The British Library has a collection of over 600 manuscripts in its Ethiopian collection, dating from around the fourteenth to the twentieth century. The collection was assembled over the past 266 years, firstly by the British Museum and India Office Libraries, and since 1973 by the British Library. The manuscripts were acquired through donation and purchase, and also from expeditions and private collectors. All aspects of Ethiopian literature are represented, notably Gospel Books, Apocrypha, ecclesiastical and civil law, Psalters, Saints’ lives, as well as letters, medicine, and philology. A particular strength of the holdings are the Ethiopian magical and divinatory scrolls.
The Library is currently in the process of re-cataloguing and digitising 304 of its Ethiopian manuscripts, cover to cover, and uploading them to its searchable Digitised Manuscripts site.
Eyob Derillo is currently working at the British Library in the Department of Asia and Africa Studies, where he has served as curator of Ethiopian collections. In 2018 he curated the British Library’s exhibition African Scribes: Manuscript Culture of Ethiopia which was the first exhibition to be held at the Library devoted entirely to Ethiopian manuscripts. He also co-curated the British Library’s highly acclaimed exhibition Harry Potter: History of Magic.
Eyob is also completing his doctorate at SOAS (Department of Religions and Philosophies). His research focuses on the nature and historical development of the concept of Ethiopian ‘magic’ and its use within a specifically Christian context.
The Anglo-Ethiopian Society is affiliated to the University of London’s Centre of African Studies (CAS) and all of our events at SOAS are co-hosted with CAS.