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Ethiopian Manuscripts

Date range: 16th-19th centuries (bulk 17th-18th centuries)

Medium: Manuscript

Number of items: 45 items.

45 manuscripts on parchment and paper, of which ten codices can be dated precisely (1590-1742). This collection, while small, is quite representative of Ethiopic literature, comprising mainly biblical and liturgical manuscripts, and stories of saints and martyrs.

Of particular note are:

  • Ethiopian MS 1, a rare 17th-century collection of biblical passages supposedly referring to the Messiah and intended to prove the divinity of Christ;
  • Ethiopian MS 11, 18th-century Homilies in honour of St Michael, containing 32 miniatures in the Gondar style of illumination;
  • Ethiopian MS 28, a deed of gift of the Emperor Adbar Sagad, Dawit III (1716-21), to the church of St Michael;
  • Ethiopian MSS 29-34 and 38-41, magical scrolls, mainly 19th-century;
  • Ethiopian MS 37, a rare mälke' (poem of praise) to Zena Marqos, a 14th-century saint-monk.

The language of the manuscripts is Ge'ez; only a few contain small later additions in Amharic. Ethiopian MSS 1-31 were purchased in 1901 with the Crawford collection, the remainder being acquired subsequently from Moses Gaster and other sources.

Further information:

  • Stefan Strelcyn, Catalogue of Ethiopic Manuscripts in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester (Manchester, 1974).
  • Ethiopian MSS 43–45 are described in Stephen Delamarter and Demeke Berhane, A Catalogue of Previously Uncatalogued Ethiopic Manuscripts in England: Twenty-Three Manuscripts in the Bodleian, Cambridge University and John Rylands University Libraries and in a Private Collection, Journal of Semitic Studies, Supplement 21 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).


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