law applied to the looted Ethiopian Treasures in Europe today,

By Seymour Mclean

Copy to Office of the President:
His Excellency Girma Wolde-Giorgis

Prime Minister:
His Excellency Meles Zenawi

Ato Solomon Mulugeta, Head, Legal Deposit and Copyright Registration Team. Please find link to looted Ethiopian manuscript in the British Library today

Please find also the law applied to the looted Ethiopian Treasures in Europe today, Is this a matter your Government have under consideration?

For the attention of the Swedish Presidency of the European Union, and members of the European Community, this law, The Fetha Nagast will be applied to the looted Ethiopian manuscripts in the European Union today. You have already been served with background papers from the Parliament and Commission. Is this a matter within the competence of the Swedish Presidency of the European Union? I am Ras Seymour Mclean.

Conquering Lion of Judah
Haile Selassie I.
Elect of God, Emperor of Ethiopia.
The long and great history of Our country demonstrates that Our people have always both administrated and lived according to the law. Our people were at first ruled by Mosaic law, but after the advent of Christianity to Ethiopia they came later to be governed by the Fetha Nagast, - a work combining both spiritual and secular matters, the former part pertaining to the spiritual, the latter to the temporal affairs of Our people. The Fetha Nagast has been venerated, supported, and applied by both the government of Our Empire and by the Church. The names of scholars learned in this law are famous in the history of Ethiopia, particularly since the reign of Emperor Zar'a Ya'qob when both the study and enforcement of the Fetha Nagast began.

By the providence of the Almighty this bulwark of the law was preserved for Our people. Venerated for many centuries, it provided for our people an invaluable source of legal principles.

When we ascended Our Imperial Throne and enacted a Penal Code compiled on the basis of the Fetha Nagast, We made all necessary provisions for the printing of the Fetha Nagast, in order that it might be available to Our people. Owing however to the invasion of Our country by the enemy, the copies which had already been printed, but not distributed, were burnt together with the printing press.

When, with the assistance of the Almighty, We returned victorious to Our country and subsequently made provision for the codification of Our laws, realizing that those who had helped us in the process of codification had availed themselves of the provisions of the Fetha Nagast , We ordered that its text be printed together with a commentary thereon, and offered to Our people for their assistance.

We are pleased that this great work, for so many centuries the basis of law and the administration of justice in Our country has now, under the auspices of the Faculty of Law of the University to which We have given Our name, been translated into English so that it may be known to scholars of other countries.

No modern legislation which does not have its roots in the customs of those whom it governs can have a strong foundation. The effort which has been made by the Faculty of Law of Our University to disseminate the knowledge not only of the new codification but also of the historically rooted legal practices of Ethiopia, which by the providence of the Almighty we have preserved, and which are the source of Our new legislation is befitting and deserving of Our warmest approval.

Given at Our Imperial Palace in Addis Ababa this 29th day of August 1968.

Haile Selassie I.
Catalogue of Ethiopian Manuscripts in the British Library acquired since the year 1877. By S. Strelcyn. Published for the British Library.

The first catalogue of the Ethiopic manuscripts preserved in the British Museum was published in 1847. It was the work of the great scholar August Dillmann and contained descriptions of eighty-two volumes. Thirty years later W. Wright's important Catalogue was published with a description of a further 408 Ethiopic manuscripts which had been added to the British Museum collection since 1847. More than 350 of this large total had been brought from Ethiopia following the British expedition against Emperor Twedoros, (1867/8). This is what W. Wright said on this point in the Preface to his Catalogue (pp.iii-iv).

When the expedition against Emperor Twedoros was organised by the English Government in 1867, it was determined to send an archaeologist to accompany it, and Mr R.R. Holmes… was selected by the Trustees for this purpose. It was hoped that Mr Holmes would be able to visit sites of importance, to collect antiquities, and to procure valuable manuscripts. The state of the country, the hurried character of the expedition, and the route chosen for the army, prevented the first part of this program from bring carried out. Of manuscripts Mr Holmes was able to procure only a very few on the way up the country….., but their scarcity was easily accounted for when the fortress of Magdala…, fell into our hands. Emperor Twedoros intended…, to build there a church, in honour of the Saviour of the World (Madhane Alem)…, Emperor Twedoros for years previous to 1868 had been actively engaged in collecting manuscripts from other churches for the endowment of the church he proposed to build, and the result was a library of about a thousand volumes, which fell into the hands of our victorious troops. From these a selection was made for the English Government with the assistance of that accomplished scholar Mr. Werner Munzinger, then one of the European consuls at Massowah…, The remainder of the Magdala library was given away in presents to the priests of the various churches which our troops passed on their return to the coast. Some volumes had no doubt been previously 'looted' by our soldiers, and many more were purchased from their later owners by officers of the army. In fact, the numbers of manuscripts brought to this country in 1868, judging by what I have myself seen in the hands of private individuals and in other libraries, cannot, at the lowest computation, have been less than five hundred.

The Magdala library considerably enriched the collection of Ethiopic manuscripts in the British Museum, making it the richest in Europe. At this time the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris had only 170 Ethiopic manuscripts (described by H. Zotenberg in 1877). The other European libraries being less well endowed. Since then the collection in the Bibliotheque Nationale gas been considerably enlarged, mainly by the addition of three large collections, those of d'Addadie, Mondon-Vidaihet, and Griaule, and the number of their Ethiopic manuscripts is now almost 1000 (more than 970).

The collection of the Vatican Library which, in 1924, numbered only seventy-nine, has also grown rapidly during the last forty years. The purchases made by Mgr. S. Grebaut in Ethiopia in 1926 for this library (119 manuscripts) and private donations augmented the number to about 300 (van Lantschoot 1962. Since then the Vatican Library has been offered a number of donations, among them the Enrico Cerulli collection, and have made further new acquisitions, but none of these manuscripts has yet been described. We can, nevertheless, assume that as far as actual numbers are concerned, the Vatican Library has now the second largest collection in the world. The British Museum, its collection slowly increasing during the last hundred years, now has about 600 manuscripts and closely follows the Vatican Library.