The Library of the Wellcome Institute is devoted to the history of medicine and related sciences. Apart from some 250,000 printed books, it contains about 10,000 manuscripts, half of which are in Oriental languages.
In 1970 I was entrusted with describing the Ethiopian manuscripts belonging to this library. There were 34 of them: 17 mostly of religious content and completely unrelated to the interests of the Institute, 16 magical scrolls, and one manuscript mainly of divinatory content. Without constituting medical manuscripts in the strict sense of the term, the scrolls are designed to combat demons and diseases and to keep people in good health. They can be called magico-medical scrolls and belong to the field of ethnomedicine. The scrolls are written in Gə'az with strong Amharic influence. At the suggestion of Dr. F. N. L. Poynter, Director of the Wellcome Institute, the Wellcome Trust decided to donate the first group of manuscripts to the British Museum, to whom 14 were presented in June 1970 and 3 others in June 1971. All these manuscripts have been described by the present writer in the Catalogue of the Ethiopian manuscripts in the British Museum acquired since 1877 (in preparation). The present catalogue notes contain only the description of the 16 scrolls and the divinatory manuscript.