Contents and Arrangement

Princeton Ethiopic Manuscript No. 65: Miracles of Mary, circa 1720


Collection Overview

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

Date and Provenance: Probably commissioned by the King Dawit III (reigned 1716-21). Though partially erased, the name Dawit appears throughout the text. The form of words does not include the formula "for our king," most often used though this is not always present in royal manuscripts. Dawit appears prostrate in one of the paintings wearing a luxurious Indian dress. Dawit's elder brother, who preceded him as king from 1706 to 1708 following the death of their father Iyasu I (Iyasu the Great) was Täklä Haymanot I and this name seems occasionally to accompany that of Dawit in the partially erased dedications.

As is usual, there is no colophon giving details of provenance. Each of the texts in the main body of the MS [fols. 3-100] closes with an invocation for blessings upon the owners. The names of the original owners, which were written in red, have been erased throughout, though at times somewhat imperfectly. The preceding text makes it clear that the original owner was a man, and the dedication also occasionally mentions a female as well, perhaps his wife or sister. The man's name is in several places recoverable as Dawit, though the space left for it in the black text is too large and the name is usually preceded or followed by decorative punctuation marks (säräz .).

In a few places there are traces of a second name, [Täklä] Haymanot accompanying that of Dawit. The woman's name is in places recoverable as Hadä[fä] Maryam, though elsewhere another name, Awdokseya (?), appears. The names inserted over these erasures are Arkälédes (m.) and Rébén (f.). The script is in keeping with a date during the first half of the eighteenth century, showing many gwelh-like features: large size, regularity of form, a tendency to a top-heavy structure with short letter heads (especially in ò, å), a pronounced hook in the vowel mark of ¶. The modern letter •Á appears in its older form which was still in use until the second half of the eighteenth century. The manuscript appears to have been in western Europe since the 19th century. On the back flyleaf pf the manuscript is a European dealer's or owner's ticket (handwritten on a blue printed label); the number appears to be in a German hand. The manuscript later passed through the hands of the dealer Merton D. Simpson, ca. 1970; the collector Alen Revier, 1971-1997; the dealer Milos Simovic, 1997-2004; and Sam Fogg Rare Books, London, 2004-2012.

Text: The principal text of the manuscript [fols. 7-99] is a collection of 32 miracles of the Virgin Mary. The basic canon of the Miracles, as described by Cerulli, comprised 32 miracles, but Ethiopian collections sometimes include others. The basic collection was subject to addition even before the translation of the Arabic Vorlage into Ethiopic in the fifteenth century, and some Ethiopian collections run to an enormous size. The largest collection known to date (BL Or. 643, dated 1717) contains no less than 316 miracles, though smaller collections are the more usual. Examples of the Ethiopian Miracles of Mary are to be found in all the major collections of Ethiopian manuscripts, such as the Biblioteca Vaticana, the British Library, the Bibliothèque Nationale, the Fonds Conti Rossini of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, the Cambridge University Library, etc. The basic work dealing with the Ethiopian Book of the Miracles of Mary is Cerulli's Il libro etiopico dei Miracoli di Maria, Rome 1943; see also E.A. Wallis Budge, The Miracles of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Life of Hanna, London 1900, and by the same author, Legends of Our Lady Mary, the Perpetual Virgin, and Her Mother Hannâ, London 1922, and One Hundred and Ten Miracles of Our Lady Mary, London, 1923.

In the present manuscript each Miracle is numbered. Miracle 29 is incorrectly numbered as 30, and those following are consequently incorrectly numbered. The miracles here follow the traditional sequence. Each miracle text closes with a brief hymn to the Virgin Mary. The Miracles are preceded by the short text [fols. 3r-6r].

The manuscript closes [fols. 100v-150v] with a collection of hymns or litanies to the Virgin Mary, including the Hymn of the Flower [Mahlétä S'egé].


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

Collection History



Purchase, 2012.


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

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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 Manuscript No. 65: Miracles of Mary; Princeton Ethiopic Manuscripts, C0776, Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

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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.