The Four Gospels


The Gospels in Coptic and Arabic, produced in Egypt.

What is the Coptic language?

Coptic is the ancient language of the Egyptians written initially in the hieroglyphic and demotic scripts. By the end of the 2nd century CE the ancient scripts were discarded in favour of the Greek alphabet with seven additional characters for sounds, adapted from demotic not found in Greek. There are two major Coptic dialects: Sahidic originating in the regions of Upper Egypt, and Bohairic deriving from the western Nile Delta in Lower Egypt.

Towards the early modern period the Coptic language was superseded by Arabic as a spoken language, retaining to this day its Bohairic dialect for biblical and liturgical books. Gradually, even these books were endowed with Arabic translations, rubrics and colophons, and occasionally with Islamic style ornamentation.

The manuscript

This paper codex was created in 1663. It was dedicated by John, the 105th Patriarch of Alexandria in the Church of the Virgin and St George, in Cairo, in 1731. It contains miniatures of Gospel scenes showing European influences in their style, going back to Antonio Tempesta’s woodcuts in the Arabic Gospels printed in Rome in 1591. This manuscript is also notable for its fine binding.

Full title:
Four Gospels, 17th century
1663, Egypt
Coptic / Arabic
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Or 1316

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