LUDOLF, Hiob. A new history of Ethiopia. Being a Full and Accurate Description of the Kingdom of Abessinia. Vulgarly, though erroneously called the Empire of Prester John. In four Books. Wherein are contained, I. An Account of the Nature, Quality, and Condition of the Country; and Inhabitants; ... II. Their political Government; the Genealogy and Succession of their Kings; a description of their Court, ... III. Their Ecclesiastical Affairs; their Conversion to the Christian Religion, and the Propagation thereof, their Sacred Writings, ... IV. Their private Oeconomy, their Books and Learning, their common Names, ... Illustrated with Copper Plates. By the learned Job Ludolphus, ... Made English, by J. P. Gent. London, Printed for Samuel Smith Bookseller, at the Prince's Arms in St. Paul's Church-yard, 1682.
Folio. Slightly later English mottled calf, spine with raised bands and red morocco lettering-piece; pp. [viii], 88, 151-370, 375-398, eight engraved plates (7 folding), engraved table of the alphabet and genealogical folding table, erratic pagination, but complete; hinges worn and with repairs, a little browning or spotting in places, a few tiny wormholes initially; provenance: 19th-century bookplate of Broughton Baptist Library inside front cover.
First English edition, first issue, of the Historia Aethiopica. Ludolf (1624-1704), the father of modern Ethiopian studies, 'the most illustrious name in Ethiopic scholarship [...] who, by his massive contributions to the study of Ge'ez, Amharic, and Abyssinian history, may justly be called the founder of Ethiopian studies in Europe' (E. Ullendorff The Ethiopians London: 1965, p. 9) was born in Erfurt, where he studied medicine and law, as well as Oriental languages and literature, graduating in Law in 1645. He then continued his philological studies at the University of Leiden, before travelling widely throughout Europe, returning to Erfurt in 1651, to enter the service of Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg; whilst in Rome, Ludolf had met four Ethiopian monks, one of whom, abba Gorgoryos, became his teacher and principal source of information on the country. From this point, Ludolf continued his scholarly pursuit of the Ethiopian languages in combination with a series of diplomatic and political appointments, which drew upon his knowledge of both Ethiopian and European languages and cultures, and included an attempt on Emperor Leopold I's behalf to forge an alliance with Ethiopia against the Ottoman Empire in 1697.
'The land of Ethiopia had long fascinated Europeans, not merely as an exotic and foreign land full of strange beasts, as evidenced by the incredibly ferocious looking hippo portrayed in this volume ..., but also as an ancient and independent Christian empire beyond the realms of Islam which hemmed them in. It had adopted Christianity in the 4th century A.D. but had been cut off from Western Europe by the spread of Islam across northern Africa and the Middle East. In the Middle Ages the myth of Prester John, a powerful Christian prince and potential ally against the Muslim world, grew in the minds of Europeans, and when contacts were reestablished with Ethiopia in the 15th century it seemed to fit the bill. When the Portuguese sent military aid, to counter Islamic threats to their trading interests in the region in the 16th century, Jesuit missionaries followed them. They became so influential at court that they converted the Emperor and became a threat to the native Monophysite church, leading to their expulsion in 1632' (Edmund Castell, St. Johns College, Cambridge, online).
Wing L3469; ESTC R9778.