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2013

The History of a Genuine Fake Philosophical Treatise (atatā Zar’a Yā‘eqob and atatā Walda eywat). Episode 1: The Time of Discovery. From Being Part of a Collection to Becoming a Scholarly Publication (1852-1904)

Anaïs Wion
Traduction de Lea Cantor, Jonathan Egid et Anaïs Wion
Cet article est une traduction de :
L’histoire d’un vrai faux traité philosophique (Ḥatatā Zar’a Yā‘eqob et Ḥatatā Walda Ḥeywat). Épisode 1 : Le temps de la découverte. De l’entrée en collection à l’édition scientifique (1852-1904) [fr]

Résumés

Au milieu du xixe siècle, sur les hauts-plateaux d’Éthiopie, un missionnaire catholique, Juste d’Urbin, fait le choix de cesser d’évangéliser pour se consacrer entièrement à l’étude des langues ge‘ez et amharique et de la civilisation orthodoxe éthiopienne. Son mentor est Antoine d’Abbadie alors célèbre pour ses travaux scientifiques sur l’Éthiopie. Juste d’Urbin lui envoie le résultat de ses travaux, en particulier deux copies d’un texte philosophique très rare dont l’auteur serait un penseur éthiopien du xviie siècle. Ce premier épisode d’une série dédiée à l’histoire et aux statuts que connut ce texte, le Ḥatatā Zar’a Yā‘eqob, et son appendice, le Ḥatatā Walda Ḥeywat, montre comment ceux-ci trouvent place dans l’œuvre de Juste d’Urbin, en analysant l’ensemble des manuscrits qu’il envoya à Antoine d’Abbadie et en exploitant la correspondance inédite entre les deux hommes. Linguiste, traducteur, Juste d’Urbin voulut contribuer aux études éthiopiennes. Ses lettres révèlent aussi un penseur inquiet et ambitieux, soucieux de faire œuvre de philosophe. Peut-être les Ḥatatā furent-ils une réponse à cette double ambition ?

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  • 1 “Les archéologues ayant remarqué que l’éléphant semblait absent des pétroglyphes d’Uweinat, j’ai te (...)

“Archaeologists had noticed that elephants seemed to be absent from the petroglyphs of Uweinat. I made a point of filling this gap by making a very beautiful rock elephant. But it is so white on the black sandstone background that it is unlikely to deceive anyone, at least not serious people. As for the others, too bad for them.1
T. Monod,
L’émeraude des Garamanthes, Actes Sud, 1998, pp. 384-385.

  • 2 This first article has benefited greatly from joint reflections carried out with Aïssatou Mbodj-Pou (...)
  • 3 “livre étrange […] intéressant pour l’histoire du temps et pour la nouveauté du genre en Abyssinie”(...)

1In this first part of our “investigation into an investigation”, we will examine at length the context of the discovery of the text – or its birth, so to speak.2 We shall begin with the first references to its existence by Giusto d’Urbino who, after revealing its existence, made a point of acquiring, copying, and transmitting this “strange book [...] interesting […] for the history of its time and the novelty of the genre in Abyssinia”3 between September 1852 and Easter 1854.

2For Giusto d’Urbino was collecting manuscripts for Antoine d’Abbadie, trying in particular to fill the gaps in the latter’s already rich and exhaustive collection. The discovery of the atatā was a perfect way to fulfil this task. From the outset, these texts found their place in the collection project of d’Abbadie, the most eminent specialist of nineteenth-century Ethiopian Christianity. An ideal environment awaited them, in which they were to find a part of their identity. As of 1859, they were included in the Catalogue Raisonné that Antoine d’Abbadie wrote to describe his manuscript collection.

  • 4 With the exception of a brief article which makes use of this correspondence for information on the (...)
  • 5 Ms. Paris BnF NAF 23852, fol. 29-30, letter of 15 Nov., 52.

3To examine the moment of discovery of these texts, two major sources are at our disposal which, surprisingly, have so far received little attention. The first of these is the correspondence between Giusto d’Urbino and Antoine d’Abbadie, which to this day has remained virtually unpublished.4 The second consists in the manuscripts that Giusto d’Urbino handed over to Antoine d’Abbadie. They should be seen as testaments to the former’s intellectual efforts, as well as effectively giving us a measure of the work he accomplished. The study of these documents produced by and for Giusto d’Urbino shows that the Capuchin missionary was working for the benefit of scholarship. He considered Antoine d’Abbadie his mentor. Even more so, d’Abbadie was to be the intermediary through which Giusto’s work as a linguist, as a grammarian, as a scholar without genius and with an “empty mind” – as he liked to describe himself with a hint of facetiousness5 – was to become useful. The desire to see his patient labour transformed by Antoine d’Abbadie is one of the leitmotifs of Giusto d’Urbino’s letters. His work was eventually to be included, and even fused, into the work of an imagined “Ethiopic Academy” headed by Antoine d’Abbadie.

4Once integrated into Antoine d’Abbadie’s collection of Ethiopian manuscripts, the atatā were placed in a scholarly setting and positioned in relation to other texts. Producing a critical edition is the next step in the dissemination and recognition of a manuscript text. In the early years of the twentieth century, two eminent philologists established a critical edition accompanied by a translation. The atatā were thereby fully integrated into the corpus of Ethiopic texts and made accessible to the scholarly community. This first moment in the history of the text thus ends with its being edited. It was a consecration, but also the beginning of trouble, since the text was subsequently subjected to scholarly criticism.

5The concern of this first part of our investigation is to trace the history of these texts, to observe how they appeared in the Western scholarly world, to understand the processes by which they have been integrated into one – or several – scholarly project(s), and finally to see them blossoming in the then nascent and generous frameworks of Orientalism, when the West scrutinized the East with as much curiosity as condescension. The atatā are a revealing epiphenomenon of the encounter between these worlds in a period of profound change.

The Interdependence of Supplier and Collector

6It is necessary to introduce further the two main protagonists of this moment of discovery of the texts: the Capuchin Father Giusto d’Urbino (in its francized form ‘Juste d’Urbin’, as he called himself) and the scholar-traveller Antoine d’Abbadie. The “discoverer” and “supplier” of the texts was Giusto d’Urbino; their “smuggler” was Antoine d’Abbadie, who included them in his collection of Ethiopian manuscripts.

  • 6 These manuscripts were deposited at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, where they form the Ethio (...)
  • 7 See the sales catalogue of his collection of 25 Ethiopian manuscripts in [Murray], 1842.
  • 8 Indeed, the second major collection was the one “committed” by the English at Maqdālā in 1868 in a (...)
  • 9 The catalogues of Carlo Conti Rossini and Marius Chaîne, which were published almost simultaneously (...)

7Antoine d’Abbadie was a scholar and a traveller who lived in Ethiopia for twelve years in the mid-nineteenth century. He returned to France permanently and against his will in 1849. One of his many scholarly objectives was to assemble as complete a collection of Ethiopian texts as possible. To this end, he bought and had manuscripts copied – printing had not yet taken off in Ethiopia – throughout the 1840s. When he left Gondar in 1848, he possessed 192 codices, amounting to a comprehensive overview of Ethiopian literature. Upon his return to France, he continued to expand his collection, notably by having Catholic missionaries based in Ethiopia send him manuscripts.6 Collecting endeavours – i.e., acquiring works in an organized and as far as possible systematic manner – were characteristic of scholarly undertakings in the nineteenth century. Antoine d’Abbadie’s approach was original and ground-breaking within the field of Ethiopian Studies in that it was no longer generalist and Orientalist, nor was it the result of fortuitous acquisitions; rather, it was from the outset a scholarly and exhaustive project, carried out first in collaboration with Ethiopian intellectuals, and later with Western Catholic missionaries in Ethiopia. Fifty years before Antoine d’Abbadie, the Scottish traveller James Bruce had also collected Ethiopian texts, albeit in smaller numbers and primarily with a view to recording and disseminating the history of the Christian kingdom of Ethiopia.7 Antoine d’Abbadie’s scholarly work, by contrast, heralded the great institutional collections that followed thereafter.8 It was original in that d’Abbadie not only carried out and supervised the acquisition process, but he also assembled the pieces into a collection. As early as 1859, he published its first catalogue. While the catalogue did not yet abide by the academic conventions that were subsequently established, it nonetheless brimmed with details on the production of texts, on manuscripts as objects, and on the means of acquiring them. This exceptional collection has been catalogued twice since this first catalogue was produced – a testament to the interest it has aroused.9

  • 10 On Antoine d’Abbadie’s Catholic militancy, see M.-C. Berger, 1998.

8One of Antoine d’Abbadie’s suppliers was the Capuchin Father Giusto d’Urbino, who lived in Ethiopia between 1847 and 1855. He was the very first member of the Catholic mission led by the man who was to become the famous Cardinal Massaja. However, Giusto d’Urbino was not a zealous evangelizer – quite the contrary. He kept his distance from his hierarchical superiors, as is evident from the fact that he refused to evangelize and to leave the region of Bagēmder, where he had settled from 1850 onwards. He did not wish to head South to the Oromo people, where Massaja was to carry out his mission. Antoine d’Abbadie had close ties to this Catholic mission, and it is possible that his own stay with the “Gallas” in 1847 gave him arguments favouring the evangelization of the Oromo people. He met the Catholic missionaries many times before permanently leaving Ethiopia in 1849, and maintained an epistolary correspondence with them. He also did not hesitate to intercede on their behalf with the authorities and to facilitate their work by all means possible, given his fortune and his international network.10

  • 11 On these issues, see D. Crummey, 1972, or the recent overview accompanying an unpublished biography (...)
  • 12 G. Massaja, 1984, vol. 1, p. 96-97. This information is confirmed by the purchase of a manuscript o (...)
  • 13 Surprisingly, Massaja says several times in his Mémoires (e.g. 1889, vol. 2, p. 104) that Giusto d’ (...)
  • 14 See the excellent and very well documented biographical overview of G. Pizzorusso, 2001.

9Giusto d’Urbino thus counted among those missionaries whom Antoine encouraged and subsidized, both for the good of the Catholic missions and in the service of scholarship – particularly as it related to studies concerning Ethiopian languages and literature. Giusto d’Urbino’s Ethiopian itinerary was quite exceptional in that, from 1850 onwards, he became separated from the other members of his mission and remained alone until his expulsion in 1855, developing his own activities and maintaining only epistolary links as his sole form of intellectual contact with Westerners – particularly with Antoine d’Abbadie, whom he considered his mentor and patron. The politico-religious and economic context was very tense during these years of quasi-civil war, known as the Zamana Masāfent, the ‘Period of the Princes’. The great regional chiefs opposed one another and formed alliances; soldiers ravaged the country; and moral, political, and religious authority was shared by many parties. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church was then officially under the leadership of the Coptic metropolitan Abuna Salāmā, who led a persistent fight against the doctrinaire divisions within the Ethiopian Church as well as against the Catholic missions. The provincial governors, for their part, had different policies with regard to both the missions and the Coptic metropolitan.11 The missionaries were thus firmly supported in Tegrāy by Wubē, but otherwise they had to contend with different political currents and shifting alliances. They had to move around and make themselves discreet depending on the periods and places in which they settled. Massaja, the head of the mission, thus had to leave Ethiopia between 1849 and 1852. Giusto first lived in the monastery of Tadbāba Māryām, in Amarā. This is a period of his life in Ethiopia on which we have very few sources. Massaja tells us that they celebrated together the Masqal feast there in October 1849.12 In 1850, Giusto d’Urbino left Tadbāba and went first to Gondar, then to Goǧǧām, eventually settling in the region of Bagēmder in the same year, in the church of Bētāleem – a good two days’ walk from Dabra Tābor, to the South-East of the city. He was therefore geographically well placed to observe the military movements of the troops answering to the powerful rās Ali, whose centre of power was in Dabra Tābor. In April 1855, Giusto d’Urbino left Ethiopia under an expulsion notice issued by the Coptic metropolitan Salāmā. Since 1854 the latter had been supported without reservation by the new strongman, Kāsā, who became king of kings Tēwodros in 1855. Giusto d’Urbino reached Egypt through the Sennār road in Sudan, and settled in Cairo, where he stayed for a year. In April 1856, he decided to try and return to Ethiopia rather than return to Europe.13 He died of a fever or cholera in Khartoum, Sudan, in November 1856, without seeing the Ethiopian highlands again.14

Giusto d’urbino in Ethiopia, mid-19th c.

Giusto d’urbino in Ethiopia, mid-19th c.

Anaïs Wion

  • 15 Volumes BnF NAF 23851 and NAF 23852 bring together what Antoine d’Abbadie entitled “Letters and doc (...)
  • 16 See N. Trozzi, 1988.

10Throughout this period, Father Giusto maintained an intense epistolary relationship with Antoine d’Abbadie. The fifty or so letters that Antoine received are now kept in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (the French National Library).15 In his letters, Giusto d’Urbino provides information concerning his work on classical Ethiopian sciences and literature, particularly on his Amharic dictionary and his Ge’ez grammar, as well as on the acquisition of manuscripts. The texts of the atatā, their discovery, and their copies are also described in detail. He also very regularly recorded information about the war between Gošu, rās Ali and Kāsā, up to the latter’s final victory and coronation as neguśa nagaśt Tēwodros.16 Finally, Giusto d’Urbino speaks profusely about himself, his material misery (he relied heavily on Antoine d’Abbadie’s financial help), his intellectual fatigue (his disgust for life and madness became increasingly apparent after 1854), his faith in Providence, and finally his low regard for institutions and individuals, both European and Abyssinian. He proclaimed an extreme and demanding love to Antoine d’Abbadie, while at the same time mocking him for his poor knowledge of Ge’ez and addressing him harshly on account of the rarity and coldness of his letters. His tone is often entirely inappropriate for a scholarly correspondence of the mid-nineteenth century. He reveals himself through his letters, and one feels a personality in the grip of an emotional and intellectual effervescence, mixed with deep dissatisfaction. His thirst for knowledge is combined with an overwhelming feeling of his own uselessness. This correspondence shows how this complex man reveals himself openly in his letters. In the context of our investigation into the atatā, which is written in the first person and expresses philosophical ideas acquired through experience, it is now possible to bring this information pertaining to Giusto d’Urbino’s Ethiopian years to bear on the content of the atatā.

