Ethiopia from Michael Graves-Johnston
Ethiopia from Michael Graves-Johnston.
By Michael Stillman
Recently issued was Catalogue 98 from Michael Graves-Johnston, Ethiopia. A catalogue of books concerning Ethiopia and the surrounding countries of Eritrea and the Somalilands. Ethiopia, or Abyssinia, as it was once called, has a remarkable history. Located on the horn of Africa, it is in the area where humankind likely originated. Fossils place humans on the land millions of years ago (compared to maybe 10,000 years for America). Ancient civilizations on the land are believed to have traded with the Pharaohs of Egypt.
By the fourth century, much of Ethiopia had been converted to Christianity. Most contact with Europe was lost during the Dark Ages, but relations were re-established, notably with Portugal, during the 16th century. During the 19th century era of colonization, when most of Africa fell to the control of European powers, Ethiopia maintained its independence.
Ethiopia had several notable strong leaders who preserved its independence. The somewhat erratic Theodore II in the mid 19th century consolidated central authority, Menelik II fought off an Italian invasion late in the 19th century, routing the European invaders. However, no one is more closely associated with Ethiopia in the West than Haile Selassie. In 1935, the Italians attacked from their neighboring colony of Eritrea. This time, the Ethiopians were overrun, despite Selassie's attempts at defense. However, the Ethiopian Emperor became a world figure when, in exile, he spoke before the League of Nations, asking help for his nation. Little was given, and the world's non-response to Italian Fascists would send the wrong message to Mussolini and his German allies in the years ahead.
With British help, Selassie returned to Ethiopia in 1941 and would rule for another three-plus decades. He became a widely respected world leader, but on the heels of a serious famine, he was overthrown by Communist rebels in 1974 and died under questionable circumstances the following year. Worse famine, brutality, and war with Somalia would follow until the Communists were overthrown in 1991. Finally, there would be the war for Eritrean independence in the 1990s before the relative calm of today.
Graves-Johnston's catalogue includes 669 items pertaining to this long history of Ethiopia and neighboring lands, many written by 19th century visitors when Europe was colonizing most of Africa. However, you will find items from most periods of the land's history. Here are a few examples.
For its opening to the West, item 18 is a Narrative of the Portuguese Embassy to Abyssinia: During the Years 1520-1527 by Father Francisco Alvarez. This was translated and printed by the Hakluyt Society in 1881. Priced at £125 (British pounds, or approximate U.S. equivalent of $249).
Ethiopia from Michael Graves-Johnston
Ethiopians circa 1900 as illustrated by Lazzaro Pasini.
For a look at mid-19th century Ethiopia, there is Mansfield Parkyns' Life in Abyssinia. Published in 1853, it recounts Parkyns' three years in the country from 1843-1846, providing descriptions of the people, customs, and land. Item 478. £375 (US $747).
For the land's natural history, item 77 is Observations on the Geology and Zoology of Abyssinia, made during the progress of the British Expedition to that country in 1867-68. Published in 1870, W.T Blanford reports their findings in three parts, the first a personal narrative of the expedition, the second covering geology, the third zoology. £650 (US $1,296).
A look at dress and daily life circa 1900 is offered by Italian artist Lazzaro Pasini in Usi e Costumi dell'Abissinia... Twelve chromolithographic illustrations are provided. Item 627. £675 (US $1,345).
Item 663 provides a look at Selassie and Ethiopia just before it was finally overrun: Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia. With a brief account of the history of Ethiopia, including the origins of the present struggle, and a description of the country and its peoples. By the Princess Asfa Yilma of the Royal House of Ethiopia, descended from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. This 1935 biography of Selassie's early years from a supporter of the Emperor and national independence is signed by the Princess. £150 (US $299).
Dark days for Ethiopia are given a positive spin in "Behold Our New Empire" -- Mussolini. This 1939 book was written by Louise Diel, a German propagandist, who extols the subjugation of Ethiopia by their Fascist ally. Item 179. £30 (US $60).
The invaders would get no rest. Item 48 is numbers 20-29 of Banderachin, an Amharic language publication of British Military Intelligence from 1940-41. This weekly paper was dropped by air over Italian held Ethiopia, informing the people of Allied advances and encouraging resistance to the Italian invaders. £250 (US $498).
Item 555 offers a post-War biography of the Emperor, now reestablished on the throne: The Lion of Judah Hath Prevailed: Being the biography of His Majesty Haile Selassie I, by Christine Sandford, published in 1955. Mrs. Sandford's husband had led patriotic forces of Ethiopians during the war. £30 (US $60).
Graves-Johnston offers collections of works pertaining to less happy times in the 1970s and 1980s. Item 211 includes twelve pieces dealing with the revolution of 1974 which overthrew Selassie. £150 (US $299). Item 209 has ten pieces pertaining to the famines. £120 (US $239). Item 208 includes fifteen works covering the conflict with Eritrea. £150 (US $299).
The website for Michael Graves-Johnston of London is www.Graves-Johnston.com, telephone 020-7274-2069.