Secondary literature

A broad range of secondary literature on Ethiopian studies is acquired in Western European languages. The main focus of the content is on humanities – philosophy, religion, history, archaeology, linguistics and literature, ethnic studies, architecture and art and classic text editions.


The Ethiopian collection currently includes 183 manuscripts written in Ge’ez, the old Ethiopian language of literature and liturgy, and in the modern variant of Amharic.

The Oriental and Asian Department manages the Ethiopian manuscripts technically (acquisition, subject information, guided tours, exhibitions), while the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books administrates them and is in charge of their use. The Ethiopian manuscripts can be consulted in the Reading Room for Manuscripts and Rare Books. At present, the acquisition policy for Ethiopian manuscripts is determined by the scholarly relevance of texts and their aesthetic-museological aspect.

Manuscript catalogues

  • Beylot, Robert; Rodinson, Maxime: Répertoire des bibliothèques et des catalogues de manuscrits éthiopiens. Turnhout: Brepols, 1995.
  • [Cod.aethiop. 1 – 119]
    Hammerschmidt, Ernst; Jäger, Otto A.: Illuminierte äthiopische Handschriften. Wiesbaden, 1968. Verzeichnis der orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland. 15.

    Six, Veronika: Äthiopische Handschriften. Volume 2. Die Handschriften der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. Wiesbaden, 1989. Verzeichnis der orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland. 20,5.
  • [Cod.aethiop. 120 – 121]
    Six, Veronika: Äthiopische Handschriften. Volume 3. Handschriften deutscher Bibliotheken, Museen und aus Privatbesitz. Wiesbaden, 1994. Verzeichnis der orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland. 20,6.
  • [Cod.aethiop. 111 – 113, 122 – 163]
    Six, Veronika: Äthiopische Handschriften vom Tānāsee. Volume 3. Nebst einem Nachtrag zum Katalog der äthiopischen Handschriften deutscher Bibliotheken und Museen. Wiesbaden, 1999. Verzeichnis der orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland. 20,3.

Recent acquisitions can be found in BSB DISCOVER!, bearing the classification mark Cod.aethiop. Digital copies of Ethiopian manuscripts can be searched in BSB DISCOVER! or in the Digital Collections.


Digital Collections

Rare Ethiopian printed works

In addition to Breydenbach's "Peregrinatio in terram sanctam" (Mainz, 1486, 2 Inc.c.a. 1725), which contains the first printed Ethiopian alphabet, the Ethiopian first imprint "Psalmi et cantica" (Romae, 1513, Rar. 454) forms part of the treasures of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.
Peregrinatio in terram sanctam. Mainz, 1486  (2 Inc.c.a. 1725)

Among the further Ethiopian early printed works produced in Europe there are:
Homilia aethiopica de nativitate Dom. nostri J. Chr. Lugdunum Batavorum, 1660  (4 A.or. 170)
Homilia Aethiopica de nativitate Domini nostri Jesu Christi. Hamburgum, 1691  (4 A.or. 171)
Bellarmino, Roberto: Dottrina cristiana. Roma, 1786  (4 Polygl. 8 f)


The Ethiopian prints can be searched in BSB DISCOVER!. Digital copies of Oriental printed works can be found in BSB DISCOVER! as well.


History of the Ethiopian collection

Outset in the 16th century

As early as 1571, 13 years after its foundation, the then Munich court library acquired its first Ethiopian manuscript along with the transfer of the library of Johann Jakob Fugger (1516 – 1575), one of the most important book collectors and sponsors of the arts and sciences in the 16th century: Cod.aethiop. 1. Written in Ge'ez, this psalm manuscript is the oldest Ethiopian codex held by a German library at the same time. The particular value of this document from the 14th/ 15th century is not only based on its age, but also on the fact that most Ethiopian manuscripts of the time of the Solomonic dynasty kept in the Ethiopian empire itself fell victim to the Muslim conquests during the first half of the 16th century.

19th century

The collection of Ethiopian manuscripts was continued only in the 19th century. Paul Roth donated the works Cod.aethiop. 2 – 12 to the library in 1850, which had been acquired by his brother, the natural scientist and traveller Johannes Roth, in Ethiopia. From the library of the French Orientalist Étienne-Marc Quatremère six Ethiopian manuscripts could be added to the collection in the year 1858. In 1890, the then royal court and state library purchased 25 manuscripts from the collection of Carl von Arnhard, the works Cod.aethiop. 35 – 60. However, among these, Cod.aethiop. 35 – 57 belong to the personal estate of the Semitist Ernst Trumpp.

Among these manuscripts, Cod.aethiop. 25 from the 18th/ 19th merits special mention. Due to its extraordinarily numerous and varied miniatures, this gospel manuscript is of particular interest to art historians.

20th and 21st century

The origin of Cod.aethiop. 61 is important for the history of the collection. This manuscript was acquired in 1904 from the personal estate of the Italian general Oreste Baratieri, whose decisive defeat in the battle of Adwa in 1896 prevented the annexation of Ethiopia to the Italian colonial empire. The other manuscripts came to the library in the course of the 20th and 21st century by purchases at auctions or from private collectors and through donations.

Also Cod.aethiop. 89 and Cod.aethiop. 118 are of artistic importance. Ethiopian psalm manuscripts with illuminations, such as Cod.aetiop. 89 from the 18th/ 19th century, are very rare. Presumably dating back to the 18th century, the miniatures in Cod.aethiop. 118, with accounts of the miracles of Mary and pericopes from the gospels, are an example of the artistic style of the old Ethiopian capital and residence of Gondar.


Six, Veronika: Beschreibung der zuletzt von der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek, München erworbenen äthiopischen Handschriften. In: Aethiopica 21 (2018), p. 164-216. Available on: [Last access 08/06/2019]

Exhibition catalogues

Dachs, Karl (ed.): Das Buch im Orient: Handschriften und kostbare Drucke aus zwei Jahrtausenden: Ausstellung, 16. November 1982 – 5. Februar 1983. Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1982.

Rebhan, Helga (ed.): Wertvolle orientalische Handschriften und seltene Drucke der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek = Precious Oriental manuscripts and rare printed books in the Bavarian State Library: 26th MELCOM International Conference, 24 – 26 May 2004: Ausstellung 24.05. – 18.06.2004. München: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 2004.

Fabian, Claudia (ed.): Kulturkosmos der Renaissance: die Gründung der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek: Katalog der Ausstellung zum 450-jährigen Jubiläum 7. März bis 1. Juni 2008 ... Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2008.