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  • Several characteristics distinguish the Italian collections of Ethiopian manuscripts from other European collections. First, Italian messengers established relations with the Christian Kingdom of Ethiopia since very early times. The attribution of the San Stefano degli Abbissini Monastery to Ethiopian monks, as early as the 16th century, reflects this policy. This institution had in its possession manuscripts used for its daily activities: liturgical manuscripts, sacred texts, etc. This resource was dispersed in several libraries (the Vatican library, the Ambrosian library of Milan) and today the Pontifical Ethiopian College that inherited the manuscripts of San Stefano only possesses two Ethiopian manuscripts.

    Also, Italy can be proud of its Orientalists who specialize in Ethiopian studies. These scholars have donated extremely rich resources to libraries: Carlo Conti Rossini to the Accademia dei Lincei in Roma, Enrico Cerulli to the Vatican Library, Antonio Mordini to the Palatine library in Parma.
    Italy had colonized Eritrea at the end of the 19th century and tried to do the same with Ethiopia during the 1930’s. Hence, local colonial administrators brought with them manuscripts and magic scrolls amongst which few were donated to libraries like the Martini collection of the library of Forte Guerriana in Pistoia.

    Consequently, the Ethiopian collections are scattered in numerous institutions even though the Vatican library and the Accademia dei Lincei are indisputably the most important.

    Anaïs WION, 17 November 2013
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