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Addis Abeba

  • Ethiopian National Archives and Library Agency (ENALA)

    Anaïs WION, 8 June 2017 | 1 August 2013

    National Library
    Ethiopian Studies section
    Ancient building of the National Library for the Manuscripts dpt ; Ground floor of the new building for the Microfilm room.
    Compound of the Ministry of Culture
    P.O.Box 717,
    Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


    The National Library of Ethiopia has a rich collection of 859 manuscripts, mainly in Ge’ez but also in Arabic and Amharic. Up to the number 617, they are described in a manual catalogue, in Amharic, available in the reading room in the Manuscripts section of the department of Ethiopian Studies.
    Some of them have been registered in UNESCO’s Memory of the World program because of their antiquity, their rareness and/or their interest for the history of the Ethiopian State. Ancient volumes are : n° 132, a Lectionary of the Holy Week from the15th century; n° 27, Epistles of Saint Paul from Hayq, 15th century; n° 28, the famous illustrated Gospel of Täsfana Krestos from Hayq, 14th century.

    1970 : Catalogue of the Ethiopian Manuscripts in the National Library of Ethiopia, Addis Abeba, Imperial Ethiopian Government, Antiquities administration, 127 folios.

    This catalogue describes in Amharic and very briefly the 272 first volumes. It is a simple copy of the manual catalogue, the later counting 637 entries and describing therefore almost the whole collection.

    - WRIGHT, Stephen
    1967 : Ethiopian Incunabula from the collections in the National Library of Ethiopia and the Haile Sellassie I University, Addis Abeba, Commercial Printing Press, 107 p.

    Although no scientific catalogue of the manuscript collection exists, Stephen Wright wrote a catalogue of the first printed Ethiopian and Eritrean books - with the exception of Italian books printed in Eritrea - preserved at the National Library of Ethiopia and at the University. These books, 223 all in all, were printed in Ethiopia between 1880 and 1936.


    The microfilms have been digitized by the HMML and are now fully and freely availbale online on vHMML.

    The collection of microfilms in ENALA includes all the volumes of the EMML collection which is 9 238 volumes. It also comprises a few copies of Ethiopian manuscripts from the British Library, as well as 111 manuscripts preserved in Israel, at the Jerusalem Ethiopic Manuscript Microfilm Library or originating from the Faitlovitch Library in Tel Aviv.

    The digitization campaign called Ethiopian Manuscripts Microfilm Library(EMML) has been done over a period of about 20 years (1973-1991), as a result of a collaboration between the Patriarchate of the Ethiopian Orthodoxe Täwahdo church, the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture and the American University of Saint-Louis, Collegeville.

    The manuscripts were first digitized in Addis Ababa : in numerous churches of the town and of the ancient parish of Entoto; in private libraries; at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies (8 volumes) and at the library of the Patriarchate (50 volumes). Then, manuscripts in libraries of churches and monasteries in the provinces of Shäwa and Wällo, then in the province of Gojjam, on lake Tana and in some churches of Bägémder and Lasta were microfilmed. Each codex has to be brought in Addis Ababa to be microfilmed, for the EMML Project did not have any mobil unit. This modus operandi explains why monastic and church libraries were seldom microfilmed in their entirety, for the local clergy were of course reluctant to bring in Addis all their belongings, especially the most ancient and precious ones (one has to remember that the country was living in a socialist regim that was not benevolent toward religious institutions).
    This coverage, having almost 10,000 volumes, is far from being complete in many ways. Many areas were not covered, particularly Tigray as well as provinces south of Addis Ababa remain untouched.
    Despite these limitations, this massive and unparalleled undertaking has revealed a large number of unpublished texts and allows a better knowledge of the written Ethiopian culture.
    Even though the cooperation between the Ethiopian government and its American partners did not last longer than 1987, the digitization did however continue until 1991 and the fall of the Derg regime.
    The cataloguing has then been interrupted for financial reasons. Only half of the collection has therefore been described in the ten admirable volumes drafted by William F. Macomber and Getatchew Haile. These catalogues are henceforth available online on the website of the Hill Monastic Microfilm Library, some of the records being entirely available, others being summarized. The microfilms have been digitized by the HMML and are now fully and freely availbale online on vHMML.