  • 17 Although the definitive Catalogue was published in 1859, the first descriptive account of his colle (...)
  • 18 “ouvrage bien important [qui] ne se trouve pas dans votre catalogue, c’est le ëfut ጤፉት ou grande h (...)
  • 19 “Mais vous êtes, peut-être, très fâché de ce que je viens vous faire le pédagogue sans en avoir auc (...)

11Father Giusto sent twenty-four manuscripts to Antoine d’Abbadie. They entered the collection under numbers 194 to 217, plus number 234. Giusto d’Urbino’s delivery of these twenty-four manuscripts was a response to a request by the French scholar, who paid him – always too sparingly, according to d’Urbino – to provide him with texts. D’Abbadie sent him the catalogue of the manuscripts17 he had already acquired, so that Giusto might complete it and provide him with missing texts. A letter dated 20 September 1852 mentions this catalogue for the first time. In it, Giusto speaks of “a very important work [which] is not in your catalogue, it is the ëfut ጤፉት or great authentic history of the Kingdom, whose original is scrupulously preserved on the amba of Gixën and a copy of which it is not easy to find elsewhere. It is something quite different from the Tarika Nagast”.18 This specification, which is commendable for its accuracy and pertinence, gives us a sense of the depth of Giusto d’Urbino’s knowledge of Ethiopian literature and historiography. In the same letter, Giusto takes the liberty of making extensive criticisms and correcting the errors in the transcription and transliteration of Ge’ez that are scattered throughout d’Abbadie catalogue. He ends the letter with the following unambiguous appeal: “But you are perhaps very angry at the fact that I have come to lecture you as a pedagogue without having any right to do so. It is so that you might choose me as your proof-reader when you print your Ethiopic works.”19

The atatā: a Missing Piece in the Collection

12Finally, in the same letter of September 1852, he described a work that Antoine d’Abbadie did not possess:

You have found some rather funny books, like Dirsana Satnaël. No one could tell me where it could be found. I too found a strange book in Abyssinia. It is a kind of novel or biographical story written by a deist philosopher from the time of the Portuguese. The protagonist and author is a canon of Aksum. He was persecuted for religious reasons; he fled to the woods and, while there on his own, having become disgusted by all revealed religions, he began to think, and managed to persuade himself that there is a creator god. The latter must be providential, but we can know only very little about his providence. Praying is good; Christianity is false, Islam is false, as are all other revealed religions. After death, the soul is immortal, it must go to God and see another order of justice that we do not know except for the fact that those who have done good to their fellow men and tolerated the wicked, must be the worthiest of God, etc.

  • 20Vous avez trouvé des livres bien drôles comme le Dirsana Satnaël. Personne ne m’a pu dire où l’on (...)

When I went to Zinga-Fariccë a tanqway or diviner from Wadla showed me this book written on bad parchment and in a very irregular handwriting. It is a small volume. I begged him to sell it to me for a talari. He told me that even for ten he would not have sold it, because there are many recipes for medicine and spells added here and there in the same book. I had neither paper nor time to copy it afterwards; I even sent him paper. But so far I have not seen anything. One could call it ሐተታ፡ ያዕቆብ፡ [atatā Yā’eqob] or just መጽሐፈ፡ ያዕቆብ፡ [Maṣḥafa Yā’eqob] because the protagonist and author is called Yaiqob. It seems interesting to me for the history of its time and for the novelty of the genre in Abyssinia. I will do anything to get it.20

13What is striking about this is that the “discovery” of the Ḥatatā Zar’a Yā’eqob is fully in line with the collecting logic of Antoine d’Abbadie. The latter wanted new, rare, original and, it goes without saying, authentic texts. Giusto d’Urbino could provide him with them. He would do exactly that. At that time, Giusto d’Urbino merely said that he had read the book, but he had not yet been able to obtain it. He nevertheless remembered it vividly, and the thrust of the text’s arguments was already very clear.

14Six months later, in a letter of February 1853, he announced that the text was now in his possession.

  • 21 Added in the upper line spacing. This addition, like the following ones noted between two //, sugge (...)
  • 22 “J’ai trouvé enfin ce livre étrange que je vous annonçais dans mon précédent numéro. J’en avais fai (...)

I finally found this strange book that I mentioned to you in my previous issue. I produced a translation of it to send to you. But then it occurred to me that it was not appropriate to send you the translation rather than the original, and so I started to copy it on very thin paper and in very small print so that I could send it in a letter. I will send it to you at the earliest secure opportunity. Here are the contents. A man from Aksum called Zar-a Yaiqob, after learning the sciences of the country, taught the explanation of the Bible in Aksum. Afterwards, during the persecution caused by the Patriarch Alfonso, he fled and lived in the woods for two years. There he was alone / he examined21 / man and religions and managed to convince himself that there is a God who by his Providence governs everything. All revealed religions are false. He finds things in the Old and New Testaments and in the Quran that are repugnant, he says, to the Wisdom of the Creator. He admits as the rule of our conduct the intelligence or reason ልቡና፡ that God has given us. Man, he says, seeks to oppose the wisdom of the Creator in order to stand up for the lying word, but /the Creator/ is more [illegible] than man, and he reduces him, for better or worse, to his laws. No matter how many times we say: be virgins; the force of nature will always carry a man back to a woman and a woman back to a man… After the death of Sisinios ሱሱንዮስ [sic] he came out of the woods and went to a rich man’s house in a country of the Begamdir region called Infraz; he no longer wanted to teach, but he earned a living by the writing of his hand. He took a wife and had a son. He continued to examine and live according to the laws of nature, and saw his son’s nephews. God blessed them and they became rich and honoured. Zar-a Yaiqob lived for 93 years and died in peace, trusting in God. He admitted the immortality of the soul and sought to prove it, as well as the usefulness of praying. He says that he lived as a Christian on the surface and that he deceived men because they want to be deceived. He wrote this book in the 58th year of his life. His disciple Walda Hiywat /nicknamed Mitiku/ added the story of his death and said that he had also written another book about the wisdom that God makes him understand. I have searched for Walda Hiywat’s book but could not yet find it. Yet a dabtara from Dabra Tabor whose parents are on an island in Lake Zana told me he had seen it and promised me a copy of it for a taler.22

  • 23 Quaesivi hunc librum et adhuc non inveni. Attamen doctor quidam mihi dixit extare, et promisit mihi (...)
  • 24 This English translation is based on a French translation from the Latin by J.-B. Lebigue (IRHT, CN (...)

15This copy on paper that he made for Antoine is Manuscript 234. It is a small paper notebook, written in European ink, in the hand of Father Giusto d’Urbino himself. It contains the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob, and its colophon does indeed announce the existence of the atatā Walda eywat. A long note in Latin23, dated 28 February 1853, and written by Giusto d’Urbino for the attention of Antoine, accompanies it. Formally, it is a footnote following a sentence from the colophon of the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob, saying: “And now I [Walda eywat] have also written a book”, “ናሁ፡ ጸሐፍኩ፡ አነዚ፡ ካልአ፡ መጽሐፈ”. Here it is in English translation:24

  • 25 Improper: revertens instead of revertendo or cum reverserit.
  • 26 The genitive laci comes from the Vulgate, instead of the more classical genitive lacus.
  • 27 Father Giusto here uses the characteristic pronunciation of Bagēmder, which prefers Ṣ to Ṭ at the b (...)
  • 28 Father Giusto is hesitant about the spelling; it seems that he first wrote Jacobi and then rewrote (...)
  • 29 Improper: si instead of an in the Latin text.
  • 30 Solecism: subjunctive postquam cognovissem instead of the indicative postquam cognovi or postquam c (...)
  • 31 The sense to be given here to est perfectum is that of a completed action in the present.
  • 32 It is probably more a question of the style” of the writing than of the literary quality of the te (...)
  • 33 It is, however, a paper notebook.
  • 34 In a letter of 15 November 52, addressed to Arnauld d’Abbadie (NAF 23852, fol. 27-28), Giusto d’Urb (...)
  • 35 Ornatum.
  • 36 The fact that the pen or medium may be unsuitable for tracing lines in some writing system or other (...)
  • 37 Scribebam where one would rather have expected Scripsi.

I have been looking for this book [the one mentioned by Walda Ḥeywat] and I have not found it yet. However, a scholar told me to wait and promised me that he would bring it to me around Easter, on his way back25 from the islands of Lake26 Zana [Ṣana27]. As for Zara Yacob’s book,28 I found it by chance; indeed, I didn’t know it. But one of the soldiers’ sons, on returning from an expedition to the Dambia, asked me if29 I wanted to buy a Psalter of David – these are his own words – and I bought this book after I realized30 what it was about. I had certainly seen another book similar to this one two years ago. But the book was confused [confusus]: it was missing the last two paragraphs and the author’s name was Zayaiqob ዘያዐቆብ and not ዘርአ ያዐቆብ [Zar’a Yā’eqob]. But the present copy is complete,31 written in a very beautiful style,32 in one hundred and four pages of a volume of a good size. As you can see, I have transcribed this book on a few small sheets of parchment [chartulis]33 and in a rather coarse style. The reason for this was that I wished to send it to you. For it is not easy to deliver a large volume; and if I had written it in Ethiopian ink, I would have had to worry about the humidity during its journey.34 That is why, after I had received from Proconsul Plauden [Plowden] a little European ink to write it [the copy book], I used it [this ink], although it does not lend itself very well to the ornate35 [lines] of Ethiopian writing.36 Take it as it is and remember me, for I have been poor and in pain since my youth. As for you, you are full of blessings. So, according to the Abyssinian proverb ሀብታም፡ በከብት፡ ድኃ፡ በጕልበት [to the rich man the cattle, to the poor man the work], may you not be displeased with my services: they can be of great weight in the Ethiopian school. Live and be happy for many years to come.
I was writing37 in the town of Dabra Tabor on 28 February 1853.

  • 38 Doctissimo Viro Antonio De Abbadia. In suburbio S. Germano in via dicta Vanneau n° 32. Parisiis.
    Scr (...)

16He was thus finally able to acquire the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob from a soldier returning from Dambyā. No one knows what became of this “original” copy, but he supposedly had a paper copy made for Antoine, which he sent to him at “rue Vanneau in Paris38”. Giusto d’Urbino felt obliged to justify the fact that he had sent a copy written by him. He argued that there was indeed an authentically Ethiopian manuscript which served as a model, but that it would have been too difficult to send it by post owing to its weight, and that this small paper notebook was better suited to a quick delivery.

  • 39 A detailed analysis of the end of the Ḥatatā Zar’a Yā’eqob will be presented in the third episode.

17In the note in Latin, Giusto d’Urbino says that he did not know the text of the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob and that he found it by chance. He had seen a copy which he had deemed ’confused’, the last two paragraphs of which were missing and the author’s name of which was significantly different. He recalled these observations very precisely, which enabled him to say that the codex of 104 folios on the basis of which he made his copy (which would become BnF Abb. 234) was ’complete’. Such an analysis of the validity of the reference codex is surprisingly accurate for someone who claims not to know the text. The detail as to the absence of the last two paragraphs, i.e. Walda eywat’s colophon, suggests that the first text seen at the diviner’s house ended with the amen of chapter 15, whereas the manuscript copied by Giusto contained Walda eywat’s colophon but not yet Walda eywat’s treatise.39 Manuscript Abb. 234 therefore seems to be a work in progress, whose development elsewhere is already outlined through the mention of the book by the disciple Walda eywat. Giusto d’Urbino indeed announces, in his letter of February 1853, that a learned dabtarā knows a copy of Walda eywat’s book on Lake Tānā.

18Finally, during Easter 1854, a year later, when Giusto was very weakened by depression, by the death of the woman who had served him, and by the illness he contracted as a result of her death (which greatly affected him), he was able to announce to Antoine that he had finally found the second book, that is, the one announced in the colophon of the first text:

  • 40Quant à mon Nagara ou plutôt atatā Zar-a Yaiqob je pense qu’il est bien imparfait : car après j’a (...)

As for my Nagara or rather atatā Zar-a Yaiqob, I think it is quite imperfect: for afterwards I found another copy which was much more correct. There is also Walda Ḥeywat’s book, which is announced in the Zar-a Yaiqob. I bought this volume for a thaler. If I had a secure opportunity I would send it to you with my Giiz-French dictionary and my grammar. Sooner or later, it will all be yours.40

19This very short passage is important because it presents the discovery of a new manuscript “much more correct” than the first ones, as it also includes Walda eywat’s book. It therefore reports a third manuscript of the atatā, after the diviner’s copy from Wādlā and the one on the basis of which the paper copy was made (Manuscript 234). For such a rare text, one is surprised at the rather large number of copies known in the mid-nineteenth century! How could Giusto acquire, so quickly and for so little money, a copy of the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob and then a complete manuscript including both atatā, when we know that this text is so rare as to be totally unknown today?

20Be that as it may, this copy of the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob followed by the atatā Walda eywat that he acquired for a thaler is Manuscript BnF Eth Abb 215, a manuscript on parchment, with a cold-stamped leather binding, made in a simple and authentically Ethiopian way. However, it is easy to identify the scribe who copied it because his hand is very characteristic, very supple, with a systematic return of each letter toward the left. He also copied Manuscript BnF Eth Abb 211 (Egzihābēr nagśa) as well as Manuscript BnF Eth Abb 200, the Feta nagaśt that Giusto d’Urbino had copied as soon as he arrived in Bētaleēm and whose colophon clearly states that the name of the scribe is dabtarā Gabra Māryām from Bētaleēm. Manuscript 215 is therefore definitely a copy made for Giusto d’Urbino. Given that Manuscript 215 was produced in the workshop of Bētaleēm, there is an inaccuracy on the part of Giusto, who claimed that this manuscript was an acquisition: palaeographic analysis shows us that it is in fact a copy he had made. Herein lies the only discernible lie in this staging that gradually revealed the text that Antoine d’Abbadie’s collection did not possess!

