THE INDIGENOUS & THE FOREIGN
Jesuit Presence in 17th Century Ethiopia
Manuscripts on Ethiopia in the District Archive of Braga
The Braga District Archive keeps important handwritten documentation relating to Ethiopia from the beginning of the 17th century, produced by Jesuit priests of the Catholic mission that remained there until 1634. In addition to a contemporary copy of the History of Ethiopia, by Pedro Páez, consisting of 491 folios sewn into a single volume (ADB Ms. 778), the Archive preserves a collection of Ethiopian annual letters (ADB Ms 779).
This last collection consists of a series of letters sent to the superiors of the Society of Jesus, either by missionaries in Ethiopia or by priests established in Goa, a province on which the Ethiopian mission directly depended.
Unlike what happened with the documentation deposited in the Archives of the Society of Jesus in Rome (ARSI), most of the correspondence kept in Braga remains unpublished and deserves a comparative critical edition. Aurélio de Oliveira published in 1999 a limited and relatively inexpressive selection of this correspondence (Cartas da Etiópia, Braga, A.I. Livraria Editora).
This documentary series includes an autographed letter from the author of the Ethiopian History, Pedro Páez, dated 1608 (fol. 667-668v), it can be seen that the handwriting is similar to that of the ARSI manuscript Ms. Goa 42, providing a complementary proof of the autograph character of that book.
Little is known about the origin of this collection (was it acquired in Portuguese India or Rome?) or about the identity of its owner(s) since they left Ethiopia until they reached the hands of the ambassador and later minister of Foreign Affairs and War António de Araújo de Azevedo, Count of Barca (1754-1817), to whom they were offered, in London, by Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Archive of the Conde da Barca, was acquired from his descendants by the physician Dr. Manuel de Oliveira (1877-1919), and later sold to the Municipality of Braga.
In 1926, the Archive of the Conde da Barca was included in the Braga District Archive .