GUSTAVUS SEYFFARTH (1796-1885)

A German-American Orientalist, archaeologist, and theologian. He studied classics at the University of Leipzig (1815-1819). He was later appointed docent and was given the task of completing the two volumes of Friedrich August Wilhelm Spohn’s De Lingua et Literis Veterum Aegyptiorum . . . (1825-1831). To do this, he visited many European collections from 1826 to 1828 and made over ten thousand copies of Coptic and impressions from Egyptian monuments.

This vast of material, Bibliotheca Aegyptiaca Manuscripta, filled fourteen royal folio volumes, not including an index in quarto, bequeathed by him at his death to the New-York Historical Society. In 1830 he was appointed to the first professorship in archaeology at University.

Seyffarth had controversial ideas that aliented his colleagues, especially Champollion and his followers. He finally left Germany in 1854 and settled in the United States. After teaching for five years in St. Louis at Concordia College, he moved to to work at the Astor Library.

Seyyfarth was a prolific writer. Many of his works were published, while others remained in manuscript form. Among his contributions to Coptic studies are Thesaurus Copticus (4 vols., 1829), “Inschriften Ägypten,” Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenländischen Gesellschaft 4 (1850):254-62, and “Coptische Klosterurkunde dem IV. Jahrhundert auf einem Pariser papyrus” (article included in his Theologische Schriften der alten Ägypter nach dem Turiner Papyrus zum ersten Male übersetzt, Gotha, 1855, pp. 109-117).

Seyffarth did have a certain following; Knortz, his biographer, went so far as to state that the of the Rosetta Stone was only made possible through his system. The arrangement of the papyrus fragments of the Canon of Kings at Turin is mainly due to him. He died in New York, and his papers are now in the Brooklyn Museum.

  • Dawson, W. R., and E. P. Uphill. Who Was Who in Egyptology, pp. 267-68. London, 1972.
  • Kammerer, W., comp. A Coptic Bibliography. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1950; repr. New York, 1969.

AZIZ S. ATIYA