The Nag Hammadi Library
Begun in 1974 at Université Laval (Quebec, Canada), the project of editing the Nag Hammadi Coptic library is the only important francophone initiative devoted to these manuscripts; its goal is to produce critical editions of these texts, accompanied with French translations and explanatory commentaries. The manuscripts, which are kept at the Coptic Museum in Old Cairo, are available in a photographic edition produced under the authority of UNESCO and of the Antiquities Service of the Arab Republic of Egypt; this edition reproduces the papyrus leaves as they are. In order for these texts to be used with profit, specialists must first provide critical editions of them, where possible restoring damaged passages, as well as providing a translation into a modern language accompanied with an explanatory commentary.
This is the project upon which the late Jacques É. Ménard and Hervé Gagné embarked upon at Université Laval in 1974, together with their young colleagues from Quebec and abroad. Two comparable projects had been undertaken a few years earlier, one in Berlin by the Berliner Arbeitskreis für koptisch-gnostische Schriften, the other at the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity in Claremont, California.
The core of the Laval team is formed of many researchers who are the heart of a network including several Canadians and foreign collaborators. About thirty Quebecers and foreign scholars will have contributed to the Laval project by the time it is finished.
Founded in 1977 by professors Jacques É. Ménard of the Université des Sciences humaines de Strasbourg, and Hervé Gagné and Michel Roberge of Université Laval, the Bibliothèque copte de Nag Hammadi is currently under the direction of Louis Painchaud, Wolf-Peter Funk, and Paul-Hubert Poirier. In addition to the above-named, the editorial committee consists of Bernard Barc, Régine Charron, Jean-Pierre Mahé, Anne Pasquier, Michel Roberge, and John D. Turner. The collection is jointly published by Les Presses de l’Université Laval (Québec) and Les Éditions Peeters (Louvain-Paris). It consists of three series: 1) “Textes,” 2) “Concordances,” and 3) “Études.”
In addition to finishing this collection, intended for a scholarly readership, the team published in 2007 a comprehensive one-volume translation of the entire corpus for Gallimard’s Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, thus using the most prestigious collection in French publishing to finally make these texts accessible to a wider French-speaking readership.
The language of publication is French, although certain portions of the “Textes” volumes, or entire volumes of the “Études” series are in English.
Volumes of the BCNH can be obtained by ordering directly by mail or by telephone from:
Or, in Europe: