The earliest acquisitions of African manuscripts go back to the year 1571 (i.a. Cod.aethiop. 1). Since then, the collection has been complemented and expanded continuously. It includes a total of four languages: Ethiopian, Coptic, Punic or Carthaginian and the Vai language. The classification of the first two as African needs to be put into perspective, though, given that the regions of Ethiopia and Egypt can be allocated to the Middle East as well.
Overview in the order of languages
Ethiopian manuscripts – Cod.aethiop.
The largest portion of the collection is formed by Ethiopian manuscripts (Codices aethiopici) with 174 volumes. These are predominantly parchment manuscripts, containing Psalters or other religious texts in particular. A collection of Ethiopian magic scrolls merits mention as well. The holdings go back to the collection of Johannes Roth, among others, but also include, for example, the Anhard collection formerly owned by the Orientalist Ernst Trumpp (1828 – 1885).
Among the most outstanding pieces, there are:
♦ Ethiopian Psalter (Cod.aethiop. 1)
Psalter (Cod.aethiop. 89)
Coptic manuscripts – Cod.copt.
In the classification group of Codices coptici, 23 Coptic volumes and fragments are preserved. Among them are very early parchment fragments of Bible texts, most of them presumably dating back to the 5th century.
Punic manuscripts – Cod.pun.
The holdings of Punic manuscripts include copies and counterproofs of Punic texts produced in the 19th century, which originate in Carthage, located in today's Tunisia, and came to Munich as part of the collection of the Orientalist Étienne Quatremère.
This manuscript is unique among the African manuscripts, for it constitutes a collection group of its own that presumably won't grow in the future: It was written in the Vai language, a small, regional tribal language, by Doalu Bukara, who invented the Vai script. The Vai region is located on the west coast of Africa, south of Sierra Leone.