Lake Tana manuscripts and EMML (guest post)   Leave a comment

A guest post by Ted Erho, Research Fellow in Ethiopian Manuscript Studies at HMML.

One of the lesser known facts in EMML history is that the project microfilmed nearly 500 manuscripts from libraries of the important churches and monasteries of Lake Tana during the 1980s.  This is due in part to the fact that copies of these microfilms were never sent to HMML, largely on account of the prevailing geopolitical conditions of that era.  However, in 2005, HMML was able to visit the National Archives and Library of Ethiopia and scan a number of the EMML negatives missing from our collections.  While technical problems and the increasingly deteriorating state of the films unfortunately prevented the majority of the Lake Tana items from being scanned at that time, a handful are now available at HMML.  The available scans vary greatly in quality.

More recently, HMML has obtained a complete set of scans of the microfilming project of Ernst Hammerschmidt at Lake Tana in the late 1960s.  Like the EMML scans, Hammerschmidt’s films vary in quality, often on account of poor image sizing, focusing, and lighting.  However, in cases where the two overlap, i.e. the same manuscript has been microfilmed twice, it is often possible to create a most legible copy through a combination of the copies.

Below is a list of the available overlapping items:

Kebran Gabriel (x6)
Tana/Kebran 2 = EMML 7603 (mf)
Tana/Kebran 8 = EMML 8594
Tana/Kebran 11 = EMML 8598
Tana/Kebran 16 = EMML 7605 (mf)
Tana/Kebran 37 = EMML 7596 (mf)
Tana/Kebran 48 = EMML 8612

The three microfilms (EMML 7596, 7603, and 7605) are of far superior quality to Hammerschmidt’s copies.  HMML also possesses copies of the following mss from Kebran Gabriel which were not microfilmed by Hammerschmidt: EMML 8595, 8596, 8625, 8626, 8627, 8679, and 8683.

A total of 124 mss from the monastery of Kebran Gabriel are recorded as having been microfilmed by the EMML project: EMML 7596, 7603, 7605, 8262-8346, 8594-96, 8598, 8600, 8603, 8606-07, 8612, 8614-15, 8625-27, 8632, 8634-35, 8644, 8646-48, 8651, 8658, 8663, 8668, 8670-71, 8674-79, 8683, 8687, and 8689.  These include (as with Dabra Maryam and Daga Estifanos below) further known duplicates, such as Tana/Kebran 4 = EMML 8274, Tana/Kebran 9 = EMML 8292, and Tana/Kebran 21 = EMML 8307.

Dabra Maryam (x5)
Tana 62/Dabra Maryam 4 = EMML 8613
Tana 66/Dabra Maryam 8 = EMML 8623
Tana 72/Dabra Maryam 14 = EMML 8621
Tana 73/Dabra Maryam 15 = EMML 8610
Tana 77/Dabra Maryam 19 = EMML 8597

Six further manuscripts were microfilmed by the EMML project at this monastery: EMML 8631, 8636, 8640, 8645, 8657, and 8659.

EMML 8753, ff. 31v-32r

EMML 8753, ff. 31v-32r

Daga Estifanos (x6)
Tana 115/Daga Estifanos 4 = EMML 8734
Tana 144/Daga Estifanos 33 = EMML 8754
Tana 151/Daga Estifanos 40 = EMML 8748
Tana 156/Daga Estifanos 45 = EMML 8755
Tana 175/Daga Estifanos 64 = EMML 8753
Tana 177/Daga Estifanos 66 = EMML 8744

Thirty further items from the significant holdings found at Daga Estifanos are found as EMML 8352, 8354, 8364, 8367-70, 8372, 8377-78, 8382, 8384, 8392, 8394, 8397, 8399-8400, 8402, 8404, 8411-14, 8416, 8420, 8425, 8694-95, 8709, and 8719.

The Tana 177/Daga Estifanos 66/EMML 8744 manuscript serves to illustrate the importance of manuscript microfilming and digitization projects both in the past (such as EMML) and the present in Ethiopia.  At the time that Hammerschmidt microfilmed this item in the late 1960s, it contained 112 ff., with the final portion of the text (ff. 97-112) containing the then unique, and nearly complete, gadl of St. Yasay, the orthodox king of Rome.  (A second, complete copy of this text is now known from EMML 7602 ff. 74r-82r.)  However, when the EMML project encountered it, on 15 May 1987, the manuscript contained only 72 ff., indicating the probable loss of the Daga copy of this rare text in the intervening years.

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