Monthly Archives: April 2012

Ethiopian “magic scroll”

In March 2012, Special Collections purchased a 20th century Ethiopian “magic scroll.” According to the dealer’s description, it is on parchment, probably goatskin, and in the language of Ge’ez (pronounced guh-UHZ, sometimes known as Ethiopic). It’s about 55 inches long and rolls up to the size of one of Wonder Woman’s wrist cuffs.

The scroll provides healing and protection for the person for whom it was made, and its length often matches the height of that person. (Ours is 55 inches long.)

We don’t know a lot about these scrolls, but according to this book, available at Tutt Library, each one is made for a particular individual, and the scrolls mix elements from Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Another useful source on the topic is Harry Stroomer’s chapter “Magic parchment scrolls from Ethiopia,” available here.

Leaf from a Chinese woodblock book

In March of 2012, Special Collections acquired a single leaf from a 19th century Chinese woodblock printed book. This leaf, mounted on heavy paper, is a bifolium (two-page spread) from the Zizhi Tongjian (Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government), and was probably printed in the 19th century. The first edition of the text was produced in the 11th century using the same kind of printing technology.

We will use this leaf in conjunction with our other manuscript and printed leaves when we talk about the history of the material form of the written word in support of CC’s thematic minor in book studies.