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Collection Overview

Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Princeton Ethiopic Manuscripts
Manuscripts Division
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95 items
Geez Amharic


An open collection of bound Ethiopic manuscripts with texts in Ge'ez and occasionally in Amharic.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

This is an open collection of Ethiopic codices (bound manuscripts), which are chiefly written in Ge'ez (sometimes called Ethiopic), the scholarly and liturgical Afroasiatic language of Ethiopian Orthodox Church, as well as five related items. Many of the Ge'ez manuscripts have varia or marginalia in Amharic; two texts are mostly Amharic. Included among the Ethiopic manuscripts are 16 Psalters, 7 Miracles of Mary , 6 Images , 4 prayer books, 3 Homilies of Michael , 3 Synaxariums , 2 Anaphoras of Mary , 2 antiphonaries, 2 Missals , 1 Gospel of John , and 1 collection of divination texts. Worthy of special note are the variant Miracles of Mary and a rare Cycle of the Kings .

Most of the manuscripts in this collection date from the nineteenth and twentieth century. But at least ten are probably from the eighteenth century, and at least one (Miracles of Mary) is probably from the seventeenth. Precise dating of Ethiopic manuscripts remains difficult. Texts are written in black and red ink on parchment; one manuscript is paper. The manuscripts are bound in a traditional style reminiscent of early Coptic Christian codices in Roman and Byzantine Egypt, for which reason they are sometimes characterized as "Coptic." The quires of the manuscripts are sewn with unsupported link-stitch and then laced into rough-hewn wooden boards, sometimes covered in leather, often blind-tooled. A number of manuscripts are in leather carrying cases, which allowed them to be worn over the shoulder or hung up on pegs in walls.


Arranged in manuscript number order, by accession. Numbers 29 and 67-71 are unassigned.

Collection History


These manuscripts were acquired individually by gift or purchase. Since the 1990s, Bruce C. Willsie (Princeton Class of 1986) has donated the following manuscripts: nos. 37, 40-53, 58-64, and 72-85. Manuscripts nos. 86-103 were donated by Lowell Heskin in 2016 (MASC 2016-54).


This cataloging project was made possible through generous support from the David A. Gardner '69 Magic Project, Princeton University.

Processing Information

The present finding aid was prepared in June-July 2009 by Kesis Melaku Terefe , Virgin Mary Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church in Los Angeles, with assistance of Prof. Wendy Laura Belcher , Department of Comparative Literature and Center for African American Studies, Princeton University. This cataloging project was made possible through generous support from the David A. Gardner '69 Magic Project, Princeton University.

In 2022, restrictions on manuscripts No. 54, 57, and 65 were lifted as part of a restrictions review project.

In 2022, manuscripts nos. 86-95 were added to the collection.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Princeton Ethiopic Manuscripts; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
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Related Materials

In addition to Princeton Ethiopic codices, the Library also has a collection entitled Garrett Ethiopic Manuscripts (C0744.03), gift of Robert Garrett (Princeton Class of 1897). There is one Ethiopic manuscript in The Scheide Library (Manuscript 119).

The Library also has three substantial collections of Ethiopic magic scrolls . Professor David Appleyard, School of Oriental and African Studies, London, compiled the online checklist of these scrolls, with support from the David A. Gardner '69 Magic Project, Princeton University.


Ephraim Isaac, "Princeton Collection of Ethiopic Manuscripts," Princeton University Library Chronicle 42:1 (Autumn 1980), pp. 33-52. Richard Pankhurst, "Secular Themes in Ethiopian Ecclesiastical Manuscripts: V.: A Catalogue of Illustrations of Historical and Ethnographic Interest in Princeton University Library and Art Gallery," Journal of Ethiopian Studies 22 (November 1989), pp. 31-64. Don C. Skemer, "Princeton's Ethiopic Manuscript Collections at 100," Princeton University Library Chronicle 71:3 (Spring 2010), pp. 461-466.

Subject Terms:
Manuscripts, Ethiopic.
Psalters - -Ethiopia.