Nafisa Valieva, Gadla Lālibalā (Life of Lālibalā), Ethiopia

Ethiopian manuscript  Gadla Lālibalā (Life of Lālibalā), fourteenth-fifteenth century CE

Gadla Lālibalā (Life of Lālibalā) MS DabṢǝy-001, Dabra Ṣǝyon ʾAbuna ʾAbrǝhām, Garʿāltā, Tǝgrāy, dated to the fourteenth-fifteenth century CE

I would like to present a case study of the physical articulation of the ‘Gadla Lālibalā collection of textual units’. More specifically, I would like to discuss ff. 84v-85r. F. 84v contains an original supplication and a short additional supplication, while f. 85r contains the beginning of the monthly reading from the Gadla Lālibalā for Sane (June-July), when an annual commemoration of Saint King Lālibalā takes place. The chosen example illustrates the rather common practice to structure the text with certain paratextual elements and mise en page, which, however, having been analysed syntactically, appear to reveal an uncommon history/decisions behind the codex.

To date, the ‘Gadla Lālibalā collection of textual units’ is known from 36 manuscript books. The core text of the collection, the Gadla Lālibalā /‘Life of Lālibalā’, which gave name to the entire collection, was apparently compiled with other textual units before the fifteenth century and ceased to circulate alone. The ‘Life of Lālibalā’ is considered the principal source of information on the life and deeds of King Lālibalā, who belonged to the Zagwe dynasty and ruled Ethiopia in the twelfth and thirteenth century CE. The only scholarly yet partial edition of this text was carried out by the French philologist Jules Perruchon in 1892 on the basis of MS BL Orient. 718, of the nineteenth century.