    Copies of these microfilms can be consulted and ordered from the four following institutions:
    - Only ENALA is in possession of the whole collection since it had done the microfilming process by itslef between 1987 and 1991. The 7454 first volumes are preserved in negatives (master) and positives (copies that are made available). For the 2800 manuscripts going from number 7454 to number 9238 (last number registered till present), the ENALA possesses only negative copies of the original films. Similarly, the ENALA is in possession of registry files for the manuscripts, covering the entire collection. This compensates for the lack of catalogue for the numbers superior to 5000. The data are entered into a database using the CDS/ISIS system, certainly without any effort of standardization, copying word for word each paper notice.
    - At Collegeville, the HMML possesses of positive copies until the number 7454. A team came to the ENALA in October 2005 to digitize the missing microfilms, thus completing the American collection. Copies of these digitized data were also deposited at the ENALA but the digitization coverage is far from being exhaustive.
    - In Addis Ababa, the Institute of Ethiopian Studies and the Patriarchate are also supposed to have of positive copies accomplished for the 7454 first volumes.

    - A Catalogue of Ethiopian Manuscripts Microfilmed for the Ethiopian Manuscript Microfilm Library, Addis Ababa and for the Monastic Manuscript Library (beginning with Vol. II: for the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library), Collegeville:
    Vol. I: Project Numbers 1-300, by William F. MACOMBER (Collegeville 1975) 355 p.
    Vol. II: Project Numbers 301-700, by William F. MACOMBER (Collegeville 1976) 542 p.
    Vol. III: Project Numbers 701-1100, by William F. MACOMBER (Collegeville 1978) 524 p.
    Vol. IV: Project Numbers 1101-1500, by GETATCHEW HAILE (Collegeville 1979) 760 p.
    Vol. V: Project Numbers 1501-2000, by GETATCHEW HAILE and William F. MACOMBER (Collegeville 1981) 623 p.
    Vol. VI: Project Numbers 2001-2500, by GETATCHEW HAILE and William F. MACOMBER (Collegeville 1982) 650 p.
    Vol. VII: Project Numbers 2501-3000, by GETATCHEW HAILE and William F. MACOMBER (Collegeville 1983) 414 p.
    Vol. VIII: Project Numbers 3001-3500, by GETATCHEW HAILECollegeville 1985) 405 p.
    Vol. IX: Project Number 3501-4000, by GETATCHEW HAILECollegeville 1987) 413 p.
    Vol. X: Project Numbers 4001-5000, by GETATCHEW HAILE (Collegeville 1993) 511 p.

    Book review : - vol. 1 : Leslau, Journal of African Oriental Studies, 100, 1980 ; Strelcyn, Journal of Semitic Studies, 22, 1977 ; Ullendorff, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 40, 1977 - vol. 1-5 : Ricci, Rassegna di Studi Etiopici, 29, 1983 - vol. 2-4 : Leslau, North East African Studies, 3, 1981-1982 ; Strelcyn, Journal of Semitic Studies, 23, 1978 - 25, 1980 - 26, 1981 ; Ullendorff, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 44, 1981 ; - vol. 5-6 : Ullendorff, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 45, 1982, 46, 1983 ; – vol. 7-8 : Cowley, Journal of Semitic Studies, 29, 1984 ; Kropp, Oriens Christianus 70, 1986 ; Ricci, Rassegna di Studi Etiopici, 30, 1984-1986 ; Ullendorff, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 50, 1987.

    1974-1993 : Bulletin of Ethiopian Manuscripts, trimester publication of Ethiopian Manuscript Microfilm Library, Addis Abeba.

