Typing Coptic – 2

Some months ago, I posted some information about typing Coptic on a PC (using Unicode fonts) but recently Andy Finke has done some further investigation and has been posting his results in the comments section of that post. This post pulls out the relevant information about  getting a functional Coptic keyboard in whatever version of Windows you are using. You can even build your own Coptic keyboard if you don’t like the mapping on the ones that are generally available. In order to do any of these things, you will need to download and install Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator, which may mean you also need to download and install Microsoft .NET Framework v2.0 or above (I have 4.0 installed because that’s the version that works with Win7)

Making a Coptic keyboard from one you already have

This is the easier way, but you need access to a keyboard layout that is installed and working properly on a computer. The Logos Coptic keyboard is the one I have been using for years, but you may have another one. If so, I’d love to hear about it.

  1. Open Keyboard Layout Creator and click on File, the Load Existing Keyboard
  2. Click on Project and then properties and choose an 8 letter name for the keyboard, plus a description. Also decide what language you want it to be associated with. Andy (see below) has managed to get his to associate with US English and be offered a # on his language bar. Doesn’t seem to work with Win7, so I randomly chose Gallician which is a left-to-right language that I don’t know and don’t plan to learn. Click on OK.
  3. Click on Project again and Build DLL and Setup Package. You will get a message that tells you that the project has been completed but with some errors and asks if you would like to see them. The errors tell you that some of the mappings are going to cause problems with non-Unicode systems, but this is just fine because you are using Unicode fonts.
  4. It will then tell you that it has built the setup package in a particular folder and asks if you would like to open the folder. Say yes and pay attention to where it is on your computer and what it has been called. You will see that it has created three .msi files, two of which have a 64 in them and are for 64 bit systems and one of which is for 32 bit systems.
  5. Copy the whole folder onto a flash drive or similar, plug it into your new computer, run setup.exe and your new keyboard should install happily, associated with the language you chose. If you have a 32 bit system, double clicking on the .msi file with 32 in its name will also work. I tried using the .msi with amd64 in its name and that worked for my Win7, but I don’t understand the differences.

Making a Coptic keyboard from scratch

These are Andy’s instructions:

  1. What you need is a printout of the Greek-Coptic page from the Unicode charts – that’s 0370-03ff and a printout of the Coptic – 2c80-2cff.
  2. You then open Keyboard Creator and select File and New. You select each key and enter the Unicode code in the format “u+03e3″ for small shei and Enter. Then go to the next key.
  3. When you’re all done with all the keys you select Project and Validate Layout. It will say, “You’re Ok but you’ve got some warnings. Do you want to see them?’ You say yes, read the warnings and close.
  4. Then you go to Project and Test Keyboard Layout. Type in all your keys to make sure the assignments are correct. Hit OK.
  5. Then go to Project and Build DLL and Setup Package. That it does, giving you 3 installer packages – two in 64 bit format, which don’t work on the 32-bit machine. Select the i386 format and run it (double click).
  6. When it’s done, go to Project and Properties. You’ll see the name of your keyboard and where it’s located. Mine piggybacks English-United States. i.e. to get the keyboard, from English select it via the small square in the language bar at the top of your screen “EN #” where # stands for the rectangular icon that selects subkeyboards. Don’t have to mess with Regional and Language. (Note that my computer doesn’t seem to offer this option in the language bar)

He adds:

You, Judy, can create the Coptic keyboard of your dreams without curling the fingers. What Logos has at ALT-GR I put at Shift, since several keys acted oddly in ALT-GR, bringing up the Google keyboard and an email I had sent through Outlook Express. Since I don’t need capital Coptic, I’m happy to have the specifically Coptic letters at the Shift state.

Adjusting a Coptic keyboard

Having opened the Creator, load your existing keyboard (or a source file). If you hover over a key, you see what the unicode code for the current assignment is. If you click on it, you can type in a new Unicode assignment. Like Andy, I have changed the four Coptic characters that are currently assigned as Alt-Gr to Shift-state keys.  Shift-T is the TI (dei) character, shift-F (fei) is the Coptic F, shift-H is the Coptic H (horeh) and shift-J is the Coptic CH (shima). I then put the upper case versions of the Coptic letters onto the Alt-Gr keys, just in case I might happen to need them.

