Ethiopic Magic Scrolls

in the

Princeton University Library


Professor David Appleyard,
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS),
University of London


Robert Garrett Collection of Ethiopic Magic Scrolls (in C0744)

Princeton Ethiopic Magic Scrolls (in C0776)
Manuscripts Division

Department of Rare Books
Special Collections

Princeton University Library



Bruce Willsie Collection of Ethiopic Magic Scrolls (C0943)

Background History

The Princeton University Library holds more than 300 Ethiopic magic scrolls, which are illustrated textual amulets designed to be worn on the body or otherwise use for personal protection and healing. These manuscripts are written in Ge’ez, the sacred and liturgical language of Coptic Christians in Ethiopia. The magic scrolls date from the 18th to 20th centuries, but most are from the 19th century. The principal group is part of the Robert Garrett Collection (C0744): magic scrolls nos. 1-162. Robert Garrett (1875-1961), Class of 1897, acquired these magic scrolls and other Ethiopic manuscripts in the early decades of the 20th century, chiefly from Enno Littmann (1875-1958), Professor of Oriental Languages at the University of Tübingen and an eminent authority on the languages and literatures of Ethiopia and the Near East. Garrett donated his Ethiopic manuscripts and scrolls along with the bulk of his collection to the Library in 1942. A modest number of Ethiopic mag ic scrolls acquired after 1942 are part of the collection of Princeton Ethiopic Magic Scrolls (C0776): magic scrolls nos.163-165, 167-187. Bruce C. Willsie, Class of 1986, has donated a substantial collection (C0943): Willsie magic scrolls nos. 1-119. Professor David Appleyard,. School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, is describing these three collections as part of an ongoing library project undertaken with generous grant support from the David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Project.

Research Services

All descriptions and photographs are the property of  the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. For photoduplication services, access and use, please see

For all other inquiries, please contact:

Department of Rare Books and Special Collections
Princeton University Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, New Jersey 08544 USA

Tel: (609) 258-3184
Fax: (609) 258-2324


This preliminary checklist was compiled by Teresa T. Basler and is based on existing descriptions, contributed in whole or in part by various curators and scholars, including Alfred Bush, Michael D. Coe, Monroe Edmondson, J. B. Glass, Michael G. Owen, David Carrasco, Norman McQuown, David Wright, and Don C. Skemer.

Photography work was done by John Blazejewski with the assistance of AnnaLee Pauls. Web work by John Delaney. Editorial assistance was provided by Matthew Fisher.