PAThs is an ERC granted project (Advanced Grant 2015), aimed to provide an in-depth diachronical understanding and effective representation of the geography of Coptic literary production and in particular of the corpus of literary writings, almost exclusively of religious contents, produced in Egypt between the 3rd and the 11th centuries in the Coptic language.

PAThs takes an original and pluridisciplinary approach, combining philology, codicology, archaeology and digital humanities, in order to explore the process of production, copying, usage, dissemination, and storage of Coptic works in relation to the concrete geographical contexts of origin of both the texts themselves and their related writing supports.

By analysing texts and contents, paratexts (titles and colophons) and linguistic layers (style and dialects), the literary products will be strictly related not only to the places where they have been copied, but also to the single intellectual milieux responsible for their creation.
Cultural orientations and literary tastes in specific areas of Egypt will be singled out, while changes in the manufacture of codices will emerge, in a manuscript tradition that offers the oldest witnesses for the use of codex.

An exhaustive digital Atlas of late antique and early mediaeval Egypt – a versatile tool that will allow detailed and focused research and correlation of chronological, regional and thematic data, that is under construction  – will illustrate the relationship between settlements, as revealed by the archaeological investigations, and intellectual production, as revealed by manuscripts, and will provide a new comprehensive perspective on the spread and development of Coptic literature and manuscript culture.

PAThs will integrate into its portal the just described archaeological atlas of Coptic literature (main product) with several relational databases (by-products), all of them in keeping with the finality of creating a concrete link between literary production and related geographical and archaeological context:

  •  A complete classification of Coptic literature, by means of the attribution of a Clavis Coptica (CC) entry to each work and each title, and of a stable identifier to each colophon.
  • A complete census, edition, and translation of all the extant Coptic colophons. Particular attention will be devoted to the terminological aspects and the structural elements of colophons. 
  • A complete classification of the Coptic manuscript tradition, by means of the attribution of ‘stable identifiers’ to each manuscript (‘codicological unit’), in order to have univocal coordinates of reference to the entire Coptic book production. Such a classification is progressively expandable as soon as new manuscripts are discovered.
  • A complete census of the relevant sites which are known as places where single manuscripts (for instance codices buried with a body, as a funerary kit) or entire ‘collections’ (for example a monastery library, such as the codices found in the monastery of the Virgin Mary in Deir el-Hammam) have been found. Drawings, photos, maps, and 3D reconstructions of the most relevant sites will be provided.
  • A tentative identification of places and geographical areas where specific works and literary genres have been conceived.
  • A complete archive of names of copyists, commissioners, donors, institutions and places involved in the production of manuscripts.
  • A classification of the book formats, writing supports and other relevant codicological features of the manuscripts, in relation to the texts that they transmit.

 All the databases just described – with their interrelated data –  constitute the invisible substructure of the Atlas.

PAThs is not a project that emerges ex nihilo, but it takes advantage of some successful initiatives whose results will constitute one of the bases of the research work, although they do not overlap with the goals of this new project. The Corpus dei Manoscritti Copti Letterari (CMCL) is the most important of these projects.


For more details about the scientific and technical choices of PAThs:

Download the “PAThs” Mission Statement in PDF version


Visit the CMCL website