The Prince and the Plunder

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

Category: Letters

Fragments including bible books, letter to Tewodros, Amharic documents with his seal (OR 829)

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What: Fragments including pictures, bible books, Miracles of Mary, letter to Tewodros, Amharic documents with his seal, hymns, prayers, charms and inventories. Is this a collection of ripped/partial manuscripts picked up at Maqdala?

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

Provenance: Listed as part of the “Magdala collection” in William Wright’s Catalogue of the Ethiopic manuscripts in the British Museum acquired since the year 1847

Does not appear in British Library’s online catalogue or list of digitised manuscript

Captain James’ letter from the emperor

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What: A letter from Emperor Tewodros

Where: Unknown – last seen in Bombay

This was exhibited along with other Magdala plunder at a meeting of the Bombay branch of the Royal Asiatic Society in August 1868.

According to the minutes of that meeting:

Dr. Wilson exhibited the following articles :

  1. An original letter of the Emperor Theodorus addressed to the commandant of Magdala , and found by Captain James on the destruction of that fort. It is neatly written in the Ethiopic character and Amharic language, and bears the royal seal. It relates to the late Coptic Abuna of Abyssinia , and contains the cruel order to allow that ecclesiastical dignitary to die without any attempt to seek his recovery.
  2. A copy neatly written on parchment of a large Amharic work, the Gadela Georgios, or History of St. George and the Dragon, with tolerably well executed coloured drawings of various Christian Martyrs, male and female. This curious work also belongs to Captain James of the Bombay Staff Corps.
  3. A copy of the Gospel of John in Amharic, written on parchment, and presented to Dr. Wilson by Mr. Mikhail Joseph , one of the interpreters of the Abyssinian force.

The emperor’s letter to Jaffa

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What: A letter from Tewodros

Where: Previously Royal Engineers Museum in Gillingham, now unknown

A letter, described as “from Tewodros”, that was listed in the museum’s catalogue as recently as January, 2018, but the entry has since disappeared.

Here is the original catalogue entry, though the link is now dead:

Object number 4901.39

Letter written in two scripts – one probably Amharic and other Arabic – mounted on card, 14″x 10″, dated 1865. Letter from King? Tewodros to Jaffa, 13.3.1867