The Prince and the Plunder

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

Category: Ecclesiastical & theological

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

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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.

A manuscript of the ‘Faith of the fathers’ (No. 112) *

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What: A manuscript dated 1694 of Haymanota abaw ‘Faith of the fathers’

Where: Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris

This is one of two manuscripts donated to the Bibliothèque nationale de France in 1868 by Major Gally-Passebosc, an officer from the French Navy who followed the expedition.

It is listed as No. 112 in the Catalogue des manuscrits éthiopiens (gheez et amharique) de la Bibliothèque nationale by H. Zotenberg.

Digital version in the library’s database –

Another manuscript from Gally-Passebosc – a 17th century discourse on the festivals of the angels Michael and Raphael – ended up in the collection of U.S. bibliographer, bibliophile and librarian Wilberforce Eames. There was a note in that manuscript that said the French officer had seized it after the defeat of Emperor Theodore.