The Prince and the Plunder

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

Category: Acts & miracles of the saints

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

Published / by Andrew Heavens / Leave a Comment

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”.

A late 16th century manuscript including the lives of Abba Zamika’el and Gabra Krestos

Published / by Andrew Heavens / Leave a Comment

What: A late 16th century manuscript including The Lives of Abba Zamikā’el and Gabra Krestos, The Vision of Mary, The Bandlet of Righteousness and The Miracle of St. Michael. It has a note mentioning Maqdala.

Where: University of California, Los Angeles. Library Special Collections, Los Angeles, California 90095-1575

The manuscript, listed as Ms. 170/337, has been scanned and can be seen here –

Provenance: A note on f1v. reads: “Taken from King Theodore’s arsenal at Magdala after the fall of the place 14th April 1868”. One note of caution – some manuscripts were described as “from Magdala” to raise their value, particularly for sale to the U.S. market. The university, however, seems to be confident in its provenance and describes its origin as Maqdala in its paper A collection of Ethiopic manuscripts, various dates.

One of a collection of 64 Ethiopic manuscripts at the UCLA including 54 bound volumes and 10 scrolls. Some of the others may also be from Magdala.

On f.54 has a miniature of Gabera Keresetos surrounded by dogs and with white leprosy spots, which is described in the paper as a “very important early representation of leprosy”.

A manuscript of the life and miracles of Saint Takla Haymanot (No. 138) *

Published / by Andrew Heavens / Leave a Comment

What: A manuscript of the life and miracles of Saint Takla Haymanot

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. 138 in the Catalogue des manuscrits éthiopiens (gheez et amharique) de la Bibliothèque nationale by H. Zotenberg.

Digital version (black and white) 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.