21Clarifying the historicity of the two codices of the atatā is essential, since Manuscript 215 bears all the material features of an “authentic” Ethiopian manuscript; it is also the only known manuscript containing both atatā and is therefore considered “complete”. This manuscript would later be considered the privileged witness of the texts. Manuscript 234, by contrast, is only rarely mentioned and used. That the parchment manuscript was more important than the small paper notebook must have been an impression that Antoine d’Abbadie also had. He received Manuscript 234 by post, well before 1856. But when he received the entirety of Giusto d’Urbino’s collection from Cairo, the manuscript on parchment with the two atatā entered his collection under the number 215. It is only when he had finished writing his catalogue that the first copy would have found its place at the end of his collection, under number 234.

The atatā in Giusto d’Urbino’s Oeuvre: a Masterpiece

  • 41 Letter of 25 October 1851: “Should you be pleased to benefit from my work, I shall be happy to work (...)

22The short paragraph belonging the letter of Easter 1854 quoted above perhaps reveals the pre-eminent status of the atatā – whose titles evolved from one letter to the next – in Giusto d’Urbino’s collection of texts. Even as he had copied, and acquired, many more manuscripts, he wished to send Antoine first and foremost the atatā, as well as his dictionary and grammar. He described the progress he made on the latter two pieces of scholarship in almost every letter. In Giusto d’Urbino’s eyes, these documents were of great importance for Ethiopian studies – for the field which he took Antoine d’Abbadie to embody as the “Chief Director of the Ethiopian Academy41”.

23These texts of the atatā were decisive in the relationship between the two men, their scholar-to-scholar relationship, with all the power dynamics that this entails and which, in this particular case, were exacerbated by one of the two protagonists. Their correspondence attests to the role that Giusto wished to play in “Ethiopian studies”, dedicating his life to understanding the Ge’ez language and literature, and making Antoine d’Abbadie his mentor. Father Giusto d’Urbino proudly mentions his intense intellectual activity in a letter to his friend Constantin Nascimbeni, dated 26 May 1852:

  • 42 Ho scritto una grande grammatica ed un copioso dizionario della lingua dotta etiopica... fin qui h (...)

I have written a great grammar and a comprehensive dictionary of the learned Ethiopian language... so far I have been writing in Latin... I also have about twenty Ethiopian codices on parchment, which contain important and curious things... I can boast of knowing the two Ethiopian languages, namely the learned and the vulgar, better than any European, whether French, English, or Italian... 42

24We find the same themes running through the letters he wrote to Antoine, in particular his pride at being the European with the best mastery of Ge’ez. Among the works to which he dedicated all of his attention, he particularly valued his Ge’ez grammar and a Ge’ez-French-Amharic dictionary.

  • 43 A. d’Abbadie, 1859, notice of ms. 216, p. 213.
  • 44 This is a heterogeneous volume in which several of Giusto d’Urbino’s works have been bound, namely (...)

25The grammar would have been produced at the request of Antoine d’Abbadie.43 Giusto wrote two manuscripts of it: one was sent to Antoine from Cairo (BnF Eth Abb 216); the other autograph copy of the grammar must have remained in his belongings when he left for Sudan to reach Ethiopia again, as it is kept today in the Vittorio Emanuele Library in Rome, under the reference number Orient 134.44 Despite Antoine d’Abbadie’s wish to have it printed, only the last two notebooks, dedicated to poetry, were published by S. Grébaut in 1934.

  • 45 A. d’Abbadie, 1859, p. 214.
  • 46 S. Grébaut, R. Schneider, 1952, p. iii.

26His dictionary had a more complex posthumous destiny. It, too, is known owing to two autograph manuscripts, which followed the same trajectories as the grammars. The BnF Eth Abb 217 contains the introduction and the beginning of the dictionary up to the root ረከበ; it is therefore the copy which was partly destroyed or lost when he was arrested in Ethiopia in 1855. The other manuscript is complete and was in Rome in the mid-nineteenth century; it would have been in the process of being printed at that time, according to Antoine d’Abbadie.45 The latter used both manuscript versions for his own dictionary and cited them under the abbreviations J1 for the Rome manuscript and J2 for the one which had entered his own collection. It was not until 1952 that the work of Giusto d’Urbino was published on the basis of two manuscripts, the A217 and the Roman manuscript, “that is to say, the original and complete manuscript”, of which S. Grébaut had a photographic copy, as he indicated in his preface.46

  • 47 G. Massaja, 1984, vol. 1, p. 278-279 : “Oltre a questo libro [les Soirées de Carthage] mi portò anc (...)
  • 48 At least that is how Massaja presents things, in G. Massaja, 1984, vol. 1, p. 278. Father Giusto re (...)

27These two works, the grammar and the dictionary, bear witness to the work that Giusto d’Urbino devoted to mastering the learned and vernacular languages between 1849 and 1855. His hierarchical superior, Bishop Massaja, had wanted to put his talents to use by commissioning him to translate Catholic works into Ge’ez. Was Giusto d’Urbino refusing to participate in the Catholic evangelization of the Ethiopian peoples? Never mind; he was not going to remain useless for the mission. He was entrusted with the translation of the Catholic ritual of baptism into Ge’ez47 as well as the translation, also in Ge’ez, of a recent work then “in vogue”, the Soirées de Carthage (Evenings of Carthage).48 Although no trace of a translation of the ritual of baptism has been found, the translation of the Soirées de Carthage was a real success in Ethiopia, since Giusto d’Urbino’s Ge’ez version was itself translated into Amharic.

Father Giusto’s Library

  • 49 Poetry in Ge’ez, or qenē, of 8 or 9 verses and conveying a double meaning, or irony, in a very soph (...)
  • 50 Ms. BnF NAF 23852, fol. 121-122.

28Giusto d’Urbino collected and copied Ethiopian manuscripts for his own use. He built this collection primarily to serve his objectives, namely those of studying Ethiopian literary and religious culture. He therefore learnt Ge’ez, the liturgical and learned language, and Amharic, the vernacular language of the Christian highlands. The manuscripts he sent to Antoine d’Abbadie in 1856 from Egypt, where he was in exile, represent only part of the collection he possessed. A list of his books copied in codex Abb. 196 shows that, of the twenty volumes he possessed after amlē 1845 E.C. (July 1853), only twelve were sent to Antoine. When he had to leave Ethiopia in April 1855, he took most of his manuscripts with him. His arrest was rather brutal but all in all he suffered few losses, namely “the books of the Machabeans, a good sawasiw [grammar and glossary], and the corrected New Testament of the London edition with added mikinyat [comments]. All of this counts for very little. What is more considerable is that I have lost without knowing how 7 notebooks of my Ethiopian dictionary, a merely material loss since God preserved for me the first copy with all the notes and corrections. I also lost two notebooks containing about 200 chosen መወድስ፡ [mawaddes]49, an irreparable loss”. When he arrived in Cairo, he repeatedly said to Antoine that his collection of manuscripts would have to be delivered to him and that he would have it sent to him, which he eventually managed to do. On 17 August 1855, he drew up an annotated list of his manuscripts and explicitly bequeathed them all to Antoine. But he only sent them to him in March 1856, accompanied by a descriptive list, followed by a note that Antoine added to his archives50.

  • 51 Giusto first entered the number 9, then crossed it out twice and replaced it with the number 10.

Catalogue of Ethiopian books sent to Mr. Ant. d’Abbadie
1. Weddasë Amlak - Weddasë Maryam
2. Nagast (4 books) - Hënok - Iyob Daniël
3. Taammira Maryam
4. Isayiyas - Daqiqa Nabiyat – Ërmyas
5. Fitha Nagast (manfasawi wasegawi) on paper, an exact and corrected copy
6. Kidanat or Sir’ata bëta Kristiyan
7. On unbound paper Yaamat arkë - igziabher nagsa
8. Salomon amistu mazahift
9. On paper not yet bound. Mazhafa Kristinna - id Qandil - id Taklil - Malk’a Yostos (Yostos me!) - Nagara Maryam - Tomara Atnatewos - Lifafa zidiq - Mahsasa Basilyos - Abgaryos - Malk’a Lissan - Golgota- Guba’ë Qenë
10 951 Ḥatatā Zar’a Yaiqob - Ḥatatā Walda Hiywat
11. Saqoqawa Nafs - Dirsana Rufaël- Dirsana Mikaël
12. Mazhafa Minkuisinna
13. Malk’a Iyob - id Diyosqoros - id Qirqos - id Fiqtor - id Istifanos - id Sillus Qeddus - id Masqal - id Nob - id Marmahnam - id Glawidëwos - id Marqorewos
14. Orit za-lidat
15. Orit zazaat wa zalëwayan
16. Tobit – Daniël
17. Malk’a Giyorgis - id Mikaël - id Takla Haymanot - id Gabriël - id Pëtros wa Pawilos
18. Mazhafa Bahiryi
19. Akkonu biisi - malka Gabriël
20. Ya fidal tirguamë - yazalot haymanot tirguamë

My Ethiopian grammar in 7. booklets of 40 pages each, plus three booklets from my dictionary.

  • 52 In April or May 1855, Giusto d’Urbino was arrested by soldiers and taken to the camp of abbā Salāmā (...)
  • 53 Insertion in top line spacing.

The rest of my dictionary was lost during my arrest,52 and I did not have the good will to copy it during my stay in Egypt, because I have the original which also rightfully belongs to Mr Ant. d’Abbadie, who will have it after my death. I will try to complete the copy and send it to him. But I do not dare to send him now the only original I have, lest it should be lost; or lest it <should happen that it>53 not be understood, for there are notes and corrected errata which are intelligible only to me. May Mr d’Abbadie forgive me for the laziness of an Egyptian fool. I could have written even in Egypt: I had hoped for more favourable days and climates. I lacked courage.

  • 54 The mountain is in labour. She will give birth to a ridiculous rat.

I had promised in the grammar and in the dictionary [to add] the sign (w) on every geminated letter; I didn’t do it everywhere. I held off on it to do it in a journal. I am a good-for-nothing [vaurien] in the etymological sense of the word: worth-less nihit valet. Parturient montes nascetur ridiculus mus.54 In despair yesterday I burnt six of my manuscripts’ notebooks, which were worthless. I will burn many more. I feel powerful and I produce nothing but nonsense. So forget me and my productions.

  • 55 “Ma grammaire éthiopienne en 7. cahiers de 40 pages chacun, plus trois cahiers de mon dictionnaire.

(fol. 122) Mr d’Abbadie is asked to look for that which relates to versification and Ethiopian poetry in my grammar, and, if there is anything good, to use it as he pleases.55

  • 56 Today they are kept in the Vatican, in the Historical Archives of the Propaganda Fide, in the Congr (...)
  • 57 G. Massaja, 1984, vol. 1, p. 278.
  • 58 S. Grébaut, E. Tisserant, 1935, p. 613-614.

29He then returned to Ethiopia and when he died of illness in Khartoum, he still had papers and manuscripts that were sent to the Congregation in Rome.56 Moreover, he had given to Bishop Massaja in 1852, during their last meeting, some manuscripts which they had made for the mission. These manuscripts disappeared in 1861,57 though one of these, the Ge’ez translation of the Soirées of Carthage by Giusto d’Urbino, had a singular destiny. It is now the codex Vatican Et. 165, which was bought by S. Grébaut in Addis Ababa in 1926. 58We will return to this text in the following episode, as it was an essential document in the demonstration that was commonly accepted by the “debunkers”.

30For the time being, it is difficult to imagine what Giusto’s entire manuscript collection was like. The collection now kept in Rome has yet to be catalogued. But the manuscripts which Cardinal Massaja lost in 1861 will probably never be identified. Still, the twenty-four volumes he sent to d’Abbadie, now deposited at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, are easily accessible.

  • 59 A195, A197, A202, A203, A204, A205, Psalter (listed in A196). Manuscript 195 contains two apocrypha (...)
  • 60 Hadisāt kwalu anbala Sinodos ba-4 maṣāheft [the entire New Testament except the Senodos, in 4 books (...)

31This manuscript collection consists largely of biblical books, and is comprised of the main texts of the Old59 and New Testaments60. When consulting these all in all classical manuscripts, one is struck by the organizational work that Giusto d’Urbino carried out in order to apply his own Catholic bearings to the Orthodox biblical tradition. On the one hand, he tried to minimize, or at least to understand, the differences in textual traditions. Thus he often supplied in the margins the numbers of chapters and verses of the Vulgate, pointing out interpolations which were unknown to him (A195, A202 in particular). On the other hand, he added titles and created navigational tools to find his way around this universe lacking in paratextual elements, such as page numbers, chapter numbers, titles and subtitles, and tables of contents – features which Westerners had long grown accustomed to.

  • 61 I have learnt ግዕዝ [Ge’ez] quite well and I am very glad I took your advice to learn it. It has cos (...)

32A copy of the Feta Nagaśt, or “Laws of the Kingdom” (ms. Abb. 200), is particularly representative of his efforts to understand Ethiopian manuscripts, the materiality of which would have been utterly disconcerting to a nineteenth-century Italian. It includes a page numbering system, a table of contents, and numerous marginal glosses, all added by the hand of Giusto d’Urbino. It is one of the very first manuscripts he had copied.61

  • 62 A198, A206, A207, A208, A209, A210, A211, A214. Manuscript A196 is a collection of Miracles of Mary (...)
  • 63 A207, A213.
  • 64 A201.
  • 65 A199.
  • 66 Awda Nagaśt and Marha Ewwer, according to the list copied in ms. A196. He also mentions the copy of (...)

