Archive for November 2012

Enno Littmann’s work on inscriptions from Ethiopia   2 comments

As vol. 4 of the Deutsche Aksum-Expedition appeared Enno Littmann’s Sabaische, Griechische und Altabessinische Inschriften (Berlin, 1913). Despite the book’s age and importance, I found no copy online, so, thanks to HMML staff, it’s now available at

The frontispiece to The Library of Enno Littmann

Enno Littmann was one of the outstanding scholars of the Semitic languages, those of Ethiopia in particular, in the first half of the twentieth century. (The German Wikipedia article is not very long, and the English one is almost nothing more than a list of a few publications.) Edward Ullendorff, in his obituary for Littmann published in Africa, Oct 1958, p. 364 (and reprinted in his From the Bible to Enrico Cerulli, p. 194), concluded “Among the greatest éthiopisants of the present century, Guidi, Praetorius, Conti Rossini, Marcel Cohen, Cerulli, Enno Littmann’s name occupies a most honored place.” Littmann himself wrote an autobiographical sketch (“An meinem Grabe zu verlesen”), and it is published at the beginning of the catalog of his library: The Library of Enno Littmann, 1875-1958 (Leiden, 1959), with an introduction by his student, Maria Höfner. In addition, pp. 52-57 of Ernst Hammerschmidt’s excellent little book Äthiopistik an deutschen Universitäten (Wiesbaden, 1968) discuss Littmann’s activities and contributions. Incidentally, I have before referred to a brief book inscription by Littmann among HMML’s holdings.

There is a much more recent book that collects early Ethiopian inscriptions (E. Bernard, A. Drewes, and R. Schneider, Recueil des inscriptions de l’Éthiopie des périodes pré-axoumites et axoumites [Paris, 1991]), which is unfortunately not plentifully available, but in any case, Littmann’s work is not to be dismissed. He was an expert philologist and his judgement is always worth consideration. In his presentation of the inscriptions, there are black-and-white photographs, line drawings, transcription into a usual printed type — a presentation in Hebrew letters is included for the South Arabian inscriptions, and the Old Ethiopic material is given in both the South Arabian script and in (now vocalized) Fidäl —, German translation, and commentary. The book is beautifully typeset, something we see too little of these days! Anyone working on the history of Ethiopia in antiquity and late antiquity and anyone likewise interested in epigraphy generally or in the languages used in Ethiopia will find Littmann’s book, now almost a century old, still a worthwhile volume.

From HMML's shelves

From HMML’s shelves

An early copy of Ibn Ǧarīr’s Guidebook   Leave a comment

Abū Naṣr Yaḥyá b. Ǧarīr al-Tikrītī was a Syriac Orthodox writer of the eleventh century. As usual, Graf (GCAL II 259-262) provides a good overview of what is known about him and his works, including known manuscripts. Below is indicated his theological work, but in the report on him by Ibn Abī Uṣaibiʿa (ʿUyūn al-anbāʾ, Mueller’s ed. I 327) other titles are mentioned, including the Kitāb al-iḫtiyārāt fī ʿilm al-nuǧūm (The Book of Choices in Astrology).

Ibn al-Ǧarīr’s main theological work is the Guidebook (titled variously in the manuscripts, but in the earlier Mardin copy mentioned below, كتاب مرشد في قواعد الشريعة المسيحية والقوانين السليحية). It has not been published in full yet, but there are several partial editions, and they are listed by Graf (including one chapter by the great William Cureton, here from Google Books, not yet in Graf lists a number of copies of the work in both Arabic and Garšūnī. To this manuscript list we can add two more. CFMM 358 is a 1960 copy of the work with Dolabani as the scribe, but more notable is a much earlier (but undated) manuscript, CFMM 357.

CFMM 357, pp. 29-30: ch. 12, On “Christ came to save us from Satan and from the death of sin”

There are some later replacement pages at the beginning of the codex and there are many blank pages indicating apparent lacunae in the original manuscript, but even with these missing parts, it is nevertheless a potentially very significant witness to this text, which has excited some interest among scholars but hitherto not to the point that a full edition and translation have appeared.

Fellowship for eastern Christian manuscript studies   1 comment

The recently established Dietrich Reinhart, OSB, Fellowship in Eastern Christian Manuscript Studies was announced not long ago on HMML’s website, but I thought it might be a good idea to share it again here. The original announcement is here, but for convenience and for broader distribution I also give the text here:

The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML) announces the establishment of the Dietrich Reinhart OSB Fellowship in Eastern Christian Manuscript Studies, to be awarded annually for three years beginning with the Academic Year 2013-2014. The fellowship has been established through the generosity of Rebecca Haile and Jean Manas of New York, New York, in memory of Br. Dietrich Reinhart OSB (1949-2008). Br. Dietrich, 11th President of Saint John’s University, was a visionary leader who saw HMML as integral to the mission of Saint John’s Abbey and University, and enthusiastically promoted HMML’s work in the Middle East, Ethiopia, and India.

Awardees must be undertaking research on some aspect of Eastern Christian studies requiring use of the digital or microfilm manuscript collections at HMML. They must have already been awarded a doctoral degree in a relevant field and have demonstrated expertise in the languages and cultures of Eastern Christianity relevant for their projects.

The Fellowship may be held for a full academic year (September 1-April 30) or for one semester (September 1-December 20; January 4-April 30). The Fellowship provides accommodation in an apartment at the Collegeville Institute on the Saint John’s University campus; working space at HMML; access to library, recreational and cultural activities at Saint John’s University; round-trip transportation; and a stipend of up to $25,000 for a full academic year. Stipends will be adjusted for less than a full year in residence.

Awardees will be expected to devote full attention to their research projects while in residence. They will also be expected to participate in a weekly seminar for Collegeville Institute resident scholars, to present their research in a public lecture sponsored by HMML, and to be a resource for HMML staff and other researchers during their stay.

Applicants are asked to provide: 1) a cover letter with current contact information and an indication of availability for a full-year or one-semester residency; 2) a description of the project to be pursued, including an explanation of how access to HMML’s resources will be important for its success (1000-1500 words); 3) an updated curriculum vitae; 4) two letters of reference.

The cover letter, project description, and CV should be sent by the applicant to; letters should be sent by the referees directly to the same email address or in hard copy to Julie Dietman, HMML, Box 7300, Collegeville, MN 56321.

Applications for the Academic Year 2013-14 are due December 15, 2012. The decision and acceptance process will be completed by the end of February 2013.

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