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Walters Ms. W.838, Ethiopian canon tables

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Shelf mark



Ethiopian canon tables

Text title
Canon tables


Authority name: Eusebius, Caesariensis, Bishop of Caesarea, ca. 260-ca. 340


This fragmentary manuscript, comprised of four canon tables spread over one bifolium, would originally have been the introductory pages of a fourteenth- or early fifteenth-century Gospel book. Written in the Lake Tana region of Ethiopia, the pages contain canons I-V, which relate the concordance of the Gospels through a chart in which each number corresponds to a Gospel passage, a system originally created by Eusebius of Caesarea in the early fourth century. The numbers here, in keeping with a long tradition, are placed within an arcade of brightly decorated columns and arches. Common within Ethiopian canon table decoration are the curtains, which hang from the sides of the columns, and the interlace-filled arches adorned with birds. These pages provide an excellent example of Ethiopian canon table illumination from the early Solomonic period.


Late 14th or early 15th century CE


Lake Tana, Ethiopia






The primary language in this manuscript is Geez.

Support material


Heavy yellowed parchment


Foliation: i+2+i

It is a bifolium with modern parchment flyleaves


Formula: i, 1(2), i

Catchwords: None

Signatures: None



25.5 cm wide by 35.0 cm high

Written surface

23.0 cm wide by 29.5 cm high

  1. Dimensions refer to overall decorated surface

fols. 1r - 2v:
  1. Title: Canon tables
  2. Contents: The extant canons are I-V
  3. Decoration note: Four architectural tables comprised of two columns and one large arch with birds above, decorated with geometric and knot patterns in green, yellow, and orange; inscriptions and canon numbers in black ink


fol. 1r:

  1. W.838, fol. 1r
  2. Title: Canon table
  3. Form: Full-page miniature
  4. Text: Eusebian canon I

fol. 1v:

  1. W.838, fol. 1v
  2. Title: Canon table
  3. Form: Full-page miniature
  4. Text: Eusebian canon II

fol. 2r:

  1. W.838, fol. 2r
  2. Title: Canon table
  3. Form: Full-page miniature
  4. Text: Eusebian canons III and IV

fol. 2v:

  1. W.838, fol. 2v
  2. Title: Canon table
  3. Form: Full-page miniature
  4. Text: Eusebian canon V



Housed in a modern portfolio of heavy archival paper


Originally created as part of a Gospel book in the Lake Tana region of Ethiopia, late fourteenth or early fifteenth century

Joseph and Margaret Knopfelmacher collection, acquired in Addis Ababa ca. 1960


Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Knopfelmacher, 1996


Holbert, Kelly, ed. Ethiopian Art: The Walters Art Museum. Baltimore: Trustees of the Walters Art Gallery, 2001, pp. 102-103, cat. no. 13.

"Canon tables," in Siegbert Uhlig, ed., Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, Vol. I. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2003, pp. 680-681.


Principal cataloger: Getatchew Haile, .

Cataloger: Herbert, Lynley

Editor: Herbert, Lynley

Conservators: Owen, Linda; Quandt, Abigail

Contributors: Bockrath, Diane; Emery, Doug; Isaac, Ephraim; Noel, William; Tabritha, Ariel; Toth, Michael B.


The Walters Art Museum


Licensed for use under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Access Rights, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/legalcode. It is requested that copies of any published articles based on the information in this data set be sent to the curator of manuscripts, The Walters Art Museum, 600 North Charles Street, Baltimore MD 21201.