Note that you can create images of the keyboard maps by chosing the “save as image” option, but you will need to save a different image for each state (ie unshifted and shifted states, with and without Alt-Gr).

Marcion resource 3

More tips from Milan, moved up from the comments:

  • in any opened text you can use the popup menu for easier searching in dictionaries
  • in the tree view of coptic dictionary you can raise a popup menu and use the resolve function to create all possible morphs of a word
  • look at this new video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQUTrNZXKEo which provides information about the Book Reader function and demonstrates the above features. This allows you to search for the occurence of particular words in specific libraries, and also to look up meansings of words in Crum.

He also promises that in the next release it will be possible to do other tasks whilst waiting for long processes to finish. 🙂 He also says that if you find any next errors, bugs, or if you have any wishes and ideas concerning functionality, you should inform him at the Marcion site.

More on commentaries – Kasser

Back in January, I began a series of reviews of commentaries on GosThom and managed to do two.  Here is a third and I hope to do the rest over the next few weeks.

Rodolphe Kasser’s L’Evangile selon Thomas

Rodolphe Kasser, L’Evangile selon Thomas: présentation et commentaire théologique: Bibliothèque théologique; (Neuchatel: Editions Delachaux & Niestlé, 1961).

As you can see from the date, this French commentary is one of the earliest written on GosThom (perhaps the earliest?) and as such is very interesting.

Assessment of Thomas

Kasser argues that GosThom is clearly Gnostic and that it reflects Gnostic thought that was current in the second century CE. He does not commit to a date for composition, but does provide a summary of the thought current at the time of origins etc.

Positive Aspects

  • Has a significant amount of detailed comment on sayings with canonical parallels.
  • Provides a detailed overview of the current understanding of Gnosticism to justify his assessment of the text as Gnostic.
  • Provides a French translation and a Greek “retroversion” together with an index to the French vocabularly with Greek and Coptic equivalents.
  • Provides a table at the back that shows how the sayings numbering in the different editions of GosThom correspond with one another – Kasser uses the numbering of the Guillaumont-Puech-Quispel-Till-Yassah abd al Masih and Queck-(Garitte) edition which is currently in use.
  • For those for whom French is not their first language, the French used is not particularly complex.

Negative Aspects

  • does not address the Coptic text directly in the commentary (hence the index of French-Coptic-Greek equivalents).
  • transliterates Coptic and (because, I assume, there was no Coptic font available at the time) does not have a table that shows what the equivalent Coptic character is for each transliteration, just a list of transliterations in Coptic alphabetical order.
  • The layout is not easy to follow. Each saying number is in superscript, whereas the line numbers for each saying are much larger and in parentheses, so they are the ones that stand out. Kasser uses sequential line numbering throughout, rather than the page and line numbering which is now more usual. However, Grondin’s interlinear provides all three numbering systems, which is helpful. (Download the page-by-page version)
  • References are in footnotes without a bibliography, so one needs to hunt back to the first mention of any item to find its full bibliographical details.
  • Out of print, so must be purchased second-hand or borrowed from a library.


This provides a very interesting insight into early scholarship on GosThom, so very useful for anyone who is working seriously in the area. It provides some detailed background information that newer commentaries tend to skim over on the assumption that it is well known, but obviously lacks treatment of current thinking.

More on the Marcion Coptic resource

Milan Konvicka has posted information in the comments of my last post that I think merits putting in a post of its own.

He has produced two instructional videos to help people to use the Marcion program. You can find them at:


The first one demonstrates how to import and index the libraries that aren’t installed by default when you install the program. I now have the Sahidic New Testament, Codex Tchacos and the Nag Hammadi library installed and indexed. What is not immediately obvious from the video is that in order to get the drop-down menu that allows you to index the libraries, you need to right click on the name of the library you want to index.

The second one shows how to update the Coptic database, which he is still developing. You need to download and us  the file crumX-Y.tar.bz2 from the website (where X-Y gives you the date that the file was put up – you obviously select the newest file).

You can look also at Mani, a subproject of Marcion, for users who are interested only for coptic dictionary.


