An Egyptian Traveller: Josephus Barbatus or Abudacnus the Copt

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The true history of the Jacobites of Egypt, Lybia, Nubia by Barbatus, Josephus Abudacnus, was first published in 1675 (go to Books, select the author). It is thought to have been written between 1610 and 1613. Its original title was Historia Jacobitarum, seu Coptorum, in Aegypto, Libya, Nubia, Aethiopia tota, et parte Cypri Insulae habitantium. This is not a history in the traditional sense but a description of Coptic beliefs, customs and liturgical rites.

An Egyptian Traveller in the Republic of Letters: Josephus Barbatus or Abudacnus the Copt by Hamilton, Alastair ( Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, vol. 57, 1994, pp. 123–150. JSTOR, is an account of Barbatus’s fascinating life, as a scholar and translator, in Rome, Paris, London, Vienna and, eventually, Istanbul.

Barbatus thought that Copts were the descendants of Jacob, a Hebrew patriarch; hence, Barbatus’s choice of the title. For his translator, Edwin Sadleir, who translated Barbatus’s work from Latin into English, it was impossible not to see in the work a connection to the “Jacobites of Great Britain” and, as scholars point out, discussing history was at least in part a way to comment on the present.

The life of Barbatus’s translator might have been as fascinating as that of Barbatus though in a different sense (Hamilton remarked that the task of translating Barbatus’s work fell into the hands of an “eccentric”) . After falling in love, Sadleir presented his “beloved consort” with a translation and re-telling of Servantes’s Don Quichotte; though scholars suspect that he had abridged another translator’s work. This was not his only literary gift to her. Sadleir’s other work, Intrigues of Love, was based on Historie des Amours, a book of love stories at the French Court at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries. It may well have been inspired by the original Historie that his “beloved consort” might have given him earlier as a gift. Don Quichotte, a history of the Copts, stories of romance at a noble court – an “eccentric” selection indeed. Avoiding Garrulity: An Introduction to Sir Edwin Sadleir and His Improvement of Cervantes’s Don Quixote Randall, Dale B. J. (Studies in Philology, vol. 106, no. 4, 2009, pp. 468–482. JSTOR, is a more detailed story of Sadleir’s life.

We have also added Hume‘s A Treatise of Human Nature, Essays 1-13, Political Discourses and Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, and Aristotle‘s Categories. Find the works through the Books tab.

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