33Giusto’s collection was largely composed of prayers, hymns, homilies, and miracles62 – in a word, all those texts which form the basis of daily liturgy and faith, including magic. He also gathered ritual texts, both for the sacraments63 and for the monastic64 and secular65 life. In addition, his collection comprised two books of computi, which he did not pass on to Antoine d’Abbadie.66 Ethiopian theology is not particularly represented since only a very common treatise entitled Pillars of Mystery, in Amharic, is listed, and was not sent to d’Abbadie.

34To sum up, it is above all a library designed to study and understand the foundations of Ethiopian religious and scholarly life. Giusto d’Urbino’s numerous notes, his efforts to master the written and oral languages, as well as his studies of biblical texts, civil and religious laws, poetry, magic, and computi, show that he undertook a methodical approach to the Ethiopian literary world.

The Scribes’ Workshop in Betaleḥēm

  • 67 The church was founded by the daughter of King Dāwit, Del Mogasā, see D. Crummey, 2000.
  • 68 As evidenced by a curtain given by King Iyāsu I, see W. Staude, 1959.
  • 69 Letter of 14 July 1854.

35One of the characteristics of Giusto’s presence in Ethiopia and one of the essential features of his intellectual and material environment are the fact that he stayed in the same place for almost five years. Bētāleem is the village of Gāynt, north of the present-day South Gondar region, where he took up residence. Its church was at that time a great intellectual centre – a royal foundation dating from the fourteenth century67 and still honoured by the sovereigns at the end of the seventeenth century.68 It is here that bētālaēm zēmā, a type of religious song which bears the church’s name and which spread throughout most of Ethiopia, developed (probably) during the nineteenth century. One can therefore imagine that its library of manuscripts was very complete in the 1850s and that such a place was conducive to studying and to intellectual debates. Giusto has little to say about his intellectual friendships in Bētaleēm in his correspondence with Antoine, which is above all haunted by the theme of loneliness. Nevertheless, he is quite proud to confess that he had the “courage to pay a mocking dabtarā” who made fun of his pronunciation errors until he knew how to pronounce Ge’ez perfectly.69

36Several of his manuscripts were produced in Bētaleēm. A codicological investigation of the material evidence reveals the identities of the people with whom he produced a number of his manuscripts. The work of parchment makers, copyists, and bookbinders was common in nineteenth-century Ethiopia, since printing was still unknown in Giusto d’Urbino’s time. Manuscripts were written on parchment or, failing that, on paper, which was more readily done by Westerners who carried some in their trunks. The latter often bought paper in Cairo or in their country of departure in Europe. It was very common to have a text copied when one could not acquire an already existing manuscript copy, and Giusto d’Urbino resorted to such a practice.

  • 70 See note 61; presumably this is the copy that cost him 5 thalers.

37The manuscripts whose copies were made at his request are Nos. 200, 211, 212, and 215. Manuscript 200, the highly annotated study copy of Feta Nagaśt mentioned above, includes a colophon (fol. 227) in which the copyist is credited: namely, dabtarā Gabra Māryām of Bētaleēm. He copied the manuscript for Father Giusto in the year 1843 “of the birth of Christ”, i.e. in 1850-1851.70 In comparing his handwriting with that of other manuscripts in the collection, one recognizes his very characteristic, very supple hand, with a systematic return of the pen to the left, in Manuscripts 211 (Egzihābēr nagaśa) and 215 (atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob and atatā Walda eywat). An interesting detail is that in folio 80v of manuscript 211 – that is, at the end of the fourth book, in the lower margin – the figure 83,200 might indicate that Giusto d’Urbino had counted characters to pay the scribe. Similarly, at the end of the fifth book, folio 96v, the figure 100,000 is found, and again 137,280 at the end of the last book, folio 233. Giusto had therefore hired and paid dabtarā Gabra Māryām as a copyist.

38Finally, Giusto sometimes himself acted as a copyist, which is commendable given that this activity is painstaking, laborious, and undervalued. He copied Manuscript 212 – a small work in Amharic explaining the signs of the Ethiopian alpha-syllabary, perhaps indicating that he was curious about this type of writing and its symbolism – and Manuscript 213. The first he copied in April 1851, based on a model in Bētaleēm, the other a little later, in July 1853 (amlē 1845 EC). Manuscript 234, the first copy of the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob, completed at the latest in February 1853, was also written by his hand.

From Father Giusto d’Urbino to Abbā Yosṭos

  • 71 In the form this is the book of abbā Yosṭos, መጽሐፍ፡ ዘአባ፡ ዮስጦስ።, see Manuscripts 195, 196, 200, 203 (...)
  • 72 Manuscripts 200, 212, and 213, and also Vat. Et. 165, where he signs the translation colophon.
  • 73 Manuscripts 199, 203.
  • 74 A214, Vatican Et. 165; See also Simon, J., 1936.

39Furthermore, Giusto d’Urbino left numerous marks of his intellectual activity in his collection of manuscripts. Whether as a buyer, a copyist, a translator, or a sponsor, he displayed his name, made his role explicit, justified his choices, and did not hesitate to write ex-libris, notes, and comments documenting the development of his collection. These short texts were most often written in Ge’ez, although the very first ones were still in French and one of them – Manuscript A234 – was written in Latin. Functioning as memory aids and marks of ownership which he adapted to his environment, these features also reflect the process by which Giusto d’Urbino acquired an Ethiopian identity. And yet there is a strong Western connotation to this proliferation of signs attesting to Giusto’s existence. Spelling out one’s own name in this way is indeed rather inappropriate in the Ethiopian literary tradition. The social and cultural norm prescribed that one should avoid writing out one’s own name, and that the individual should fade away before the community. A scribe mentioning his name in a colophon would have accompanied it with epithets, describing himself as miserable, sinful, or unworthy. Proper names were most often restricted to prayers dedicated to the salvation of the soul. However, Giusto wrote his name – of course in its Ethiopian form, Yosos, the only one that can be understood in an Ethiopian context – everywhere: in ex-libris71, in copy colophons,72 in notes relating to transfers of ownership.73 He even had hymns written (salām or malk’e) for abbā Yosos.74 Without this being totally extraordinary, one feels a certain unease at this accumulation of evidence of his existence. Without getting too much into retroactive psychology, we can nevertheless notice that our protagonist, Father Giusto, or, as we shall now call him, abbā Yosos, seems to have been overcome with a recurrent need to bear witness to his own existence and to the fact that he was acting as a scholar, owner, and sponsor of manuscript books. This self-centred tendency, bordering on neurosis, is also very noticeable in his correspondence.

  • 75 This term, incidentally, is inaccurate, since it originally referred to a lunar cycle of 532 years; (...)
  • 76 This terminology is not mentioned in O. Neugebauer, 1979 or M. Chaîne, 1925. Surprisingly, a use of (...)

40In the many colophons by which he certified his codices, the same calendar is used to mark time. Giusto d’Urbino provided dates according to the Ethiopian calendar, but without using the most frequent term amata merāt (“year of mercy”75) or the term amata segāwi (“year of incarnation”); rather, he used the expression em-ledata Krestos, “since the birth of Christ”. This very simple and explicit expression is not very frequent in Ethiopian terminology.76 And yet it is used in all of Father Giusto’s colophons, including that of the translation of the Soirées de Carthage (ms. Vat. Et. 165), and in the two copies of the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob, both in the colophon and in the text itself, such as in chapters 12 and 13. It functions a bit like a workshop mark, as an internal and systematic reference to the same time. It is a time reconciling Ethiopian and Western time, unified by the birth of Christ as a common bearing.

“Never have I studied man so much as when I started being in a position to understand him less”

41In an even more subtle way, some of Father Giusto’s ideas can be gleaned from his correspondence and a small number of notes he left behind in his manuscripts. He strongly felt the need to write and to produce a masterpiece.

  • 77 “raillés et maudits, pillés et même tués”
  • 78 “le plus sensé de tous les Européens qui ait su se conduire en Abyssinie”
  • 79 “J’aime le café et le tabac, je n’ai ni l’un ni l’autre, ni le moyen d’en avoir.”

42In a letter of September 1853, Giusto said that he was thinking of writing a pamphlet entitled Abyssinia and the Abyssinians for the benefit of foreign travellers, so that they might steer clear of inappropriate behaviour and avoid being “mocked and cursed, harassed and even killed”77. This text would have addressed cultural and political issues. But he lacked the courage to write it and left the task to Antoine or Arnauld, “the most sensible of all Europeans who knew how to behave in Abyssinia”78. He therefore explicitly preferred to continue lamenting his fate; he still had eye problems as well as scabies. Above all, war and looting had emptied the markets. “I like coffee and tobacco, I have neither, nor can I afford either.”79 He complained profusely and bitterly about the lack of books, and about having access only to:

  • 80 “sottises éthiopiques qui ne font qu’appauvrir l’esprit. […] Que mes vœux parviennent au cœur de qu (...)

Ethiopic nonsense that only impoverishes the spirit. [...] May my wishes reach the heart of some philosopher (σοφος in its first and true sense) and may he have mercy on me, I who am a true philosopher (σοφω instead of σοφος). [...] When one cannot say everything, it is better to keep quiet. However, if ita est in fatis, I will conscientiously write my life or History of my Thought (the materials are ready) and after my death we will see if it is me who should blush at my current spiritual misery or if others should. [...] I am convinced that suicide is immoral and contrary to the designs of Providence, which I adore, and that it is as a creature’s revolution against its creator.80

43Then he described at length the suicidal and depressive feelings he was consumed with, and the intoxication they afforded him. This letter is key to understanding the evolution of Giusto’s thinking, on an intellectual level as well as on an emotional and material level, as the two seem intimately linked. As his situation deteriorated (sickness, despair), he developed an aversion to his Ethiopian environment and became convinced that he was his own reference point. His discouragement and his ambition to write a fundamental masterpiece fed off of one another. The more he wanted to produce a philosophical work, the less he felt capable of doing it – in a classic spiral of self-denigration and great ambition.

44In May 1854, he offered Antoine a veritable sample of his own philosophy:

  • 81 Translators’ note: the French term ‘esprit’ (here and elsewhere translated as ‘mind’) can be render (...)
  • 82 “Comme mon esprit ne me présente pas pour à présent de quoi remplir cette lettre = Je met mon âme e (...)

Since for now my mind81 does not have what it takes to fill this letter = I put my soul into babbling = Never have I studied man so much as when I started being in a position to understand him less, that is, since I have been in Abyssinia, far from all the means that could help me in the search for truth. When I was studying psychology, some of the proofs advanced in favour of the spirituality of the human soul seemed to me to be demonstrations. At any rate, at least Sherloch says that it is easier to prove the spirituality of the soul than its materiality. I do not doubt that today and I perhaps never will. But when I examine my soul, I see that the body’s dependence is so great that it seems not to have a life principle of its own. I know everything that anatomists say about the wonders of the nervous system, which is almost never entirely subject to the soul’s authority. But let us turn to [the realm of] thought. Descartes is smart with his innate ideas. But my masters and my observations have led me to believe that we have only acquired (acquisite) or fictitious (fittizie) ideas, that is to say ideas composed of other ideas already acquired by the senses. It is also almost impossible for me to imagine an immense being without expanse, an eternity without succession, i.e. without time etc. etc. because my senses have taught me nothing of the kind. Now if my soul had a life principle of its own, if it were spiritual, it should be able to tell me something about the nature of the mind, and about what happens outside matter and time. Besides, how can a mind be prevented by material walls from understanding at least what is going on around it? It is the Creator’s will – that is the only answer – which has made someone believe that our soul is only a wicked angel, trapped inside the body as though in a prison until it has atoned for its wrongdoings. [...] I used to tell you that I could produce a novel and nothing more. I could also make hypotheses... That’s enough of dreams.82

45He continues discussing the nature of dreams, which prove that the mind never sleeps; the whole letter then deals with the possibility of a genuine mind-body dualism, reflecting a certain confusion between mind and soul. Finally, he tackles the theme of the mind of animals.

  • 83 The passage on the spirituality of the soul can be found in chapter 11: [...] nothing perishes, (...)

46The “Sherloch” he mentions is probably one of Voltaire’s pseudonyms, and this letter implicitly takes up recurrent themes in Voltaire’s oeuvre, including Voltaire’s Histoire de Jenni ou le Sage et l’Athée, par M. Sherloc [Story of Jenni or the Wise Man and the Atheist, by Mr Sherloc]. This work, written by Voltaire in his old age, is a tale which takes up in dialogue form his arguments against atheism and materialism, and vigorously defends deism as the only acceptable conception of God.83

47It seems to me that in this long and entirely philosophical letter, Giusto finally presents himself openly as the author of reflexive thinking. He ends it with:

  • 84 “Monsieur, j’ai relu cette lettre et je l’ai trouvée extrêmement hétéroclite. […] Je vous disais au (...)

Sir, I reread this letter and found it extremely incongruous. [...] I used to tell you that I have gone mad, but one can forgive a madman nonsense far more extravagant than this.84

48While Voltaire’s influence is very noticeable in the previous letter, it is to Leibniz that Giusto d’Urbino refers openly in two other documents. In the quotation placed at the beginning of the Genesis manuscript (ms Abb. 203), written in French by the hand of Father Giusto, we read:

  • 85 “Ce n’est pas peu de chose que d’être content de Dieu et de l’Univers. Tous les peuples ont reconnu (...)

It is no small matter to be happy with God and the Universe. All peoples have unanimously acknowledged that there is a God whose wisdom governs the Universe.
Heaven forgives all but inhumanity.85

  • 86 Note on fol. 63.
  • 87 The loneliness which I find myself in here has forced me to examine or rather to hypothesize wheth (...)