Two Notes

  1. You should not attempt to do anything else while the files are installing and indexing. If you do, the process will hang, but the program will think that it is finished so you will have an incompletely indexed library.
  2. If you do hang the process, sometimes it is possible to delete the library and start again. Other times it isn’t and you have to reinstall the program and start your installation and indexing again.

The Nag Hammadi Library in particular takes several minutes to index (it is a big library, after all). I would suggest starting it and then going off to make yourself a nice warm drink so you are not tempted to just read an email or follow a link, or even update your blog. 🙂

Another new Coptic resource

Recently Paterson Brown from Metalogos posted information on the Gospel of Thomas e-list about a new electronic Coptic resource.

It is called Marcion (no, I don’t know why) and includes a searchable version of Crum’s Coptic Dictionary, a searchable Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek Lexicon, and Henry Tattam’s A Compendious Grammar of the Egyptian Language (1863 edition) as well as Plumley’s An Introductory Coptic Grammar – Sahidic Dialect, and has been produced by Milan Konvicka. You can download it from sourceforge.net/projects/marcion/files/rc3/marcion_rc3-win32.zip/download, unzip it, then run marcion.exe.

According to the information posted at Marcion on Wikibooks (the help file) the full content is:

New Testament coptic coptic (sahidic dialect)
Nag Hammadi Library coptic coptic (sahidic dialect)
codex Tchacos coptic coptic (sahidic dialect)
codex Achmim coptic coptic (sahidic dialect)
Life of st. Anthony coptic coptic (sahidic dialect)
Pistis Sophia (djvu) coptic coptic (sahidic dialect)
Gospel of Thomas (djvu, photo) coptic coptic (sahidic dialect)
New Testament coptic coptic (bohairic dialect)
Septuagint greek greek
New Testament greek greek
Westminster Leningrad Codex hebrew hebrew
King James Version latin english
Bible of Kralice latin czech
Ceský ekumenicky preklad latin czech

Dictionary Search Instructions

It is rather geeky and not exactly intuitive to use if you’re not a programmer. Fortunately for me, my son is a programmer and he saved me significant amounts of painful reading time so I thought I would share – especially seeing this means I will also have a written reference on how to use it.

First, install the program and make sure that you have the necessary fonts (New Athena Unicode for Greek and Coptic and Ezra SIL for Hebrew). You may also need to have a Unicode Greek/Coptic keyboard installed, because it seems that when I type in Coptic, that’s the mapping it uses. I already had these, so I am not sure what happens if you try to use it without them.

To find the English equivalent of a Coptic word

  1. If you want to search Crum, you click on “Action”, then “Crum query (Coptic)”.
  2. In the window that opens up in the right hand side, you can choose whether you search exact, like or regexp.
    • exact means that you type in the exact word you’re looking for.
    • like allows you to type in wild cards, using % in place of a character that you’re not sure about. Thus if you type M%T, it will search for words that have any of the 30 letters in the Coptic alphabet in place of the %
    • regexp means regular expression and allows you to specify what options you want to put in instead of a character you’re not sure about. Thus, if you only want to check for MWT, MOT and MOYT, you could use this option, in which case you would type M[w|o|oy]T (where | is the symbol on top of the \ on a US keyboard – it appears on the keyboard as two small strokes, one above the other.) For a full explantion of how regular expressions work and what options you have, go to the Regular Expressions website.
  3. You type into the top box and what you are typing appears there in Roman font there and then in the box underneath in Coptic.
  4. You can chose whether you want it to show Greek equivalents, derivations and as an extra bonus, Czech (I assume because that is the first language of the guy who wrote the program). In the next tab, you can select which Coptic dialects you want it to search.
  5. Once this is all done, click on “query” and up pops your list.

To find the Coptic equivalent of an English (or Czech) word

Click on the tab that says English/Czech, select which language you want (English is the default) and then type your word. Select your options as above then click “query”. Depending on what you select you will get the Greek equivalent as well as the Coptic.

Using the Greek option

If you click on the Greek tab, you have two boxes like the ones that appear in the Coptic option. You type your word which appears in Roman font in the top box and in Greek below. Clicking “query” will provide you with both the English and Coptic equivalents (and also Czech if you select that in the tick boxes on the left).

