Modern Education Development, Challenges and Current State in Eritrea (1839 to 2016)

Part 2. The flourishing publications in the late of the 19th century and early of the 20th century

Compiled and researched by Resoum Kidane  

Pt. 2b.Beginning of modern Eritrean printed literatures: Religious publications.

After Johannes Gutenberg combined mechanical moveable type, a new oil-based ink and a wooden hand press to create the printing press in the mid-fifteenth century, this new technology spread rapidly across Europe and later introduced in Eritrea by the Catholic Mission in Massawa, 1863, and the Geez inscription started to appear  in modern printed literature in the late 19th century.

After printing presses were introduced in Eritrea, by the Catholic Mission in Massawa, the Lazarist Missionary Lorenzo Bianceri published Catechism in Amharic in the Eritrea port city of Massawa in 1864.  As a continuation of this development in 1885/1886 the Swedish Evangelical Mission set up a printing press in Menkula in Eritrea to print religious books, but later the print press which was owned by the Swedish Evangelical Mission transferred to Massawa 1895

Negash adds that 1896 the press published Dr. K. Winqwist’s “printed version” of the Tigrinya alphabet, which was a major event in the history of the language, as it opened the way for continued publications. It was also this same press that started publishing the first Tigrinya newspaper, MelEkhti Selam (the Message of Peace) in 1909.

Apart from the Catholic Mission and Swedish Evangelical Mission set up a prniting press, the Italian also established a secular printing press at Massawa this was when they transferred their base to Massawa from Assab. From 1885–1897, Massawa served as the capital of the region, before Governor Ferdinando Martini moved his administration to Asmara [weki]

Gabra-Egziabher Gila Maryam was one of those a schola from the first generation who started the first Tigrinya newspaper " ሓደ ጋዜጣ ኣስመራ" in 1888 and 1889. The newspaper was written by hand as there was no printing press. source

1891 the Italian began to publish propoganda material in Eritrea and El Eritereo, the Italian newspaper was launched in Eritreain 1891. During this period other publication about Tigrinya and Tigre language and culture were published in Europe. To mention a few of them: in 1891 Manuel de langue Tigrai was published by J. Schreiber in Vienna, 1894, An Italian-Tigrait Dictionary prepared 1894, 1895 Grammatica elementare della lingua tigrigna was published by De Vito, L in Rome, this publication also available from SOAS, London; Hagos Tekeste compiled a 195 page in 1903 Tigrinya-Italian-Arabic dictionary . This dictionary has about 4,140 ; 1904 Vocabolario italiano-tigrai was also published by Alfonso Cimino in Asmara Tipografia Della Mission Svendese . in 1915 Dictionnaire de la langue tigraï was published by Coulbeaux, P. S; Schreiber, J. (Jules) in Vienna : In Kommission bei A. Hölder.

.Giyorgis who was a scholar and taught Tigrinya in Naples as well as studying the Italian and Latin languages published a pamphlet in Rome about  his journey to Italy five years earlier [Anon, Wikipedia ]. He was very conscious of his trailblazing role as "the father of Tigrinya literature":in his foreword to the work, he wrote that, "our main drive has been... to furnish those who yearn to learn Tigrinya with material for exercise".The content of the pamphlet indicates that his primary audience, however, was the educated elite of his home country, as it focuses on the author's impressions of the exotic country to which he had travelled.Negash praises the artistic quality of the work, arguing that it is, "endowed with special linguistic mastery and artistic, literary craftsmanship".

Hagos Tekeste also compiled a 195 page Tigrinya-Italian-Arabic dictionary in 1903. This dictionary has about 4,140 Tigrinya entries with Arabic and Italian equivalents.

European missionaries had also greatly contributed to the flourishing of Tigrinya and Tigri publications from the 1890s onwards which  included the first Tigrinya language newspaper in 1909 [3]. Other publications  from the mid-1800s were mostly religious books and dictionaries.

Religious publications.