49This note at the beginning of a manuscript of Genesis purchased in Gondar in 1849 from a Lazarist missionary, Father Stella86, resonates as an act of faith, as a vindication by a Catholic monk in missionary lands. The first sentence is a quotation from Leibniz, taken from his Essays of Theodicy, more precisely from an essay dealing with the goodness of God (1710). It seems an important quotation for Giusto d’Urbino since he also uses it, explicitly referring to the philosopher in one of his letters to Antoine dated 15 September 185487 – a letter he wrote during the dark times in which it became clear that Kāsā was to be the winner of the regional lords’ rivalries and that all hope of peace for the Catholics would vanish. We will come back to the resonances of this quotation from Leibniz with the atatā Zar’a Yā‘eqob in the next article. This note concerning Genesis expresses concepts that scarcely seem to be in line with the principles of an evangelizer, namely the notion of a universal God whose wisdom is recognized by all human beings regardless of religions and social systems. Nevertheless, within this agnostic system of thought, the notion of forgiveness subsists; it can be granted to all deviances except that of “inhumanity”. Man is therefore the norm on which morality is based.

50This dive into Giusto d’Urbino’s material, intellectual, and social universe presents us with an intellectual who wishes to be beyond norms, with a man caught between the desire to hide, to bury himself, to be forgotten by his society and its constraints, and the desire to be recognized, to shine, to contribute something new, something real.

  • 88 “Mais je suis un extravagant, un fou. Je pourrais enfanter un roman, rien de plus.”, letter to Anto (...)

51Several aspects of this character have begun to emerge. On the one hand, we can safely make note of his complicated ego. Giusto d’Urbino needed to make his name known, to inscribe it on parchment and, in a certain sense, in literary history. Similarly, his need for attention and consideration is reflected in each of his letters to Antoine, in which he never ceased to deplore the very limited feedback which his illustrious correspondent gave him on his work. This was combined with his own strong denial of his own “genius”, to the point of erasing his authorial voice in his work. Indeed, he freely and anonymously entrusted his work to the “Academy”, to scholarship. Finally, a taedium vitae or “disgust of life” gradually took hold as a backdrop to his letters. The only thing that kept him alive was his desire to learn and above all to write: “But I am an extravagant, a madman. I could give birth to a novel, nothing more.” 88

  • 89 “Personne ne m’a instruit ni fait instruire. On n’a fait qu’empêcher ou retarder le développement d (...)

52On the other hand, it is worth noting the distance that Giusto d’Urbino placed between himself, existing societies, and institutions. About Italy and (though he does not name them) Catholic institutions, he declared in July 1854: “Nobody instructed me or had me instructed. All that has been done is to prevent or delay the development of my mind. I believe that my views about God and his providence are quite right, and I am proud that I received them from no one. I have been my own teacher. I owe nothing to Italy”89. It is those societies in which he grew up that he repudiates. But he was no more charitable toward his host society, which he studied, and observed, but to which he remained a complete stranger. He regularly criticized the Ethiopians’ “stupidity” and the lack of intellectual tools at his disposal. Lastly, French society was his idealized mother society, the society he did not know and in which he projected himself through the French language, which is the language of his correspondence with Antoine d’Abbadie. Indeed, he explained that his parents were of French origin but had to go into exile in Italy.

  • 90 Letter of 18 September 1853: May my wishes reach the heart of some philosopher (σοφος in its first (...)
  • 91 Letter of 15 September 1854.

53Finally, early on Giusto d’Urbino’s letters expressed an interest in philosophy, and increasingly a strong need to philosophize, to understand man’s place in the universe and his relationship with the divine, to put in writing the conditions of human happiness, to rebel against the tyranny of dogmas. This need for spiritual and intellectual freedom was real but, in a way, desperate. The History of my Thought90 he promised, the “examinations” and “hypotheses”91 he spoke of, would never be written down. It seems to me that therein lies the true status of the atatā at the moment of their “discovery”: a philosophical “profession of faith” by a missionary monk who had lost faith in human institutions, including churches.

The Hapax of the atatā: a Worm in the Fruit of d’Abbadie’s Collection

  • 92 Two exceptions are known, the monk Pāwlos’ notes (C. Conti Rossini, 1918) and the Miracles of Mary (...)

54A unicum is a text known in a single copy. Strictly speaking, this is the case of the atatā Walda eywat only; the atatā Zar’a Yā ’eqob is technically known in two copies. These copies apparently come from two different manuscripts, according to the words of Giusto d’Urbino. In the field of Ethiopian literature, cases of unica are rare but attested. Thus the Royal Chronicle of Susneyos has come down to us in only one manuscript copy, acquired in Gondar in 1770 by the Scottish traveller James Bruce and kept at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Many hagiographies or collections of local saints’ miracles are only copied and preserved in the monasteries where they lived. Their being preserved only in the form of a single copy – even a modern one – is not in and of itself exceptional. If we had to specify the unique, exceptional character of the atatā, we could draw on a terminology that captured its anomalous and extraordinary aspects, both semantically and formally speaking: this double text, the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob and the atatā Walda eywat, is what is called a hapax, that is to say a unique form within Ethiopian literature. Indeed, it is a very assertive autobiography, and this genre does not exist in Ethiopian literature.92 Moreover, the opinions and reflections contained in it seem very foreign to Ethiopian culture. Finally, the text is not even attested indirectly – that is to say, neither is it mentioned in any Ethiopian text, nor is it quoted or used in the corpus of Ethiopian literature.

  • 93 “J’ai trouvé un livre étrange en Abyssinie. C’est une espèce de roman ou histoire biographique écri (...)
  • 94 “remarquable encore par sa grande naïveté, par les détails de mœurs qu’elle contient et par des not (...)
  • 95 “Comme mon n° 215 était l’ouvrage le plus curieux de sa collection, le père Juste, craignant que ce (...)

55How does this hapax fit into Antoine d’Abbadie’s collection? Giusto d’Urbino remains discreet about the rarity of the text: “I found a strange book in Abyssinia. It is a kind of novel or biographical story written by a deist philosopher of the time of the Portuguese. [...] It seems interesting to me for the history of its time and the novelty of the genre in Abyssinia”.93 It is precisely because of its rarity that he sent Antoine two copies. When he received it and when he first catalogued it in 1859, Antoine, referring to the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob, merely remarked on the “rarity” of autobiography in Ethiopian literary production, as well as on its being “remarkable also for its great naivety, for the details of morals it contains, and for notions of contemporary history that are sought in vain elsewhere. The author speaks of the expulsion of the Portuguese, and denigrates Fasiladas more harshly than the Jesuit victims of this king ever did”.94 In the notice of ms. Abb. 234, he adds: “As my no. 215 was the most curious work in his collection, Father Giusto, fearing that this rare book might be lost, made this transcription and sent it to me by post.”95

56Initially, the text benefited from the mechanism of “mass” acquisition which makes it difficult, even for a great connoisseur of Ethiopian culture like Antoine, to suspect fraud. On the one hand, he probably could not imagine being himself the target of such a forgery, since he had placed his trust in Giusto d’Urbino, who also provided him with material of great interest, notably his grammar and dictionary. On the other hand, he sought to build up as complete as possible a collection of Ethiopian literature and, in this context, the discovery of rare texts was precisely what he wanted. Might we hypothesize that the forger wanted to undermine the perfection at which the very enterprise of assembling a collection is aimed? It is in fact quite common for contributors – especially minor ones – to introduce forgeries, diversions, and grains of sand to a collection project. A presumed “fake” finds its place all the better because it is part of a corpus of “real” objects, a corpus which gives it its scale, which gives it a definite framework within which it necessarily finds its place as a literary and scholarly object.

  • 96 G. Massaja, vol. 2, p. 103-104.
  • 97 I am beginning to realize that I am eating the mission’s income given how little I do for it compa (...)

57What was the nature of the relationship between the two men? Might it be that Giusto d’Urbino wanted to pull Antoine’s leg? That he wanted to confuse him with a literary construction in Ge’ez to demonstrate the superiority of the Ge’ez language? Antoine d’Abbadie was a Catholic who worked at the establishment of missions in Ethiopia just as much as he was a preeminent scholar of Christian Ethiopian studies at the time. Giusto d’Urbino, for his part, deliberately chose not to carry out his missionary work and dedicated more time to the study of the language than to saving souls, according to the testimony of Cardinal Massaja96 and even his own words.97 Giusto d’Urbino very much hoped to be freed of his condition as a missionary and to be able to find a place in “Ethiopic studies”, and he relied above all on the influence of Antoine d’Abbadie to achieve this vocational reconversion. It is quite possible that Giusto wished that his authorship of the atatā might eventually be recognized, that this joke would be taken as such, and that his mastery of Ge’ez and his philosophical ideas would then be revealed. He gave Antoine d’Abbadie enough clues for this, but the latter did not linger any further on this unusual text and simply included it in his collection.

The Editions (1903-1904): the atatā as Ethiopian Philosophy

  • 98 C. Bosc-Tiessé, and A. Wion, 2010, p. 114.
  • 99 E. Littmann, 1904, reprinted 1961.

58The atatā became part of Antoine d’Abbadie’s collection in 1856 and, by the same token, of the corpus of Ethiopian literature. Although Antoine d’Abbadie catalogued his collection as early as 1859, we do not know what kind of access was granted to the academic world during his lifetime. It was shortly after his death in 1897 that all of his manuscripts were bequeathed to the Académie des sciences (the Academy of Sciences), before being deposited in 1902 at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, where they became truly accessible to the public.98 Almost simultaneously, two critical editions and translations were produced. Enno Littmann’s edition was published in the very new Corpus scriptorum christianorum orientalium collection, whose series dedicated to Ethiopian texts was headed by I. Guidi.99 The translation was done in Latin, which was still an international academic language at the beginning of the twentieth century. E. Littmann chose Manuscript 215 as the base manuscript, because it was the most complete and the most Ethiopian in appearance, and he was not interested in the variants of ms. 234. He noted them only very rarely and, in cases of major discrepancies between the two copies, he drew up an improved version which he used as a basis for his translation. The title atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob, which exists only in the upper margin of Manuscript 234, was edited with the mention inscriptionem addidi but without any indication that it came from Manuscript 234. Moreover, the incipit of Manuscript 234 was not edited. Only the text of 215 was edited without any indication of variants. Similarly, the Latin notes accompanying Manuscript 234 were not mentioned at all, which prevented readers from placing these texts in the context of their acquisition. This process of ‘smoothing out’ of the texts gave the impression that they existed for themselves; the work we have just done to place them in their historical context of production cannot be retrieved with Littman’s edition. To top off this construction of the texts as being autonomous from their material contexts, this edition grants them the status of “philosophy”, since its title clearly categorizes the two texts as “Abyssinian philosophy” and even interprets the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob as Vita et Philosophia Zar’a Yā’eqob, while the atatā Walda eywat is rendered as Inquisitio Walda eywat. On the basis of such interpretative choices, E. Littmann’s edition and translation gave the texts a very significant status within the register of textual categories.

  • 100 B. Turaev, 1904.

59Published in the same year, B. Turaev’s Russian edition100 only took into account the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob and neglected the atatā Walda eywat. Of course, it suffered from the fact that Russian had not become a widely used academic language, as well as from its having been rather narrowly distributed. The critical edition was done in a precise and exhaustive manner, making it possible to track all the variants between the two manuscripts, but ms. 215 was chosen as the base manuscript. Its only shortcoming was that it ignored the interlinear additions by the hand of Giusto d’Urbino in Manuscript 215.

  • 101 E. Littmann, 1904, preface p. 1.
  • 102 E. Littmann, 1916.
  • 103 B. Turaev, 1903. We have not been able to access the original and this article is known to us only (...)
  • 104 “indigène éduqué et pensant dont l’esprit n’était pas touché par la culture européenne mais qui éta (...)

60Neither of the two philologists expressed any doubt about the authenticity of the text. And both wanted to see it as a philosophical text. Certainly, E. Littmann was aware of the exceptional character of the text within Ethiopian thought and suggested a possible Arab influence.101 Much later, in 1916, in his brief work entitled Zar’a Ya’eqob, ein einsamer Denker in Abessinien,102 he offered a relatively brief analysis of the content of the text. Turaev preceded his own edition with an article entitled “Ethiopian Freethinkers of the 17th Century”.103 He presented Ethiopian Christianity as an isolated civilization within African barbarism, gradually losing the measure of orthodoxy and building itself on deviant dogmas. The sixteenth century is portrayed as the century of confrontations that shook the convictions of the various “monophysite clans”; and the encounter with Catholics is presented as giving rise to a “surge of rationalism”, of which the atatā are the witnesses and heirs. While B. Turaev notes the “special” nature of these texts, he believed that the time during which they were written, the Ethiopian seventeenth century, was sufficiently unusual to have given rise to such texts. The atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob is, according to him, of great historical interest; it is a text in which one can sense the work of an “educated and thinking native whose spirit was not touched by European culture but who was nevertheless culturally much higher than his contemporaries”104.

  • 105 T. Nöldeke, 1905; W. Weyh, 1906.

61For these two fine connoisseurs of Ethiopian literature, who both took the time to transcribe, collate, and translate the text, there was no doubt that it was an Ethiopian text. A few Orientalists followed their lead and were delighted at the discovery and availability of such a text, despite its surprising character.105

  • 106 K. Bezold, 1907.

62But as early as 1907, K. Bezold published a rather critical account of these two editions and of the text itself.106 He strongly insisted on the lack of rigour of E. Littmann’s edition and pointed out some of its inaccuracies. In comparing it with the work of B. Turaev, he noted that the variants of Manuscript 234, which were neglected by E. Littmann, were, far more than spelling or grammatical variants, semantic variants. For this reason, Littmann’s translation rested on an incomplete base. Furthermore, he provided a summary of the contents of the atatā, whose exceptional character he highlighted; he deemed that Zar’a Yā’eqob had a tendency towards Protestantism and found that Walda eywat’s thought lacked originality.