    Initiator of the catalogue, Sergew Hable Selassie has listed in a very brief manner part of the manuscripts which were microfilmed gradually as the project progressed. Lacking significant interest as to information relative to the manuscripts themselves, the first volume, dating from January 1974, does however make an interesting point concerning the beginning of the project. The volumes 13 (3) to 14 (4), published in 1992-1993, give descriptive records of the microfilms 5000 to 5600 which complete the catalogues that were realized in Collegeville.

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  • Institute of Ethiopian Studies (IES)

    Anaïs WION, 1 August 2013

    Manuscripts and Archive Department
    P.O.Box 1176
    Tel. : (+251-1) 1-115772

    The IES is part of Addis Ababa University of and is situated in its campus, while operating largely with private donations. The library possesses a large collection of manuscripts, microfilms and digitized manuscripts.

    The manuscript collection

    The IES collection comprises about 1500 volumes.
    Different manual catalogues, in English and in Amharic, thematic or ordered according to shelf marks, are available in the reading room. There is still no published catalogue.

    In this wide collection, mainly of Christian manuscripts, let us point out 40 muslim manuscripts from Harrar according to HUSSAIN AHMED in « The historiography of Islam in Ethiopia », Journal of Islamic Studies, 3/1, 1992, p. 43, who quotes : Jacques JOMIER, « Note sur quelques manuscrits arabes se trouvant en Ethiopie », Mélanges de l’Institut dominicain d’études orientales du Caire, 9, 1967, p. 287-98

    1964 : Bä-Addis Abäba abyatä kresteyannat west yämigänyu yä-branna mätsehaf zerzer, [List of the manuscripts of Addis Abeba churches], Addis Abeba.

    This typescript is preserved at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies. It has been done 10 years before the EMML initiative. It is therefore preferable to refer to the first volumes of the EMML catalogues for a thorough description of the Addis Abäba churches’ collections. Nevertheless the work of Hailé Gabriel Dagné describes the collections before the revolution of 1974 which could be of interest.

    A cooperation between the HMML (Collegeville), the Orthodox Patriarchate and the University of Addis Ababa has resulted in the entire digitization of the manuscript collections. But as far as we know, they are not yet (mid-2013) available to the readers.

    The aethiopica collection

    The IES has acquired in 1971 part of the library collection of azmač Gäbrä Mikaél Germu , a diplomat, journalist and intellectual. This collection includes archives and unedited manuscripts, amongst which a copy of one Chronicle of Yohannes IV mentioned by Bairu Tafla in his edition, as well as transcription of oral traditions collected around Adwa at the beginning of the 20th century.

    The scientific archives of the French historian and philologist Roger Schneider were deposited at the IES after his death. They are available at the Walda Masqal archival center (in Kazanchis). They have been classified, catalogued and partially digitized by Marie-Laure Derat (CNRS).

    The Microfilm collections

    Here again, in the absence of any catalogue, it is difficult to know the size of this collection that is certainly very important.

    The IES keeps part of the EMML collection up to number 7454. See ENALA.

    Donald Crummey has given to the IES the whole collection of microfilms that he gathered during more than a decade as a result of his research on ancient archival documents in the Ethiopian churches of Gojjam, Tigré and Bägémder regions. Shelf marked IES/Illinois, these microfilms are also deposited in the History department of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in the United States. They have been digitized in 2006 by Urbana-Champaign library services and one set of copy are now in the IES.
    A quick inventory has been done by D. Crummey and his team in the form of 3 typescripts.