In 1912 the printing press of the Catholic Mission was moved to Asmara, which was the first printing press in East Africa. Today, this press still functions in Asmara under the name “Francescana Printing Press(”Professor Ghirmai Negash)

During the Aksumites period  with the advent of Christianity many religious work were translated from Greek, Syriac, Coptic, and later also Arabic and written in manuscript. For example, the bible was translated from Greek into Ge’ez. Throughout this period other religious works :Apocrypha (ቅዱሳት መጻሓፍቲ), Doctrines of monasteries (ስርዓተ ገዳምን ሕጊ ምንኩስናን), Liturgy (ጸሎተ ቕዳሴ), Litanies (ዜማ), Religious fictions (ሃይማኖታዊ ልብወለድ) were translated  from Greek and Aramaic (sorya) languages into Geez until the 6th century AD. The Ordeal of Apostles (ገድለ ሃዋርያ) hagiographies (ገድላተ ቅዱሳን) The Eulogy of St Mary (ውዳሴ ማርያም) etc. were also translated  before 12 century. During British Military Adminstration, a number of Ge’ez parchments were taken to England to be found now in the British museum [source Sirak Kbrom ]

In mid of the 19th century mostly religious books  of Evangelicals were published by the Lazarist Missionary and SEM.  For example The four Gospels of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ translated into Tigre-language by Abyssinian debtera Mattoes and revised by the deceased Rev.Mr Isenberg (1806-1864), which was published in Basle, Switzerland at the Mission-Press , 1866 on St. Chrishona at the request and expense of the British and Foreign Bible-Sociery, 1866)". The book is available  in libraries at the School of  Oriental and African Studies in London and online."The four Gospels of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in the Tigrinja language. (Asmara, Printed at the expense and by the request of the British and foreign Bible society, at the Swedish mission-press, 1900. The Tigrinya title is ወንጌል ቅዱስ ናይ ጎይታና ናይ ምድሓኒት ናይ የሱስ ክርስቶስ.This work is of major significance, because it marks the first appearance of the Tigrinyalanguage in book form as well as in a full Geez script (source Abraham Negash)

The first Eritrean educators generation who contributed in the translation of Bible into Tigrinya and Tigre

ስሳን ሹዱሽተን ዓመታት ንሓንቲ መጽሓፍ (ሓጺር ዛንታ ምትርጓም መጽሓፍ ቅዱስ ናብ ቋንቋ ትግርኛ

In 1889 Dawit  Amanuel had  also translated the New Testament and it was resolved that he, Tewolde-Medhin, Roden and Winqvist would review the work, paying  attention to the Greek origin as well as to the Ge’ez and English version [Lundström, 2011, page 226] . Andemariam (2012) also states that Dawit, the man who can rightfully take the credit for pioneering Tegre literature, then produced a grammar book and a dictionary of 8000 words. He also collected a great number of heroic ballads, dirges, epigrams, songs, stories, fables, proverbs and laws of the Tegre.

ቀሺ ገብረታትዮስ ን ቀሺ ማርቆስን ግርማይ(1959-1924)

ንስነ-ጽሑፍ ብዝምልከት፣ ፍረ ጻዕሪ ቀሺ ማርቆስን ቀሺ ገብረታትዮስን እዚ ዝስዕብ ነበረ፥

•-    ብ1897 እተሓትመ መምሃሪ ቛንቋ ትግርኛ፣

•-    ብ1899 እተሓትመ ብሕቶን መልስን ኣቢሉ ንተመሃራይ ወንጌል ዜሰልጥን ጽሑፍ (catechism)፣

•-    ብሚያዝያ 1900 እተዳለወ ቀዳማይ ሕታም ናይቲ "የሰላም መልእክት" ዝስሙ መጽሄት (ድሓር "መልእኽቲ ሰላም" እተሰምየ)፣

•-    ብታሕሳስ 1900 እተሓትመ ናይ ትግርኛ መጽሓፍ መዝሙር read more

Tewolde-Medhin  translated much of the Bible and assisted. J. Kolmodin in compiling an important collection of Eritrea folktales and oral history. [Connell, 2010, page 509]   Tewolde-Medhin   spoke 12 languages: Tigryna, Tigre, Geez, Arab, English, Italian, German, Swedish, Greek, Latin, Amharic and [old Hebrew]

Between 1900 and 1915 the Bible was translated into Tigrinya and Tigre by the first educator generation, the entire New Testament in Tigre was published in 1902, a revised version later published in 1934 adopted spelling rules Täwäldä-Mädhin . A. Kolmodin who was the first evangelical Eritrean ordinated, Täwäldä-Mädhin Gäbru and Dr. Karl Winqvist transled the New Testament into Tigrinya, which was published in 1909

Mr Bairu Uqbit [father of Tedla Bairu] also translated of John Bunyan's " Piligrms Progress" in 1926, the early New Testament in collaborarion with Embet Eksie, in 1934, and several song in the Tigrinya Book of Hymns. Bairu also translated a book on Christianity in 1935.


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