Conclusion

63Father Giusto was personally strongly invested in his work of immersion in Ethiopian scholarly and religious culture. Seeking to grasp the man, the scholar, but also the individual and his fate is paramount to our investigation. Indeed, until now no study of Giusto’s intellectual activities has been conducted. Giusto’s hitherto unpublished correspondence with Antoine reveals troubling parallels between Giusto’s desire to think for himself and the maxims of the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob, so much so that one wonders whether the initial status of the text was that of a draft of the History of my Thought, which Giusto wanted to bequeath as a philosophical and spiritual testament; one wonders whether his disgust with life, his taedium vitae that haunts his letters, robbed him of the energy to complete it. The atatā would then be an avatar not of a Ge’ez text of the seventeenth century, but of the thought of Giusto d’Urbino himself. This parallelism between the atatā and the thought of Giusto d’Urbino will be discussed further in the second episode of our series.

64The “collection effect” and scholarly publications emanating from critical editions were the two ways in which the atatā were integrated into the corpus of Ethiopian literature. These unica known only through the manuscripts that Father Giusto d’Urbino sent to Antoine d’Abbadie – these surprising hapaxhad to fulfil certain formal and categorical criteria in order to be recognized as Ethiopian texts. By becoming part of Giusto d’Urbino’s collecting efforts for the collector Antoine d’Abbadie, by becoming part of the latter’s scholarly collection, the atatā achieved the status of a part within a whole and in this way acquired their initial identity. Giusto d’Urbino had keenly gauged the notoriety of his mentor. Yet hiding behind the texts which he sent him did not lead to a posthumous recognition of his work as a linguist. The texts of the atatā, by contrast, being of a profoundly different nature, benefited greatly from being included in d’Abbadie’s collection.

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Bibliographie

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Berger, M.-C., 1998, “Antoine d’Abbadie et l’Église catholique”, in Antoine d’Abbadie 1897-1997 : Congrès international = Ezhoiko kongresua. Eusko Ikaskuntza Euskaltzaindia, Donostia-San Sebastián, p. 15-32.

Bezold, K., 1907, “[CR de l’édition critique du texte par E. Littmann]”, Deutsche Literaturzeitung, p. 1242-1244.

Bosc-Tiessé, C., Wion, A., 2010, “Les manuscrits éthiopiens d’Antoine d’Abbadie à la Bibliothèque nationale de France. Collecte, copie et étude”, in Antoine d’Abbadie (1810-1897). De l’Abyssinie au Pays basque – Voyage d’une vie, Biarritz, Atlantica-Séguier, p. 75-116.

Chaîne, M., 1912, Catalogue des manuscrits éthiopiens de la collection Antoine d’Abbadie, Paris, E. Leroux.

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Notes

1 “Les archéologues ayant remarqué que l’éléphant semblait absent des pétroglyphes d’Uweinat, j’ai tenu à combler cette lacune et fabriqué un très bel éléphant rupestre, mais il est si blanc sur le fond noir du grès qu’il risque de ne tromper personne, et en tout cas les gens sérieux : pour les autres tant pis pour eux.”

2 This first article has benefited greatly from joint reflections carried out with Aïssatou Mbodj-Pouye since 2010, and from her critical and participative reading of the different versions. As such, my use of the first person plural is more than a figure of speech.

3 “livre étrange […] intéressant pour l’histoire du temps et pour la nouveauté du genre en Abyssinie”, Ms. Paris BnF NAF 23852, fol. 25-26, letter of September 1852.

4 With the exception of a brief article which makes use of this correspondence for information on the rise of Kāsā, the future king Tēwodros. See N. Trozzi, 1988.

5 Ms. Paris BnF NAF 23852, fol. 29-30, letter of 15 Nov., 52.

6 These manuscripts were deposited at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, where they form the Ethiopian Abbadie collection. See C. Bosc-Tiessé and A. Wion, 2010.

7 See the sales catalogue of his collection of 25 Ethiopian manuscripts in [Murray], 1842.

8 Indeed, the second major collection was the one “committed” by the English at Maqdālā in 1868 in a rather peculiar context, it being booty. In spite of the military nature of the expedition, its aim from the outset was evidently to bring back manuscripts, since a certain R. Holmes, Assistant Curator in the manuscripts department of the British Museum, joined the military expedition. The third European collection effort was that of Johannes Flemming, in 1906, who accompanied the German diplomatic mission of Felix Rosen. See A. Wion, 2012.

9 The catalogues of Carlo Conti Rossini and Marius Chaîne, which were published almost simultaneously, were two separate undertakings. C. Conti Rossini’s catalogue is still the reference today. A. d’Abbadie, 1859; C. Conti Rossini, 1914; M. Chaîne, 1912.

10 On Antoine d’Abbadie’s Catholic militancy, see M.-C. Berger, 1998.

11 On these issues, see D. Crummey, 1972, or the recent overview accompanying an unpublished biography in Ge’ez of abuna Salāmā, D. Crummey and Getatchew Haile, 2004. It is interesting to note that in this lengthy, laudatory biography, not once is the presence of Catholics and their dogmas mentioned.

12 G. Massaja, 1984, vol. 1, p. 96-97. This information is confirmed by the purchase of a manuscript on the same date: Ms. BnF Éth Abb 199, fol. 57r: purchased on 20 maskaram 1842 [Sept. 1849], the year of Mark, by Juste Romāwi at Tadbāba from the disciples of alaqā Tamasrāč for 1 thaler, see C. Conti Rossini, 1914, p. 67.

13 Surprisingly, Massaja says several times in his Mémoires (e.g. 1889, vol. 2, p. 104) that Giusto d’Urbino returned to Italy during this exile. This is utterly contradicted by the study of Giusto’s correspondence, since he sent some twenty letters to Antoine from Cairo between August 1855 and April 1856 – at such a pace that it is impossible to imagine that he ever returned to Italy. Moreover, Massaja, who was then in Oromo country, learned with almost a year’s delay about the death of Giusto d’Urbino in Sudan.

14 See the excellent and very well documented biographical overview of G. Pizzorusso, 2001.

15 Volumes BnF NAF 23851 and NAF 23852 bring together what Antoine d’Abbadie entitled “Letters and documents on the missions among the Galla peoples (1845-1895)” (“Lettres et documents sur les missions chez les peuples gallas (1845-1895)”). The BnF manuscript NAF 23852 contains part of Antoine d’Abbadie’s scholarly correspondence with the Catholic missionaries in Ethiopia (Giusto d’Urbino (fol. 3-128v), Father Léon des Avanchers and Mgr Taurin Cahagne). Antoine d’Abbadie had classified his mail and foliated the letters he received one after the other, in order of receipt. The binding in the same volume and the second foliotation are the work of the BnF. Giusto d’Urbino’s letters number around fifty, and were written between 1847 and June 1856, i.e. between the time of his arrival in Ethiopia until the end of his year of exile in Cairo and his arrival in Khartoum. We do not have the letters from Antoine himself. He did not attach copies of his own letters to his archives, as he did for the other two correspondents in this volume.

16 See N. Trozzi, 1988.

17 Although the definitive Catalogue was published in 1859, the first descriptive account of his collection was produced during the winter of 1849-1850; the latter is the one that Giusto had at his disposal. A. d’Abbadie, 1859, p. i.

18 “ouvrage bien important [qui] ne se trouve pas dans votre catalogue, c’est le ëfut ጤፉት ou grande histoire autentique [sic] du Royaume dont l’original se conserve scrupuleusement sur l’amba de Gixën et dont n’est pas facile d’en trouver ailleurs quelque copie. C’est bien autre chose que le Tarika Nagast”. In a letter of 26 October 1853, he also added: “I told you that you could add to your catalogue the great authentic history of Kings and Noble families and Genealogies, etc. known as ጤፉት [ēfut], which can be found at ambā Gixan, some copies of which can also be found in Gondar and elsewhere.” (“Je vous disais que vous pourriez ajouter à votre catalogue la grande histoire authentique des Rois et de familles Nobles et Généalogies, etc. dit ጤፉት [ṭēfut] qui se trouve sur l’ambā Gixan et il y en a aussi quelque copie à Gondar et ailleurs.”) Indeed, a copy of the maṣḥafa ēfut from ambā Gēšen, carried out by King Iyāsu I for a church in Gondar, is known to us today. It is kept in the British Library in London under the serial number BL Or. 481.

19 “Mais vous êtes, peut-être, très fâché de ce que je viens vous faire le pédagogue sans en avoir aucun droit. C’est afin que vous me choisissiez pour votre correcteur d’Imprimerie lorsque vous imprimerez vos ouvrages éthiopiques.”

20Vous avez trouvé des livres bien drôles comme le Dirsana Satnaël. Personne ne m’a pu dire où l’on peut le trouver. Moi aussi j’ai trouvé un livre étrange en Abyssinie. C’est une espèce de roman ou histoire biographique écrite par un philosophe déiste du temps des Portugais. L’acteur et l’auteur est un chanoine d’Aksum. Il fut persécuté par un motif de religion : il s’enfuit dans les bois et là seul, ayant pris dégoût à toute religion révélée il se mit à penser et parvient à se persuader qu’il y a un dieu créateur. Il doit être provident, mais nous ne pouvons connaître que très peu sa providence. La prière est bonne ; Le Christianisme est faux, l’islamisme est faux comme toute autre religion révélée. Après la mort, l’âme est immortelle, elle doit aller à Dieu et voir un autre ordre de justice que nous ne connaissons pas sinon que ceux qui auront fait du bien à leur semblables et tolérés les méchants, ils doivent être les plus dignes de Dieu, etc.

Lorsque j’allais à Zinga-Fariccë un tanqway ou devin de Wadla me fit voir ce livre écrit dans de mauvais parchemin et d’une écriture très irrégulière. C’est un petit volume. Je le priais de me le vendre pour un talari. Il me dit que même pour dix il ne l’aurait pas vendu, car il y a dans ce même livre beaucoup de recettes de médecine et de sortilège [sic] ça et là ajoutées. Je n’avais ni papier ni temps de le copier après, je lui envoyais même du papier. Mais jusqu’ici je n’ai rien vu. On pourrait l’appeler ሐተታ፡ ያዕቆብ፡ [atatā Yā‘eqob] ou simplement መጽሐፈ፡ ያዕቆብ፡ [Maṣḥafa Yā‘eqob] Parce que l’acteur et auteur se nomme Yaiqob. Il me semble intéressant pour l’histoire du temps et pour la nouveauté du genre en Abyssinie. Je fairai du tout pour l’avoir [sic].

21 Added in the upper line spacing. This addition, like the following ones noted between two //, suggests that Giusto d’Urbino was copying a text that he had written beforehand.

22 “J’ai trouvé enfin ce livre étrange que je vous annonçais dans mon précédent numéro. J’en avais fait une traduction pour vous l’envoyer puis en pensant qu’il n’était pas convenable de vous envoyer la traduction plutôt que l’original j’en ai commencé une copie dans de [sic] papier très fin et par un caractère très petit afin de le pouvoir envoyer dans une lettre. Je vous l’enverrais à la première occasion sûre. Voici le contenu. Un homme d’Aksum dit Zar-a Yaiqob après avoir appris les sciences du pays enseigna l’explication de la Bible à Aksum. Après, lors de la persécution causée par le Patriarche Alfonso s’enfuit et demeura deux ans dans les bois. Là étant seul /il examina18/ l’homme et les religions et il parvint à se persuader qu’il y a un Dieu qui par sa Providence régit le tout. Toutes les religions révélées sont fausses Il trouve dans l’ancien et dans le nouveau testament et dans le quran des choses qui répugnent, dit-il, avec la Sagesse du Créateur. Il admet pour règle de notre conduite l’intelligence ou raison ልቡና፡ que Dieu nous a donné. L’homme, dit-il, cherche à s’opposer à la sagesse du Créateur à fin de faire valoir la parole menteuse mais /le Créateur/ est plus [illisible] que l’homme et il le réduit bon grès mal grès à ses lois. On a beau dire : soyez vierges : la force de la nature portera toujours l’homme vers la femme et la femme vers l’homme... Après la mort de Sisinios ሱሱንዮስ [sic] il sortit des bois et il alla à un pays du Begamdir dit Infraz chez un homme riche : il ne voulut plus enseigner mais il gagnait son pain par l’écriture de sa main. Il prit femme et eut un fils. Toujours en examinant et en vivant selon les lois de la nature, il vit les neveux de son fils. Dieu les bénit et devinrent riches et honorés [sic]. Zar-a Yaiqob vécut 93 ans et mourut en paix et dans la confiance en Dieu. Il admet l’immortalité de l’âme et cherche à la prouver, aussi l’utilité de la prière. Il dit d’avoir vécu chrétien en apparence et d’avoir trompé les hommes parce qu’ils veulent être trompés. Il écrivit ce livre l’an 58 de sa vie. Son disciple Walda Hiywat /surnommé Mitiku/ y ajouta l’histoire de sa mort et dit d’avoir écrit aussi un autre livre sur la sagesse que Dieu lui fait comprendre. J’ai cherché mais je n’ai pu trouver encore le livre de Walda Hiywat. Pourtant un dabtara de Dabra Tabor qui a ses parents dans une île du lac Zana m’a dit de l’avoir vu et il m’en a promis une copie pour un taler.

