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International Scholars Urge The Need For Ethiopian Manuscript Archive

Addis Tribune (Addis Ababa), 2 March 2001

Addis Ababa—In a dramatic academic move revealed this week thirty-five internationally renowned scholars of Ethiopian studies, representing no less than seventeen countries, have urged the importance of Ethiopian manuscripts, and have signed an Ethiopian Manuscript Manifesto supporting the initiative of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies and its Society of Friends in building up a comprehensive archive of photographic reproductions of such manuscripts.

The scholars come from the principal centres of Ethiopian studies world-wide: Austria, Canada, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The scholars declared that the study of Ethiopian manuscripts is essential for virtually all fields of Ethiopian studies, secular as well as religious, and literary. They urge in particular the importance of manuscripts for the study of marginalia, i.e. pages at the beginning or end of a manuscript, which in many cases contain historical information on land charters, marriage settlements etc., as well as for textual study of the documents themselves, and for the history of Ethiopian art.

According to a manifesto sent to Addis Tribune the scholars are aware that numerous Ethiopian manuscripts are to be found scattered in museums and libraries, as well as in private possession, all over the world, and urge that microfilm or other photographic copies of such manuscripts be deposited in the Institute of Ethiopian Studies library.

We, scholars of Ethiopian history and culture, are deeply conscious of the importance of Ethiopian manuscripts for virtually all fields of Ethiopian studies, secular as well as religious, and literary, the international scholars said in the manifesto.

The scholars said they have realised further that for textual study, for the study of marginalia, and for the study of art, it is essential to consult more than one copy of any particular manuscript.

We are convinced that Ethiopian studies can greatly be advanced by the establishment of a comprehensive collection of manuscript reproductions, in a single archive where they can be consulted, and compared, by all interested scholars, irrespective of nationality, they said.

The Scholars endorsed the request by the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, and by its Society of Friends, for financial support to establish a more comprehensive photographic manuscript archive.