The Prince and the Plunder

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

An 18th century book of Psalms

Published / by Andrew Heavens / Leave a Comment

What: An 18th century Ethiopian book of Pslams

Where: The Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa

Dr Richard Pankhurst with book

This hand-written copy of the Psalms of David was put up for sale in Maggs bookdealers, Mayfair, London by a private collector.

Members of AROMET UK spotted it, raised £750 to buy it, and sent it back to Addis Ababa in the safe hands of Dr Richard Pankhurst in September 2003.

The Maggs catalogue entry for the book reads:

“[Psalms of David] C18th MS, rubricated, in Ghez on ?goat-skin vellum. Primitively bound in thirteen gatherings of between 8 and 10pp, the whole sewn and bound together with braided animal sinew. Browned and stained in places, some of the cords at the spine worn and separated. Housed in a modern full dark tan morocco drop-back box. 206 pp. Ethiopian, [c 1780]”

A worn label tied to the binding reads:

“Psalms & Canticles ln Ethiopian From near Magdala 1868”

A typed card inside reads:

Psalms of David, 18th c. Manuscript. Taken at Magdala in 1868 in the battle by Sir Robt. Napier. 195pp.

“Done for liturgical use in Ethiopia. In archaic Coptic (Gwez, or Ghez). Probably one of the few surviving manuscripts, that is not in the British Museum, from the enormous looting which took place after the assault on the fortress of Magdala…The Ms itself is written in red and black on goat skin. There are 13 sections bound together with braided animal sinew.
T1284 mss”

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