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AFROMET - The Association for the Return of The Maqdala Ethiopian TreasuresDetail from the amulet of Emperor Tewodros
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Edinburgh University's manuscripts (5)

Edinburgh University Library has 11 manuscripts written in Amharic or Ge'ez. Three of them are positively linked with Maqdala in the catalogue. Two others are dated from the same era.

The full list of Ethiopic manuscripts in the library catalogue is available here.

The manuscripts lnked to Maqdala are:

461-462 Gadala Georgios. The Acts of St George according to Theodotus of Ancyra. Ethiopic/Amharic. 2 vols, 163, 129 ff. Vellum, 30 by 26 cm. 20 full-page coloured illustrations. Brown camel or calf skin binding over thick wooden blind-tooled boards. Repaired by D.Cockerell, 1961. With MS letter of John Wilson to Sir Alexander Grant, Principal of the University, accompanying the gift, 1871 “Acquired by my friend Captain James after the taking of Magdala”.

Or.MS.655 [Bible. Psalms.] Ethiopic/Amharic. From King Theodore’s library at Magdala. Presented by Dr Currie, Inspector General of Hospitals and Principal Medical Officer of the Abyssinian Expedition, to Professor Christison, Edinburgh, July 1869, and presented by Christison to the Library, November 27, 1869.

Or.MS.656 [Bible. Psalms.] Ethiopic/Amharic. (Probably given in 1869 by Charles McInroy, via David Laing and the Society of Antiquaries.)

Or.MS.673 Portion of the Gospels (?). Parchment Scroll. Ethiopic/Amharic. (Given in 1869 by Charles McInroy, via David Laing and the Society of Antiquaries?)

AFROMET has made a specific appeal for the return of these manuscripts. In response, Edinburgh University set up a special panel of experts to consider the request.

The panel's first meeting took place on November 29, 2004. It is expected to meet at least once more before making a recommendation about whether to return the manuscripts to the university's Court later in 2005.

The panel will judge AFROMET's request against a set of its own criteria, drawn up to consider all requests for the return of items from its collection.

Here is a copy of their ctiteria. [AFROMET explained how it believed its request met the criteria in a letter to the first panel meeting.]

Guidelines for deciding on requests for the repatriation of items from the University Collections

It is proposed that the following criteria and procedure be used to assess whether a bona fide case is made from a recognised authority for the repatriation of item(s)/object(s) from the Universityپfs collections.

These guidelines relate to all items held by the University other than human remains (for which policy was agreed by the University Court on 10 December 1990 ).


1. Evidence of past ownership relating to the item(s)/object(s) concerned and how the University acquired it/them.
2. Authority of the requester. Requests will only be considered from bona fide groups, representative of the community or culture from which the item (s)/object(s) originated or from individuals or organisations which are able to provide clear prima facie evidence that the item(s) in question is/are their property. Wherever relevant, claimants would be expected to be supported by the government of the country to which the item(s)/object(s) would be returned unless exceptional circumstances prevent this.
3. Proof of cultural, religious or scientific importance of the item(s)/object(s) to the claimant community.
4. A rigorous assessment of the cultural, religious or scientific importance of the item(s)/object(s) to the University.
5. The likely consequences of repatriation, for example, in terms of conservation, cataloguing and availability for research and scholarship. The normal expectation is that items would be returned to the care of a museum, library or equivalent body.
6. Policy and procedural guidance from recognised external institutions including the Museums Association, the Scottish Museums Council (SMC), and the Chartered Institute of Information Professionals (CILIP), as well as recognised good practice from like institutions.
7. Guidance from appropriate UK government sources, where available.


Enquiries concerning repatriation should be addressed in the first instance to the Director of University Collections. The Director of University Collections will draw all requests to the attention of the Vice Principal (Knowledge Management) and the University Secretary, and will be the contact point between the University and the individual or group making the request. Communication will be conducted with the individual or group making the request in order to clarify the details of the request and to establish whether they meet the criteria laid out above. In parallel, the Director of University Collections will investigate the status of the item(s)/object(s) and prepare a report and recommendation for the University authorities.

Apart from loans and conditional deposits, the University collections are the legal property of the University. Therefore the University Court must approve the repatriation of any items from the University collections as this involves the transfer of title of University property.

Two possible routes through the University will be available to determine whether the criteria laid out above are met:

I. If the material is a book or manuscript: Director of University Collections پ¨ University Library Committee پ¨ University Court

II. If the material is from the museum and gallery collections: Director of University Collections پ¨ University Collections Advisory Committee پ¨ University Court

In either case the University Secretary and the Vice Principal (Knowledge Management) can appoint an advisory group to examine a request and make a recommendation to Court if the circumstances so warrant. The advisory group would normally contain at least one member from outwith the University, and would normally report via the Library Committee or the Collections Advisory Committee, as appropriate.

When items are not returned, the University will seek to find alternative means of access for legitimate claimants in terms of the criteria laid out above, such as through surrogate repatriation (e.g. digitisation, microfilm and facsimile) and when items are returned the University will normally assert the right to retain access through such means.

Current location

Edinburgh University Library, Edinburgh, UK
treasure count:
468 items
still missing
10 items
(still counting)

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