The Prince and the Plunder

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

Category: Biblical books

A manuscript of the Four Gospels (RCIN 1005084)

Published / by Andrew Heavens / Leave a Comment

What: An 17-th18th century manuscript of the Four Gospels written in a particularly fine hand

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 two columns, written by two different scribes in the Ge’ez language. Folios 2-15 are written in a very small, particularly fine hand. Profusely rubricated. | 29.5 x 25.5 cm (whole object) | RCIN 1005084”.


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.

A manuscript of the Miracles of Mary initially presented to Queen Victoria (OR 649)

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What: An Ethiopian manuscript dated 1717 including the Miracles of Mary as well as the miracles of Jesus Christ, St. George, St. Michael and Gabra Manfas Qedus

Where: The British Library, 96 Euston Rd, London NW1 2DB

Ref: OR 649
Digital version –

A handwritten note on the first page reads: “Pres. by H.M. the Queen 21 Jan 1869”
Listed in William Wright’s Catalogue of the Ethiopic manuscripts in the British Museum acquired since the year 1847 as one of the “Magdala collection” manuscripts initially presented to Queen Victoria who then gave them to the British Museum.

A 17th century Psalter with two notes linking it to Maqdala (OR 12467)

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What: An Ethiopian Psalter, finished on 6 November 1660, including a prayer for the dying, a fragment of the Miracles of the Virgin Mary containing five miracles, the Psalms and the Canticles of the Prophets of the Old and New Testaments. Two notes, one written the other inserted, link it to Maqdala.

Where: The British Library, 96 Euston Rd, London NW1 2DB

Ref: OR 12467
Digital version –

f. 100v. In the left margin a note: “ This book was brought from Abyssinia by Mr. W. Edwards, Captain, Highland Transport Train. June 1868. A piece of paper (126 x 200 mm) has been stuck on to the inside of the back cover, containing on the recto and verso a description of the provenace of the manuscript “taken at Magdala by Captain William W. Edwards of Madras Cavalry, who held an appointment under Lord Napier”.