23 Quaesivi hunc librum et adhuc non inveni. Attamen doctor quidam mihi dixit extare, et promisit mihi quod circa tempus Paschae revertens de insulis laci Zanae mihi eum allaturus sit. Librum autem Zara Jacobi fortuito inveni, nesciebam enim eum. Sed unus ex filiis militum revertens de expeditione in Dambyam mihi proposuit si vellem emere Psalterium Davidis, ut ipse dixit, et emi hunc librum postquam cognovissem quid esset. Videram quidem duobus ab hinc annis aliud quoddam opus simile huic. Sed confusus erat liber et duobus postremis articulis carens, et nomen auctoris erat Zayaiqob ዘያዐቆብ and not ያዐቆብ. Hoc autem exemplar perfectum est, et pulcherrimo stylo conscriptum, centum et quattuor paginis non parvi voluminis contentum. Quod autem vides paucis chartulis et non limato stylo me hunc librum transcripsisse eum ad te mittendi voluntas in causa fuit. Nam magnum volumen non facile transmittur, et si atramento aethiopico eum scripsissem de humiditate timendum erat in itinere. Hinc cum ex proconsule Plauden parum atramenti europei accepissem ad eum scribendum usus sum, licet ad ornatum scriptionis aethiopicae minime sit proprium. Accipe eum ut est et memento mei quia pauper sum ego et in laboribus a juventute mea. Tu autem benidictionibus repletus es. Juxta ergo proverbium abyssinum ሀብታም፡ በከብት፡ ድኃ፡ ድኃ፡ በጕልበት non tibi displiceant officia mea quae non minimi momenti esse possunt in schola aethiopica. Vive et beatus esto ad multos annos. Scribebam in civitate Dabra Tabor pordie kalendas Martii MDCCCLIII (fol. 30v-31v).

24 This English translation is based on a French translation from the Latin by J.-B. Lebigue (IRHT, CNRS). All the notes concerning the Latin language are his. I would like to thank him for this very fine translation and for his attentive reading of the text.

25 Improper: revertens instead of revertendo or cum reverserit.

26 The genitive laci comes from the Vulgate, instead of the more classical genitive lacus.

27 Father Giusto here uses the characteristic pronunciation of Bagēmder, which prefers Ṣ to Ṭ at the beginning of the word.

28 Father Giusto is hesitant about the spelling; it seems that he first wrote Jacobi and then rewrote the initial to read Yacobi.

29 Improper: si instead of an in the Latin text.

30 Solecism: subjunctive postquam cognovissem instead of the indicative postquam cognovi or postquam cognoveram.

31 The sense to be given here to est perfectum is that of a completed action in the present.

32 It is probably more a question of the style” of the writing than of the literary quality of the text. Indeed, a few lines below, Father Giusto contrasts the rather coarse style of his copy with the very beautiful style of the original.

33 It is, however, a paper notebook.

34 In a letter of 15 November 52, addressed to Arnauld d’Abbadie (NAF 23852, fol. 27-28), Giusto d’Urbino asks Antoine’s brother for ink and complains about the poor quality of Ethiopian ink. He says that consul Plowden occasionally gives him European ink.

35 Ornatum.

36 The fact that the pen or medium may be unsuitable for tracing lines in some writing system or other might be admissible, but that the ink should pose a problem seems strange.

37 Scribebam where one would rather have expected Scripsi.

38 Doctissimo Viro Antonio De Abbadia. In suburbio S. Germano in via dicta Vanneau n° 32. Parisiis.
Scriptus est hic liber in civitate Dabra Tabor AEthiopiae Mense Februario 1853, ms. 234, fol. 1. In his catalogue, Antoine d’Abbadie confirms that this manuscript did reach him by post.

39 A detailed analysis of the end of the Ḥatatā Zar’a Yā’eqob will be presented in the third episode.

40Quant à mon Nagara ou plutôt atatā Zar-a Yaiqob je pense qu’il est bien imparfait : car après j’ai trouvé un autre exemplaire bien plus correct. Il y aussi le livre de Walda eywat annoncé dans le Zar-a Yaiqob. j’ai acheté ce volume pour un thaler. Si j’avais une occasion sûre je vous l’enverrais avec mon dictionnaire Giiz-Français et ma grammaire. Tôt ou tard, le tout sera pour vous.”

41 Letter of 25 October 1851: “Should you be pleased to benefit from my work, I shall be happy to work for those who are learning Ethiopian and for you who are the Chief Director of the Ethiopic Academy. For myself I seek neither name nor glory: I seek to live in peace by working according to the order of God in sudore vultus tui vesceris pane (“S’il vous plaira de profiter de mes travaux, je serai content de travailler pour ceux qui apprendent [sic] l’Ethiopique et pour vous qui êtes le Directeur en chef de l’Académie Ethiopique. Pour moi je ne cherche ni nom, ni gloire : je cherche à vivre en paix en travaillant selon l’ordre de Dieu in sudore vultus tui vesceris pane”), ms. NAF 23852, fol. 15v. A few years later, stricken with depression, he pushed even further such a renunciation of his authorship for the benefit of scholarship, coupled with a very high esteem for his work: “As for my grammar and any other work, good or bad, were it a masterpiece, I would never publish it and I would never allow it to be published under my name. You undoubtedly have no need of my Ethiopic scribbles to make yourself known to the learned world; and I did not offer them to you for that purpose. For heaven’s sake, have you suspected it? I offered them to you so that if you found something useful in them you could remould it in your own way and then publish it anonymously or under some other name, such as that of the academy or institute or some other literary society. This is so that my work doesn’t perish with me – I who am very perishable” (“Quant à ma grammaire et à tout autre travail bon ou mauvais, fut-il un chef d’œuvre, je ne le publierais jamais et je ne permettrai jamais de le publier en mon nom. Vous n’avez sans doute aucun besoin de mes barbouillages éthiopiques pour vous faire connaître du monde savant et je ne vous les offrais pas dans ce but là. Parbleu est-ce que vous avez pu le soupçonner ? Je vous les offrais afin que si vous y trouviez quelque chose d’utile vous auriez pu le refaçonner à votre manière et puis le publier anonyme ou sous un nom quelconque comme de l’académie ou de l’institut ou autre société littéraire. C’est afin que mes travaux ne périssent pas avec moi qui suis très périssable”). Letter no. 24, January 1854, ms. NAF 23852, fol. 49-50.

42 Ho scritto una grande grammatica ed un copioso dizionario della lingua dotta etiopica... fin qui ho scritto in latino... Ho anche una ventina di codici etiopici in pergamena, che contengono importanti e curiose cose... Io posso vantarmi di conoscere le due lingue etiopiche, cioè la dotta e la volgara, meglio che qualunque europeo sia francese, sia inglese, o italiano... Correspondence partly edited by F. Tarducci, 1899, p. 158.

43 A. d’Abbadie, 1859, notice of ms. 216, p. 213.

44 This is a heterogeneous volume in which several of Giusto d’Urbino’s works have been bound, namely his dictionary, his grammar, and his collection of Ge’ez poems. J. Simon, 1936, p. 100-101.

45 A. d’Abbadie, 1859, p. 214.

46 S. Grébaut, R. Schneider, 1952, p. iii.

47 G. Massaja, 1984, vol. 1, p. 278-279 : “Oltre a questo libro [les Soirées de Carthage] mi portò ancora la traduzione del libro del battesimo in due colonne, una etiopica e l’altra latina per l’uso della S. C. di Propaganda, onde sapesse pronunziare un giudizio al uopo sopra questo libro liturgico. Se Iddio l’avesse conservato in vita, questo missionario, forze meno atto per il ministero apostolico in detaglio, non avrebbe lasciato di prestare gran servizii alla Chiesa. Difatti io l’aveva già incaricato di tradurre l’intiero messale abissinese, per sottoporlo al giudizio della Chiesa ; lavoro che il P. Giusto aveva già incomminciato all’epoca del suo esilio ; ma Iddio tronco il filo di tutti questi lavori colla sua morte avvenuta in Kartum […]. (“In addition to this book [the Soirées de Carthage], he also brought me the translation of the book of baptism in two columns, the one [in] Ethiopian and the other [in] Latin, for the use of the Propaganda Fide, so that he might pronounce a proper judgement on this liturgical book. If God had kept him alive, this missionary, who is a less suitable force for the apostolic ministry in particular, would not have failed to render great service to the Church. In fact, I had already entrusted him with the task of translating the entire Abyssinian Missal, in order to submit it to the judgement of the Church; a work that Fr Giusto had already begun at the time of his exile; but God cut the thread of all this work with his death in Kartum [...].”)

48 At least that is how Massaja presents things, in G. Massaja, 1984, vol. 1, p. 278. Father Giusto recounts things in a slightly different way, obscuring Massaja’s role in this work: “They sent me the Soirées de Carthage by Mr Abbot Bourgade. Believing I was doing something useful for the Christian religion, I translated them into giiz. I have already translated six dialogues and later I will write a copy for those who like to see the superiority of the religion of Jesus Christ over the religion of Mohammed” (“On m’a envoyé les Soirées de Carthage par Mr L’abbé Bourgade. Croyant faire une chose utile pour la religion chrétienne, je les traduis en giiz. J’ai déjà traduit six dialogues après j’en fairai [sic] écrire quelque copie pour ceux qui aiment à voir la supériorité de la religion de Jésus Christ au dessus de la religion de Mohammed”), letter to Antoine d’Abbadie, 28 October 1851.

49 Poetry in Ge’ez, or qenē, of 8 or 9 verses and conveying a double meaning, or irony, in a very sophisticated way.

50 Ms. BnF NAF 23852, fol. 121-122.

51 Giusto first entered the number 9, then crossed it out twice and replaced it with the number 10.

52 In April or May 1855, Giusto d’Urbino was arrested by soldiers and taken to the camp of abbā Salāmā. John Bell, advisor to Tēwodros, intervened on his behalf. Giusto had to take an oath to leave Ethiopia and never return. He had to pay 20 thalers to buy back his personal belongings from the soldiers. He was then taken to Gondar and finally to Matammā. There are four versions of this arrest, which differ as to the content of the defence that Giusto maintained before the Coptic metropolitan. Giusto d’Urbino recounts it twice, in a letter to Antoine d’Abbadie (NAF 23852, fol. 78-79) and in another to C. Nascimbeni (F. Tarducci, 1899, p. 129-132). See also G. Massaja, 1984, p. 104, and C. Conti Rossini, 1916, p. 78.

53 Insertion in top line spacing.

54 The mountain is in labour. She will give birth to a ridiculous rat.

55 “Ma grammaire éthiopienne en 7. cahiers de 40 pages chacun, plus trois cahiers de mon dictionnaire.

Le reste de mon dictionnaire a été perdu dans mon arrestation, et je n’ai pas eu la bonne volonté de le recopier pendant mon séjour en Égypte, car j’ai l’original qui appartient aussi de plein droit à M. Ant. d’Abbadie et qui l’aura après ma mort. Je tâcherai d’achever la copie et de la lui envoyer. Mais je ne hasarde pas de lui envoyer maintenant l’unique original que je tiens de peur qu’il ne se perde ; ou qu’il ne soit pas compris, car il y a des notes et des errata corrigé intelligibles seulement pour moi. Que M. d’Abbadie me pardonne la paresse du sot égyptien. J’aurais pu écrire même en Égypte : j’espérais des jours et des climats plus favorables. Le courage m’a manqué.

J’avais promis dans la grammaire et dans le dictionnaire de signer un (w) sur toute lettre à son double, je ne l’ai pas fait partout. Je me réservais de le faire dans une revue. Je suis un vaurien dans son étymologie vaut-rien nihit valet. Parturient montes nascetur ridiculus mus. Au désespoir j’ai brûlé hier six cahiers de mes manuscrits qui ne valait rien. J’en brulerai encore beaucoup. Je me sens puissant et je ne produis que des sottises. À l’oubli donc moi et mes productions.

(fol. 122) Mr d’Abbadie est prié de voir dans ma grammaire ce qu’il y a relativement à la versification et à la poésie éthiopienne, et, s’il y a quelque chose de bon, d’en faire ce qu’il voudra.

56 Today they are kept in the Vatican, in the Historical Archives of the Propaganda Fide, in the Congressi collection, Africa Centrale Etiopia, vol. 4 (1841-1847), 5 (1848-1857), and 6 (1858-1860); Congressi, Egitto, vol. 19 (1854-1861). See A. Wion, 2011. A description of these documents has yet to be made.

57 G. Massaja, 1984, vol. 1, p. 278.

58 S. Grébaut, E. Tisserant, 1935, p. 613-614.

59 A195, A197, A202, A203, A204, A205, Psalter (listed in A196). Manuscript 195 contains two apocryphal texts, the Ascension of Isaiah and the Life of Jeremiah. P. Piovanelli, 1990 offers an analysis of this manuscript.

60 Hadisāt kwalu anbala Sinodos ba-4 maṣāheft [the entire New Testament except the Senodos, in 4 books], listed in A196.

61 I have learnt ግዕዝ [Ge’ez] quite well and I am very glad I took your advice to learn it. It has cost me a lot of patience, but now I am a living witness of the proverb ትዕግሥትሰ፡ በጊዜሁ፡ ይከውን፡ መሪረ፡ ወድኅሬሁ፡ ይጥዕም፡ እመዓር። [Perseverance is bitter in its time, then it becomes sweeter than honey]. Only my poverty doesn’t allow me to have many books. I had the whole ፍትሐ፡ ነገሥት፡ [Feta Nagaśt] written down for 5 talaris, which is cheap (“J’ai appris assez bien le ግዕዝ [ge‘ez] et je suis très content d’avoir suivi votre conseil de l’apprendre. Il m’a coûté bien de patience mais à présent se vérifie en moi le proverbe ትዕግሥትሰ፡ በጊዜሁ፡ ይከውን፡ መሪረ፡ ወድኅሬሁ፡ ይጥዕም፡ እመዓር። [La persévérance est amère en son temps, puis elle devient plus douce que le miel.] Seulement ma pauvreté ne me permet pas d’avoir beaucoup de livres. J’ai fait écrire tout le ፍትሐ፡ ነገሥት፡ [Feta Nagaśt] pour 5 talaris ce qui est bon marché”), letter written in Goǧǧām, in September 1850.

