at the University of Hamburg (Hiob Ludolf Centre for Ethiopian Studies) worked in the monastery of Dayr as-Suryan in the period of 26 February – 3 March, making a preliminary evaluation of its Ethiopic collection. “Beta masaheft” joined the efforts of preserving the cultural heritage of Dayr as-Suryan in collaboration with the Levantine Foundation which has been sponsoring manuscript conservation campaigns at the monastery for more than fifteen years, and with Stephen J. Davis and Yale Monastic Archaeology Project, engaged in the cataloguing of the Syriac, Coptic and Arabic manuscripts of the monastery. For full report and photos please go to PDF 

 

2017 December - Cataloguing of the Coptic, Bilingual [Copto-Arabic] and Christian Arabic manuscripts under the directorship of Professor Stephen J. Davis continuous

 

2016 December - Cataloguing of the Coptic, Bilingual [Copto-Arabic] and Christian Arabic manuscripts under the directorship of Stephen J. Davis continuous

 

2016 December – Dr. Yury Arzhanov visits the library to research scientific and philosophical texts translated from Greek into Syriac

 

2016 November-December – Conservation field campaign undertakes conservation and stabilising of five codices from the Syriac collection dating back to the 6th century

 

2016 November – Father Amoon el Souriany is appointed a new librarian by HG Bishop Mattaos, Abbot of Deir al-Surian  

 

2016 September – Father Bigoul el Souriany, librarian of Deir al-Surian retires from his duties in the library after nearly twenty years

 

2016 June- A new generator is purchased with the financial assistance from the Headley Trust by the Monastic Council

 

2016 May – Sir Derek Plumbly, President of the foundation visits the library and the conservation studio

 

2016 May – Mr. John Osborn visits the library and the conservation centre. He pledges a donation of £ 3 000 towards the Syriac Ms. 30. Mr. Osborn also sponsored the conservation of the Syriac Ms. 11 [MK6] in 2009

 

2016 May – Nigel Pilkington, Chairman of the foundation visits the library and the conservation centre. He pledges a donation of £ 3 000 towards the Syriac Ms. 28 [MK 2]

 

2016 May – HM British Ambassador John Casson visits the library with his wife Catherine

 

2016 May - The London Art History Society awards the foundation £ 3 000 towards conservation of Syriac Ms. 10 [MK 12], and Syriac Ms. 20

 

2016 May – Conservation Field campaign

 

2016 March - The Headley Trust awards £ 30 000 grant towards the purchase of a new generator for the library

 

2016 March – Sir Derek Plumbly, President of the foundation visits the monastery with Dr. Khalil Nougaim, Executive Director in Egypt for talks with HG Bishop Mattaos. They are accompanied by their wives. 

 

2015 November - Cancellation of the November conservation campaign due to the flood; lack of electricity and fresh water in the monastery

 

2015 November – Floods in Wadi el-Natrun: loss of lives and huge structural damage to the monastery ancient church of the Holly Virgin, 6th century and the 9th century walls. The library suffers superficial damage with no damage to the collection

 

2015 June – The Viscount John Julius Norwich launches appeal for a generator dedicated to the library on behalf of the foundation

 

2014 May-June - Cataloguing of the Coptic, Bilingual [Copto-Arabic] and Christian Arabic manuscripts under the directorship of Stephen J. Davis continuous

 

2014 May – The Levantine Foundation resumes its conservation activities in the Deir al-Surian library

 

2014 – September – Launch of the Catalogue of the Syriac Manuscripts and Fragments in the Library of Deir al-Surian, Wadi al-Natrum (Egypt) at the boardroom of the British Library in London

 

2014 March - Cataloguing of the Coptic, Bilingual [Copto-Arabic] and Christian Arabic manuscripts under the directorship of Stephen J. Davis continuous

 

2013 – December – Cataloguing of the Coptic, Bilingual [Copto-Arabic] and Christian Arabic manuscripts begins under the directorship of Stephen J. Davis, Professor of Religious Studies, Master of Pierson College, Yale University

 

2013- August – The Mercers Company awards the foundation £ 10 000 towards conservation of the collection

 

2013 – May – The opening of the new Deir al-Surian library and the conservation centre built with the financial assistance from the Levantine Foundation

 

2013 – March-April – Transfer of the collection into the new library building

 

2012-2013 – Fitting of the library and the conservation centre

 

2012 – January Completion of the new library by the architectural firm of Morad Bebawy & Meleka Farah

 

New Deir al-Surian Library and Conservation Centre. The Opening Ceremony - 19 May 2013 

To read more please download the PDF

 

The National Library & Archives of Egypt Newsletter, November 2012

The Award Ceremony, Sofitel Hotel, Cairo, 25 November 2012

To view photographs please visit the following link

 

Museology and Conservation Training Opening Ceremony, 6 November 2012 

To read more please download the PDF

 

World Class Museology and Conservation Training Programme, 7-22 November 2012 Cairo

The programme, was organised in partnership with the Ministry of Antiquities, The National Library and Archives of Egypt and Leiden University. It was a follow up to a very successful 2010 programme for professionals from the leading museums, libraries and monastic collections in Egypt and MA students from the major universities in Cairo. 

The Training Programme was hosted by The Ministry of Antiquities and the National Library & Archives of Egypt in Cairo.

For more information please view the  PDF

 

Dr Denis Nosnitsin and Dorothea Reule, MA, researchers of the Project 'Beta masaheft': manuscripts of Ethiopia and Eritrea’, continued their work on cataloguing the Ethiopic collection of the monastery. The data collected during the previous stay (2018) were checked and completed. All 23 Ethiopic manuscripts were included into the research environment of the Beta masaheft project, and a full-scale description has been developed for each, which will be continuously expanded to finally result in a catalogue of the collection. The peculiarity of this cataloguing enterprise is that the descriptions are being prepared in XML (Extensible Markup Language). The application of TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) XML according to Beta masaheft's customized schema allows accommodating the entire amount of the information mined from the manuscripts according to the most up to date standards of cataloguing, and it will assure the simplicity and clarity of the descriptions, as well as their sustainability by facilitating their use in various resources and formats in the future. The Beta masaheft digital research environment has recently been made fully accessible to the public and is now an open resource; the descriptions, in their current state, can be viewed on the betamasaheft manuscript website, please see in pdf. For full report and photos please go to PDF 

The Levantine Foundation registered in England 4506398, in The Arab Republic of Egypt under Law No 84 (2002). Registered charity number 1094436.