    A catalogue of land tenure related microfilm from churches and monasteries of Gondar province recorded in 1984 and between January and July 1988, 10 folios. PDF

    A catalogue of land tenure related microfilm from Gojjam churches and monasteries recorded between January and July 1989, 18 folios. PDF

    A catalogue of land tenure related microfilm from churches and monasteries of Tegray province recorded in 1992, 6 folios

    Microfilms of 5 churches of lake Tana

    182 manuscripts were microfilmed at the beginning of the 1970’s by Ernst Hammerschmidt on Lake Tana (in the churches of Kebran Gabriel, Däbrä Maryam, Réma Mädhäné Aläm and Daga Estifanos as well as a manuscript from Qwärata Wälättä Pétros). These microfilms are preserved at the Staatsbibliothek of Berlin along with a few manuscripts from Gondär (two from the church of Mädhäné Aläm and one from Qaha Iyäsus). This collection is gathered under the denomination Tanasee, each microfilm having a Tanasee number and a number that classifies it in the church library from where it originates. This collection of microfilms has been deposited at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies and at the Library of the Patriarchate but in this last institution, the microfilms have not been found.

    The IES has microfilm copies of Ethiopian manuscripts preserved in Europe as the result of the lobbying of the AFROMET association, but there is no catalogue of this collect. A large part of the manuscripts in the British Library would therefore be available, as well as the manuscripts in Windsor and 6 manuscripts from the Burgerbibliothek in Bern. Tibrary of Uppsala in Sweden, of Leiden in the Neitherlands and of the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland, would also have given microfilm copies of part of their collection.

    Last but not least, the IES has the very first collection of microfilms gathered by UNESCO in 1970: :

    1970: Catalogue of manuscripts microfilmed by the UNESCO mobile microfilm unit in Addis Abeba and Gojjam province, Addis Abeba.

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  • Library of the EOTC Patriarcate

    Anaïs WION, 1 August 2013

    Ethiopian Orthodox Täwahedo Church Patriarchate Library
    P.O. Box 1283
    Addis Ababa

    Recently opened within the EOTC patriarchate compound, the library possesses 231 manuscripts. They are classified according to 9 categories: Old Testament, New Testament, hagiography, homilies (dersan), history, teaching (temhert), rules and law (ser’at-na hegg), miracles, precepts (mekr), respectively numbering 21, 35, 21, 95, 12, 10, 28, 7, and 2. But they have not yet been attributed individual shelf marks. A catalogue is being prepared.

    Some of these manuscripts were copied at the scriptorium of the patriarchate from manuscripts considered as samples and brought to be copied from the monasteries in the provinces to Addis Ababa.

    The library preserves microfilms as well, about 540 scrolls although it is difficult to determine the exact content of the holding in its actual state.

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  • Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH)

    Anaïs WION, 14 November 2013 | 12 September 2013

    National Museum of Ethiopia

    The ARCCH is a governmental agency within the Ministry of Culture and is responsible for the preservation of cultural heritage. It supervises the National Museum and has the duty to preserve and present the collection, as well as to accomplish an inventory of the manuscripts preserved in the churches. On the other hand, the Museum preserves a collection of manuscripts.

    The inventory

    In the 1980’s, an inventory of church heritage comprising manuscripts, sacred objects, movable paintings, and sometimes architectural elements, was accomplished under the direction of Fekade Sellasie Tefera.
    _As to the manuscripts, the inventory identifies each volume by its shelf mark made as such: a letter sometimes followed by an Arabic numeral, indicating the region and sub-region; the roman numeral IV indicating that the document is a manuscript; an Arabic numeral establishing a specific number for each items. This inventory gives simple codicological information like the size, the number of folios, the main title of the volume, an estimation of the date of the volume. The teams of the Ministry of Culture went to the churches and accomplished inventories on site, taking a picture of each volume, sometimes more in the case of illustrations and particular elements are found.
    _These lists and pictures are available, within the National Museum after having submitted a request at the ARCCH. The uploading of this information in a database is ongoing.

    The collection of manuscripts of the museum

    Until today, this collection of about 200 manuscripts has remained unknown by researchers because of its not being available. Soon the Museum will move in a new building where a reading room would be reserved for consulting the collection. The catalogue is now being prepared by the curator, Fekade Sellasie Tefera, and will be printed.
    It seems that a large part of this collection originates from the royal scriptorium of Haylä Sellasé (1930-1974), who most certainly inherited these volumes made for his predecessor Menélik (1889-1913).

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