The renewed interest taken in Semitic studies in general within these recent years, and in particular the continued issue from the Press of numerous and important Ethiopic texts, — encourage the hope that an English edition of the leading Ethiopic Grammar may prove not wholly unwelcome to English-speaking students at the present time. Few competent judges will challenge the claim of Dillmann's ‘Grammar’ to be thus described. No doubt a long time has elapsed since its first publication, and much investigation has been applied to the language during the interval; but it may be questioned whether any of the essential principles laid down in Dillmann's work have been affected by these labours, otherwise than by way of confirmation, or whether any facts of really fundamental grammatical importance have been added to our knowledge. Accordingly, although some useful smaller Grammars now exist, — notably the excellent manual published in 1886 by Prof. Praetorius — , the serious student of Ethiopic must still have recourse to Dillmann's work, particularly in the form given to it in the second edition (of 1899) by Prof. Bezold. It is from that edition that the present translation has been rendered.

It is not contended, in the light of recent research, that Dillmann was invariably happy in his frequent excursions into the fascinating but treacherous field of Comparative Semitic; but even when his conjectural etymologies seem farthest astray, they are always stimulating and ingenious. It has been thought right, however, in this connection, to append here and there a cautionary footnote, when the author appears to give play too freely to his imagination. Farther, Dillmann's criticisms of the results obtained by his great predecessor Ludolf are often severe, seldom generous, and occasionally unfair and even inaccurate. Several instances are pointed out in the footnotes. But, with all due deduction made for such blemishes, Dillmann's work remains a monument — second only to his ‘Lexicon’, — of his genius, industry and special erudition. It may be relied on as a safe guide through the mazes of a difficult speech; and as an institutional work, the foremost in its department, it is entitled to a high rank among the leading Semitic Grammars.

Little or no alteration has been made on the text in the course of translation. I have ventured only to cite a few additional examples, in the Syntax, from some of the more recently published Ethiopic works, inserting them either tacitly in the text itself, or avowedly in the footnotes. The somewhat meagre Table of Contents, given in the German edition, has been considerably expanded; and the details have been applied marginally, in their proper places, throughout the book. A few additions have been made in the first of the appended Tables of Forms; and an Index of Passages has been drawn up and placed at the end of the volume. As far as possible, the supporting-passages have been re-verified. In particular the quotations adduced from the important text of Henoch, as edited by Dillmann, have been compared with the corresponding passages in Flemming's more recent and more accurate edition; and the differences, when of any importance, have been pointed out in footnotes ([1]). This course was considered preferable to applying in the body of the work the improved readings presented in Flemming's edition, or the suggestions made by Duensing in his careful discussion of Flemming's Henoch, contributed to the “Gelehrte Anzeigen”, 1903, No. 8 (Göttingen).

It would be difficult to exaggerate my indebtedness to the distinguished scholar who prepared the last German edition, Prof. Bezold of Heidelberg. From the first he took a lively interest in the version. It was submitted to him in manuscript, and his suggestions were attended to. He had the great kindness also to incorporate, at that time, numerous illustrative passages from his admirable edition of the very important text of Kebra Nagast, then passing through the Press, and to enrich the version farther by adding many most useful philological and bibliographical footnotes. I have also to express here my sincere gratitude for the unfailing courtesy and patience with which he lent his invaluable assistance in the reading of the final proofsheets. Prof. Bezold's direct contributions are enclosed in square brackets, both in the text and in the footnotes, — with the exception that I am responsible for a few bracketed words of a purely explanatory nature, which occur here and there in the text. My own footnotes are marked by square brackets enclosing the letters ‘TR’.

I have also to thank the staff of the Drugulin house for the successful accomplishment of their difficult task in printing this edition.


James A. Crichton.



[1] Just as these lines go to the Press, another edition of the text of Henoch, by Prof. Charles, is announced as immediately forthcoming. Dr. Charles has already done excellent work in this field, — witness his elaborate translation and commentary: ‘The Book of Enoch’, Oxford 1893. I am sorry to have missed seeing his edition of the text, in time to compare, in the following pages, as occasion might arise and grammatical interest demand, the readings of this new edition with Flemming's readings.