62 A198, A206, A207, A208, A209, A210, A211, A214. Manuscript A196 is a collection of Miracles of Mary, which is particularly remarkable because it is written in green ink and was commissioned by a royal princess in the 18th century, Walatta Giyorgis.

63 A207, A213.

64 A201.

65 A199.

66 Awda Nagaśt and Marha Ewwer, according to the list copied in ms. A196. He also mentions the copy of the Awda Nagaśt in his correspondence to Antoine, letter of 9 March 1852.

67 The church was founded by the daughter of King Dāwit, Del Mogasā, see D. Crummey, 2000.

68 As evidenced by a curtain given by King Iyāsu I, see W. Staude, 1959.

69 Letter of 14 July 1854.

70 See note 61; presumably this is the copy that cost him 5 thalers.

71 In the form this is the book of abbā Yosṭos, መጽሐፍ፡ ዘአባ፡ ዮስጦስ።, see Manuscripts 195, 196, 200, 203, 212 among others.

72 Manuscripts 200, 212, and 213, and also Vat. Et. 165, where he signs the translation colophon.

73 Manuscripts 199, 203.

74 A214, Vatican Et. 165; See also Simon, J., 1936.

75 This term, incidentally, is inaccurate, since it originally referred to a lunar cycle of 532 years; from the nineteenth century onwards, however, it became a common way of designating the Ethiopian calendar since the birth of Christ.

76 This terminology is not mentioned in O. Neugebauer, 1979 or M. Chaîne, 1925. Surprisingly, a use of this terminology can be found in the colophon of the Confessio Claudii: 1555 amata am-ledata egzi’ena Iyasus Krestos. Without going into hypotheses regarding the authenticity of this document, its origin, and problematic date given that it postdates the death of the Ethiopian sovereign, might we conjecture that Giusto had a copy of the Confessio and that he was inspired by it? This is possible, since the work had already been popularized by Hiob Ludolf and had probably circulated widely in scholarly and missionary circles.

77 “raillés et maudits, pillés et même tués”

78 “le plus sensé de tous les Européens qui ait su se conduire en Abyssinie”

79 “J’aime le café et le tabac, je n’ai ni l’un ni l’autre, ni le moyen d’en avoir.”

80 “sottises éthiopiques qui ne font qu’appauvrir l’esprit. […] Que mes vœux parviennent au cœur de quelque philosophe (σοφος dans sa première et vraie acception) et qu’il ait pitié de moi qui suis un vrai philosophe (σοφω au lieu de σοφος). […] Quand on ne peut pas tout dire il vaut mieux se taire. Cependant si ita est in fatis, j’écrirais consciencieusement ma vie ou Histoire de ma Pensée (les matériaux sont tout prêts) et après ma mort l’on verra si c’est moi qui doit rougir de ma misère spirituelle d’aujourd’hui ou si ce sont d’autres. […] Je suis dans la persuasion que le suicide est immorale [sic] et contraire aux desseins de la providence que j’adore, et comme une révolution de la créature contre son créateur.

81 Translators’ note: the French term ‘esprit’ (here and elsewhere translated as ‘mind’) can be rendered in English either as ‘spirit’ or ‘mind’.

82 “Comme mon esprit ne me présente pas pour à présent de quoi remplir cette lettre = Je met mon âme en train de babiller = Je n’ai jamais aussi étudié l’homme que depuis que je suis en état de moins le comprendre c.a.d. depuis que je suis en Abyssinie éloigné de tous les moyens qui pourraient m’aider dans la recherche de la vérité. Lorsque j’étudiais la psychologie quelques unes des preuves qu’on y rapporte en faveur de spiritualité [sic] de l’âme humaine me semblaient des démonstrations. Toujours est-il au moins ce que dit Sherloch qu’il est plus facile de prouver la spiritualité de l’âme que sa matérialité. Je n’en doute pas aujourd’hui et je n’en douterai jamais peut-être. Mais lorsque j’examine mon âme, je vois que la dépendance du corps est si grande, qu’il semble qu’elle n’ait pas un principe de vie à soi. Je sais tout ce que disent les anatomistes sur les merveilles du système nerveux qui n’est presque jamais entièrement sujet à l’empire de l’âme. Mais venons à la pensée. Descartes est beau avec ses idées innées. Mais mes maîtres et mes observations m’ont fait croire que nous n’avons que des idées acquises (acquisite) ou fictives (fittizie) c’est-à-dire des idées composées de celles qu’on avait déjà acquis par les sens. Aussi il m’est presque impossible de m’imaginer un être immense sans étendue, une éternité sans succession càd sans temps etc etc parce que mes sens ne m’ont rien appris qui valut cela. Or si mon âme avait un principe de vie à soi, si elle était spirituelle, elle devrait me savoir dire quelque chose sur la nature de l’esprit, et sur ce qui se passe hors de la matière et du temps. D’ailleurs comment un esprit peut être empêché par des parois matérielles de comprendre au moins ce qui se passe autour de lui ? C’est la volonté du Créateur, voilà la seule réponse, qui a fait croire à quelqu’un que notre âme n’est qu’un ange méchant renfermé dans le corps comme dans une prison jusqu’à ce qu’il ait expié ses fautes. […] Je vous disais autrefois que je pourrais faire un roman et rien de plus. Je pourrais aussi faire des hypothèses... C’est assez des rêves.

83 The passage on the spirituality of the soul can be found in chapter 11: [...] nothing perishes, everything changes; the intangible germs of animals and plants subsist, grow, and perpetuate species. Why wouldn’t you want God to preserve the principle that makes you act and think, whatever its nature might be? God keeps me from making a system, but surely there is something in us that thinks and wants: that something, which was once called a monad, is imperceptible. God has given it to us, or perhaps, to put it more accurately, God has given us to him. (“[...] rien ne périt, tout change ; les germes impalpables des animaux et des végétaux subsistent, se développent, et perpétuent les espèces. Pourquoi ne voudriez-vous pas que Dieu conservât le principe qui vous fait agir et penser, de quelque nature qu’il puisse être ? Dieu me garde de faire un système, mais certainement il y a dans nous quelque chose qui pense et qui veut : ce quelque chose, que l’on appelait autrefois une monade, ce quelque chose est imperceptible. Dieu nous l’a donné, ou peut-être, pour parler plus juste, Dieu nous a donnés à lui.”) The original French text is available in full transcription and free of charge on wikisource [accessed 7 May 2012], and the 1775 edition is also digitized and available on the archive.org portal [accessed 7 May 2012].

84 “Monsieur, j’ai relu cette lettre et je l’ai trouvée extrêmement hétéroclite. […] Je vous disais autrefois que je suis devenu fou, or on peut passer à un fou des sottises bien plus extravagantes que celles-ci.

85 “Ce n’est pas peu de chose que d’être content de Dieu et de l’Univers. Tous les peuples ont reconnu d’un commun accord qu’il existe un Dieu dont la sagesse gouverne l’Univers. Le ciel pardonne tout hors l’inhumanité.

86 Note on fol. 63.

87 The loneliness which I find myself in here has forced me to examine or rather to hypothesize whether there is a way to be happy with God and the Universe. Because without that it would have been better for me not to have come out of nothingness. I didn’t want to examine first whether or not there is a God. I have too much interest in believing that there is a God and a providence. Without it I myself am nothing, and everything is nothing... and I don’t exist... and I don’t care about anything else. A God is a Providence. With this foundation laid down as a proven principle, I have had to make many long examinations and strange hypotheses to attune this God and this Providence with the present order of the Universe, and in order to be satisfied with it. All the old stories, while seeking to attune this order with this providence, in fact only made my discord grow stronger. I rejected everything, not as false or dubious, but because it did not satisfy me. I thought I saw another agreement that satisfied me, and according to this agreement I will make my profession of faith, which will be too long to be added here, even in abridged form. You will have it sooner or later (“La solitude où je suis ici m’a contraint à l’examen ou plutôt à des hypothèses pour voir s’il y a un moyen d’être content de Dieu et de l’Univers. Car sans cela il vaudrait mieux pour moi ne pas être sorti du néant. Je n’ai pas voulu examiner d’abord s’il y a ou non un Dieu. J’ai trop d’intérêt à croire qu’il y a un Dieu et une providence. Sans cela moi-même je ne suis rien, et tout n’est rien... et je n’existe pas... et je me f. bien de tout le reste. Un Dieu est une Providence. Ce fondement posé comme un principe démontré, j’ai dû faire bien de longs examens et d’étranges hypothèses pour accorder ce Dieu et cette Providence avec l’ordre actuel de l’Univers pour en être content. Tous les vieux récits, tout en voulant faire accorder cet ordre avec cette providence ne faisaient à chaque pas que m’en rendre le désaccord plus sensible. J’ai rejeté tout, pas comme faux ou douteux, mais parce qu’il ne me contentait pas. J’ai cru voir un autre accord qui me contente et selon cet accord je ferai ma profession de foi qui sera trop longue pour être ajouter ici même en abrégé. Vous l’aurez tôt ou tard”), letter to Antoine, Easter 1854, NAF 23852, fol. 51-54.

88 “Mais je suis un extravagant, un fou. Je pourrais enfanter un roman, rien de plus.”, letter to Antoine, Easter 1854.

89 “Personne ne m’a instruit ni fait instruire. On n’a fait qu’empêcher ou retarder le développement de mon esprit. Je crois avoir sur Dieu et sa providence des idées très justes et j’ai l’orgueil de ne les avoir reçues de personne. J’ai été moi-même mon maître. Je ne dois rien à l’Italie.”

90 Letter of 18 September 1853: May my wishes reach the heart of some philosopher (σοφος in its first and true sense) and may he have mercy on me, I who am a true philosopher (σοφω instead of σοφος). [...] When one cannot say everything, it is better to keep quiet. However, if ita est in fatis, I will conscientiously write my life or History of my Thought (the materials are ready) and after my death we will see if it is me who should blush at my current spiritual misery or if others should.” (“Que mes vœux parviennent au cœur de quelque philosophe (σοφος dans sa première et vraie acception) et qu’il ait pitié de moi qui suis un vrai philosophe (σοφω au lieu de σοφος) […] quand on ne peut pas tout dire il vaut mieux se taire. Cependant si ita est in fatis, j’écrirais consciencieusement ma vie ou Histoire de ma Pensée (les matériaux sont tout prêts) et après ma mort l’on verra si c’est moi qui doit rougir de ma misère spirituelle d’aujourd’hui ou si ce sont d’autres.”)

91 Letter of 15 September 1854.

92 Two exceptions are known, the monk Pāwlos’ notes (C. Conti Rossini, 1918) and the Miracles of Mary written by rās Sem’on – writings which are partly autobiographical or at least concern the self (Getatchew Haile, 2005). These texts are also known as single copies and are not cited in other texts, much like the Ḥatatā. But none of them makes such extensive use of the first person singular. As for the biographical genre, we find lives of saints written by their followers or, to a different extent, lives and deeds of rulers. These two genres abide by precise, formal criteria, and Zar’a Yā’eqob’s narrative stands out very clearly. We shall return to these questions in the second part of our ’investigation into an investigation’.

93 “J’ai trouvé un livre étrange en Abyssinie. C’est une espèce de roman ou histoire biographique écrite par un philosophe déiste du temps des Portugais. […] Il me semble intéressant pour l’histoire du temps et pour la nouveauté du genre en Abyssinie, letter of September 1852.

94 “remarquable encore par sa grande naïveté, par les détails de mœurs qu’elle contient et par des notions d’histoire contemporaine qu’on cherche en vain ailleurs. L’auteur parle de l’expulsion des Portugais, et flétrit Fasiladas plus sévèrement que ne l’ont jamais fait les jésuites victimes de ce roi, A. d’Abbadie, 1859, p. 212-213.

95 “Comme mon n° 215 était l’ouvrage le plus curieux de sa collection, le père Juste, craignant que ce livre rare ne s’égarât, en fit cette transcription qu’il m’envoya par la poste.”

96 G. Massaja, vol. 2, p. 103-104.

97 I am beginning to realize that I am eating the mission’s income given how little I do for it compared to my companions; for I was born to write rather than to teach the spoken word. My Ethiopic writings will undoubtedly have their effects, but it will be too late (“Je commence à me faire conscience de manger les revenus de la mission vu le peu que je fais pour elle vis à vis de mes compagnons, car je suis fait plutôt pour écrire que pour enseigner la doctrine parlée. Mes écrits éthiopiques auront sans doute leurs effets, mais il sera trop tardif”), letter of January 1854, NAF 23852.

98 C. Bosc-Tiessé, and A. Wion, 2010, p. 114.

99 E. Littmann, 1904, reprinted 1961.

100 B. Turaev, 1904.

101 E. Littmann, 1904, preface p. 1.

102 E. Littmann, 1916.

103 B. Turaev, 1903. We have not been able to access the original and this article is known to us only through a French translation made for and communicated by C. Sumner.

104 “indigène éduqué et pensant dont l’esprit n’était pas touché par la culture européenne mais qui était cependant du point de vue culturel beaucoup plus élevé que ses contemporains”.

105 T. Nöldeke, 1905; W. Weyh, 1906.

106 K. Bezold, 1907.

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Titre Giusto d’urbino in Ethiopia, mid-19th c.
Crédits Anaïs Wion
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Anaïs Wion, « The History of a Genuine Fake Philosophical Treatise (atatā Zar’a Yā‘eqob and atatā Walda eywat). Episode 1: The Time of Discovery. From Being Part of a Collection to Becoming a Scholarly Publication (1852-1904) »Afriques [En ligne], Débats et lectures, mis en ligne le 18 octobre 2021, consulté le 04 décembre 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/afriques/3178 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/afriques.3178

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Anaïs Wion

CNRS Research Fellow, Institut des Mondes Africains (IMAF)

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