Laurence
Moftah

Position
Librarian Emerita
Department
Rare Books and Special Collections Library

Profile

Brief Biography

Laurence Moftah is the librarian emerita for Coptic studies at The American University in Cairo’s Rare Books and Special Collections. She graduated from Cairo University with a bachelor's degree in English language and literature. She also holds two master's degrees in English and comparative literature, as well as Middle East Studies, from The American University in Cairo.

In 2003, with the creation of a program in Coptic studies at AUC, Moftah was charged with the responsibility to build and develop a Coptic studies collection at AUC's library. The unprecedented revival of Coptic studies has drawn the interest of both the Coptic community and scholarly circles in Egypt and abroad. Later in 2008, Moftah was privileged to deal quite extensively with professors Roger Bagnall and Stephen Emmel, world-renowned scholars in the field of Coptic studies. She was keen to build a well-balanced and comprehensive Coptic studies collection for a master's program at the AUC.  

Since 1979, Moftah has been working on the preservation and documentation of two unique “Coptic heritages” related to Coptic language and music. The Iryan, Moftah’s (1826 – 1886) rare Coptic manuscripts collection, kept at the AUC’s Rare Books and Special Collections Library. A digital copy can be found in the World Digital Library (WDL).  See here.                          

She has also actively participated in the preservation of the “Coptic Chant and Music Heritage Collection, which belongs to Dr. Ragheb Moftah (1898 – 2001), who was deemed to be among the first scholars to recognize the unique cultural, as well as the liturgical, value of Coptic music. He was a pioneer in creating awareness of it by recording the entire corpus of the Coptic liturgical music, thus making it available to Coptic communities and scholarly circles in Egypt and abroad. The Ragheb Moftah’s Collection includes unique and rare audio materials, archival documents, manuscripts and photographs. The bulk of the collection is mainly kept at the Higher Institute of Coptic Studies in al-Abbassiyyah, Cairo. Other parts of the collection are kept at the AUC Rare Books and Special Collections Library, the Library of Congress, as well as major universities across the world. Coptic music and language serve as unique and indispensable tools to scholars and educators of Coptic and Middle Eastern Studies, aiding in the comprehension of various aspects of ancient Egypt, its history and traditions.

Invited Speaker and Lectures

  • Ragheb Moftah, Coptic Music and the ‘A Cappella Music Style.’” The International Association for Coptic Studies - (IACS), Cairo, 2008. 
  • “History of the Coptic Music and Ragheb Moftah.”  The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Annual Conference, Washington DC, 2008.
  • Laurence Moftah was one of the speakers at the Library of Congress, during the launching of the Presentation on Coptic Chant on Its Website,” in 2009. See the following Library of Congress’ site:
  • The Library of Congress: The Ragheb Moftah Collection Demonstration and  Celebration
  • Ragheb Moftah, Scholars of Music, Sound Engineer, Audio Recording Collection, and the Recording Equipment
  • Laurence Moftah was an honorary guest speaker on ‘Coptic Music. The Symposium on “The Egyptian Cultural Memory Project.” Held by The Egyptian Supreme Council for Culture, in Cairo in April 2011. The Symposium was coordinated by the renowned historian Dr. Mohamed Afifi, Professor and head of the History Department at Cairo University. 
  • She is a member of the American Libraries Association (ALA)                                                     

Moftah has written extensively on Coptic music heritage, and is currently writing a biography of Ragheb Moftah and his family. Her writings are kept at AUC’s Rare Books and Special Collections Library, as well as the Library of Congress. Some of her writings appear on the websites of the international institutions, and are published in Egyptian weekly newspapers, such as al-Ahram weekly and Watani.

Videotapes and Recorded Interviews

Moftah has conducted several videotape interviews with world musicologists, currently kept at the AUC’s Rare Books and Special Collections Library, as well as the Library of Congress. She has conducted interviews with prominent musicologists, including Drs. Margit Toth, the famous Hungarian musicologist; Marian Robertson-Wilson, professor of Coptic language and music at the University of Utah, who has been also recognized internationally as the music editor of the Coptic Encyclopedia, 1991; Martha Roy the musicologist; Magdalena Kuhn, musicologist and Coptologist at Leiden University. Laurence has dealt extensively with those musicologists and ethnomusicologists.She has also conducted videotape interviews with the famous iconographer, Dr. Isaac Fanous. The AUC’s Rare Books and Special Collections Library owns Dr. Fanous’ rare videotape recordings.

Awards

In 2007, Laurence Moftah was awarded a medal by His Holiness, the late Pope Shenouda III for her contributions to the field of Coptic studies in general, and specifically in the area of the Coptic hymnal music heritage.