The “Crum” option

If you click on this tab, you will be given the option of typing in the number of a page in Crum’s Coptic Dictionary and of selecting whether you want column A, column B or both. Clicking “query” displays all the words in the selected column(s) on the selected page. I am not totally sure how one might use this, but . . .


The program opens in a smallish window and once you’ve launched your query, you will probably find that there is an almost obscured scroll bar that allows you to move down all the results. If you click on the icon to enlarge the box to full screen, it’s easier to see the requisite scroll bar.

And Finally

You can search Liddell-Scott-Jones in a similar manner. I currently have no use for this, so haven’t tried it, but it offers the option of “parse inflection” which could be nice. A searchable version of Crum, however, is a really wonderful resource, especially since it doesn’t use the ornate Coptic font family that I dislike. 🙂 Milan Konvicka, whoever you are, I am exceedingly grateful to you. 🙂

Sterling’s “Coptic Paradigms”

On the strength of Bill Arnal’s review in RBL, I ordered a copy of Gregory E Sterling’ s Coptic Paradigms – A Summary of Sahidic Coptic Morphology (2008, Peeters, Leuven). It arrived today and after a quick look, I am impressed. In 95 pages, Sterling has produced a really nice summary of Sahidic Coptic morphology which has a series of tables with some explanatory notes. It begins with the alphabet and numbers then proceeds through articles and pronouns, nouns and adjectives, prepositions and adverbs to the verbal system which forms the largest section of the book. Each section and most sub-sections begin with introductory notes that provide an overview of the construction and alert the reader/student to any peculiarities. The section on adjectives begins with the caution that:

It is debatable whether adjectives exist as a distinct form, or whether genderless nouns in attributive constructions function like adjectives. We will use the category adjective, although we caution students that this is a pedagogical strategy more than a grammatical judgement. (p 23)

It is a more comprehensive coverage than is found in the tables in Ariel Shisha-Halevy’s Coptic Grammatical Chrestomathy (Peeters, 1988) and expects less familiarity with arcane grammatical terms than does the main body of Shisha-Halevy. Sterling assumes, though, that most people who learn Coptic already have a command of several other languages, so he expects a reasonable understanding of grammatical terms.

Sterling teaches Coptic at Notre Dame University (I assume in the US, rather than our Australian branch :-)) and the book was developed in the course of his teaching. It is intended to be either a companion to a good Coptic grammar for the beginner student, or as a refresher for those who do not use Coptic all the time and need to get back up to speed when they begin work on a new Coptic passage. He developed it for use with Lambdin’s Introduction to Sahidic Coptic but suggests that it would also work with Layton’s Coptic in 20 Lessons. I expect that it will be very useful to me because I am working on my PhD part time and the job that pays the bills doesn’t require a knowledge of Coptic. This means that I tend to work on Coptic rather sporadically and I can tell that I will be able to find the errant forms of those obscure Coptic word far more easily in this book than I can in Lambdin, Layton or Shisha-Halevy.

My one quibble so far is that the Coptic font that is used is that the “oo” which Crum calls “he” takes the ornate, loopy form found in Crum and most Coptic Orthodox documents, rather than the Y-like form that is used in the Nag Hammadi texts and in Lambdin, Layton and Shisha-Halevy’s grammars. This is particularly surprising since  Shisha-Halevy is published by the same publishers (albeit 20 years apart). I am not a big fan of the ornate Coptic fonts and am not sure why this one ornate form would be introduced into what is otherwise the plainer and (IMHO, anyway) more easily read form of the characters.

All told, however, I feel that it has been money well spent. I got it for USD18.00 plus USD9.90 postage,which was only AUD31.67 thanks to the very favourable exchange rate at the moment.

Typing Coptic on a PC


Having been somewhat preoccupied by my employment situation during the past year, I have only just caught up with the fact that the new SBL Unicode font was released in March (I don’t type much Greek, so it wasn’t a big deal). I was reading through the post and comments about it on Rod Decker’s New Testament Resources Blog and the discussion about people’s favourite Greek fonts re-awakened my interest in Coptic Unicode font.  I am now wondering what other people who have PCs use when they type Coptic.

