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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Global Ethiopia and Rare Books



On March 17, 2012, Saint John's University will be the site of the Global Ethiopia Conference, co-sponsored by the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, the University Library, the English Department and the Center for Global Education.  As part of this one-day conference, HMML will be showing some of the rare books in the Saint John's collections.  Below is a short overview of some of these books. For more on the conference, visit:


From the Historia Aethiopica by Hiob Ludolf (1681) or its supplement (1691).
Hiob Ludolf (1624-1704) is credited with starting the scholarly research of Ethiopia in Europe.  HMML has his major work, the Historia Aethiopica (Frankfurt, 1681) bound together with its supplement, the Commentarius (Frankfurt, 1691).  His influence can be seen in the rapid dissemination of his works, with English and French editions appearing already in the 1680's.  HMML has a 1684 abridged version in French, as well as a 1701 Psalter in Ethiopic and Latin edited by Ludolf (complete book in Vivarium).

(Click on any image to enlarge it.)



From Ludolf's Commentarius (1691).
From Ludolf's Commentarius (1691).

Map of Ethiopia from the French abridgement of the Historia Aethiopica (1681).


The rare collections also include French translations of other accounts of Ethiopia, including two from Portuguese and one from English.  There is the Histoire de l'Ethiopie Orientale (or Etiópia oriental), printed in Paris in 1688. This account of life in Eastern Ethiopia includes material on Mozambique, as well) and is based on the Portuguese of the Dominican missionary Joao dos Santos (died in 1622).  Another translation from Portuguese is the Relation historique d'Abissinie  by Jerónimo Lobo (1596?-1678), published in Paris in 1728. This is augmented with numerous essays on Ethiopia by other scholars, including Ludolf.

Another European to wander into Ethiopia was the Scottish explorer James Bruce (1730-1794), who searched for the source of the Nile River.  His account was published in 14 volumes in French as the Voyage aux sources du Nil, en Nubie et en Abyssynie (London, 1790-1792).  The final volume is an atlas of plates, mostly filled with flora and fauna, but also some other scenes from daily life in the Nile River valley.


Joao dos Santos, Histoire de l'Ethiopie Orientale (Paris, 1688).
Jeronimo Lobo, Relation ... (Paris, 1728).
Map from Jeronimy Lobo, Relation ... (Paris, 1728).

From the atlas to James Bruce, Voyage ... (London, 1790ff.)
From the atlas to James Bruce, Voyage ... (London, 1790ff.)
Finally, we have the renewed interest in Ethiopia among the various works on Africa by British explorers in the 19th century. Richard Burton's First footsteps in East Africa, or, An explanation of Harar (London, 1856) provides a few color plates from that region, while Henry M. Hozier's The British Expedition to Abyssinia (1869) recounts a military invasion by the British to free hostages held by Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia.




Richard Burton, First Footsteps in East Africa (1856), title page.


The HMML collections offer other materials on life in Ethiopia, especially religious life and manuscripts (see the earlier post on Ethiopian manuscripts in this blog).  The Global Ethiopia Conference will provide us an opportunity to share these books, manuscripts, and art with a broader audience!

We hope to see you there!

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