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Ethiopian Prayer Book
[Prayer book for Shabbat and holidays that are reckoned by the moon, prayers for burials and for difficult times]
Asforegie (Dabat District, Gondar Province), Ethiopia, 178?

This is a manuscript copied during the reign of Ras Ali Yejju, Ras of Begemder who is reputed to have found the town of Debre Tabor. The manuscript is printed on goatskin parchment and bound in wooden pasteboard. The language is Geez, a south Semitic language that developed in the Ethiopian Highlands of the Horn of Africa as the language of the peasantry. It later became the language of the Ethiopian imperial court. Today Ge'ez is the principal language used in the liturgy of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church, and of the Ethiopic Catholic Church. It is also still in use by the Beta Israel Jewish community of Ethiopia for their scriptures and liturgy.

Ge'ez is to Ethiopia as Latin is to the west. Ge'ez, like Latin, was not used as a spoken language for a very long time. But like Latin, Ge'ez is the precursor of Ethiopia's three major Semitic languages. Ge'ez ceased to be used as a spoken language most likely a short time before the tenth century CE. Nonetheless, it is being used today as the "liturgical language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and was the only official written language of Ethiopia practically up to the end of the nineteenth century." Hetzron, Robert, ed. The Semitic languages. New York : Routledge, 1997.
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