Haile Selassie I - Anecdotes

The Library of Enrico Cerulli

“I had travelled to Ethiopia via Rome and had visited Enrico Cerulli (born 1898), the greatest living master of Ethiopian studies, scholar, diplomat, and proconsul. In that last capacity he had been Vice-Governor General of Ethiopia during two years of the short-lived Fascist occupation. (…) He was then (and, for that matter, has remained ever since) one of the very few foreigners to possess a fluent command of Amharic. When I was received by the Emperor during my 1958 visit, one of his first questions was about Cerulli. In fact, this was the occasion of a royal repartee which I remember very clearly. His Majesty had asked me about my library of Ethiopian books; I told him that it was quite good but could not compare with Cerulli’s splendid collection. ‘Ah’, he replied, ‘but you have bought your books !’ (irso gin matsahifton baganzab gaztawal – in the rather more telling Amharic original).”

(Taken from “The Two Zions”, E.Ullendorff, Oxford 1988, p. 202-203)