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Princeton Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Egyptian Miracles of Mary (PEMM) project

PEMM Update No. 1: Progress Report on 2020

By Wendy Laura Belcher and Evgeniia Lambrinaki

February 12, 2021

Update on progress between February 2020 and February 2021.

PEMM in numbers

The team has accomplished a huge amount of work since the cataloging stage of the PEMM project began a year ago in February 2020. Building on the Macomber cataloging of Ethiopic manuscripts, PEMM has: 

  • 122 manuscripts fully cataloged
  • 54 manuscripts in process or almost complete
  • 13,600 records of individual stories documented
  • 4,250 incipits keyboarded by research assistants
  • 18 new stories added to the list of canonical stories

PEMM story discoveries

One of the main purposes of PEMM is to uncover “new” stories, those that are very rare and previously undocumented, often appearing in only one manuscript. In the 1980s, 13 percent of the stories Macomber identified appeared in only one manuscript. 

As of February 2021, PEMM had uncovered nineteen (19) rare “new” stories (IDs 1052-1070) in seven (7) manuscripts. 

Among these manuscripts, one especially stands out: EMML 6835. Abbot Gabra Maryam wrote this manuscript in the nineteenth century in Däbrä Zämäddo, a monastery in Ethiopia. Professor Getatchew Haile had already identified this manuscript as one worthy of special study and he had translated forty-five unique local miracles, that is, stories of miracles that happened in and around the monastery. 

When the PEMM team began full cataloging of this manuscript’s 221 stories, it turned out the manuscript was packed with other new stories. Many of these were incredibly inventive and detailed expansions of the early stories about the Holy Family. As cataloger Mehari Worku puts it, “this scribe was a creative writer genius!” 

You can read two of those wonderful stories on the PEMM website, including one about 68 dogs who seek justice from the Virgin Mary, Story ID 1068 and 1069. and anot

pricenton ethiopian eritrean & egyptian miracles of marry project

The Princeton Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Egyptian Miracles of Mary (PEMM) project is a comprehensive resource for the 1,000+ miracle stories written about and the 2,500+ images painted of the Virgin Mary in these African countries, and preserved in Geʿez between 1300 and the present.

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