I went through a phase when I did all my documents in New Athena Unicode because I could type English, Coptic and Greek without having to change fonts, but the Roman font is too ornate for my liking and my principal supervisor/advisor kept marking my manuscript to say that I’d omitted spaces when I hadn’t – the uppercase letters were just too big and the kerning wasn’t right.  I then found MPH 2B Damase, which has less ornate Roman characters and is somewhat more compact in general.  I used this for a while but discovered that the supralinear strokes only line up over the letters properly if you (or at least I) type them in New Athena first and then change them to Damase. If I type them directly into Damase, they don’t sit in the right places.  This is truly bizarre.

At the moment, the default font in most of my documents is Cambria – a serif font that installs with Office 2007 for Windows.  It has a Greek character set which, while not particularly pretty, is serviceable, so I am using it for the occasional Greek word that I type, although I will probably change it to something more attractive for final versions. I’m using New Athena as my Coptic font but it’s too rounded for my taste and if I don’t find something better, I may well do a global exchange to Damase for my final versions, although I don’t like either of these fonts as much as some of the non-Unicode fonts. Note that there was a new version of New Athena released in December 2009 in response to a request for glyph variants for some papyrological symbols.

Question: can anyone recommend a free or very inexpensive Coptic Unicode font that they have used on a PC and liked?

Non-Roman Keyboards in Windows 7

When I got my previous computer about two and a half years ago (courtesy of the church) it came with Windows Vista installed on it but I couldn’t get it to install the Logos Coptic keyboard, so I “downgraded” to Windows XP which I was happier using, anyway. Recently I bought my own laptop because I was going to have to return the church one and I figured that I probably didn’t really want to stay with XP which Microsoft will probably stop supporting soon. My son had a beta version of Windows 7 installed on his computer and was able to install the Logos Coptic keyboard quite happily, so I waited until Dell was offering laptops with 7 pre-installed and bought one with Windows 7 Ultimate which promises that you can install programs built for older versions of Windows, work in the language of your choice and switch between any of 35 languages (includes Greek and Hebrew but not Coptic). The language option is not offered with Business or any lower versions and Ultimate also comes with BitLocker which is what sold it to my programmer son.

Imagine my joy when I discovered that I couldn’t install the Logos keyboard on my new computer!!! Not sure whether it is because I ordered the 64 bit option (poor reading of specs rather than intention) or because of some change made between the beta and the final release, but not happy. It appears that at least this version of 7 doesn’t like installing any software that isn’t in a .exe format and the Logos Coptic keyboard install file is a .msi and there are definitely issues when transferring from 32 bit to 64 bit software.  However, my son downloaded a copy of Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator, installed it on a computer that had the keyboard already installed, loaded the keyboard into Creator and save it as a  64 bit .exe file which installed quite happily on the new computer. If you are currently using the Logos Coptic keyboard on your XP machine and want to upgrade to Win 7, you can install Creator on your XP machine, make yourself a .exe file of the keyboard and save it to install under the Win7 operating system.

Not happy about the Win7 on-screen keyboard, though.  In XP, I used to use the on-screen keyboard to remind me of the character mapping when I hadn’t typed in Coptic or Greek for a while (I touch-type, so I usually don’t need the visual mapping for very long). All I had to do was change language on the language bar and change font in on the on-screen keyboard and away I went. I can’t get the new one to let me to change the font for the on-screen keyboard so I can’t actually see the Coptic characters because the default font has a Greek character set but not a Coptic one. 😦

I guess I could email Microsoft and ask them to fix this when they release SP1 as I am sure they will do in the not too distant future.  The new version is probably much simpler for those who use it because of accessibility problems because it seems to change font to line up with the keyboard mapping selected. For those of us who have tricked it into using a keyboard mapping for a language that isn’t supported, though, it’s a nuisance. When I wanted to downgrade to XP, I had to ring Microsoft for support and the person I spoke to asked why I wanted to downgrade.  I could hear him gearing up for his “Vista is waaaaaaay better” speech but as soon as I explained that I am doing a PhD for which I need to be able to type Coptic and couldn’t install a Coptic keyboard in Vista, he made no attempt at all to persuade me to keep Vista. With luck, this same approach might work to convince them to add a “change font” option to the on-screen keyboard.