The Prince and the Plunder

A book on how Britain took one boy and piles of treasures from Ethiopia

A manuscript of the Discourse of John Chrysostom in praise of John the Baptist (RCIN 1005080)

Published / by Andrew Heavens / Leave a Comment

What: A 16th-17th century manuscript of the Discourse of John Chrysostom in praise of John the Baptist, profusely illustrated

Where: The Royal Collection, Britain

Click here to see details and images on the Royal Collection website –

The database entry, which has several black and white images, reads: “Manuscript on vellum, in a fine exceptionally large hand, in the Ge’ez language, profusely illustrated. | 30.5 x 19.5 cm (whole object) | RCIN 1005080”.


One of six ecclesiastical manuscripts from Maqdala, currently part of the Queen of England’s personal collection in the Royal Library in Windsor Castle.

They were part of the original haul of manuscripts given to the British Museum in the aftermath of the campaign. Museum staff selected the six most beautiful volumes and presented them to Queen Victoria.

Prof Richard Pankhurst, AFROMET vice chair, described the six illuminated books as “six of the finest Ethiopian religious manuscripts in existence”. He added: “These were specially selected for Queen Victoria, and are therefore, from the artistic point of view, virtually without equal anywhere in the world.”

Each volume includes a line identifying it as the property of the Church of Madhane Alam at Magdala. Thay are all written in the ancient Ethiopian language of Geez. All but one are described in the Royal Library catalogue as “profusely illustrated”.

Listed in Edward Ullendorff’s paper The Ethiopic Manuscripts in the Royal Library, Windsor Castle.

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