Ethiopia has a land area roughly five times that of Great Britain. In 2000 the population was just under 63 million with about 45% being Christian, the majority of these belonging to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
The Ethiopian Church has a very long history with Christianity being adopted as the state religion in the fourth century. By the end of the fifth century missionaries from Syria, shown as the Nine Saints in church art, had established many monasteries in the north of the country. By the end of the seventh century the conquest of Egypt by the Arabs largely isolated Ethiopia from the rest of the Christian world. This isolation, together with the difficulty of travelling in such a mountainous country, has meant that Ethiopia has been subject to very few external influences.
It is likely that biblical texts were first translated from Greek into Ge’ez, the classical language of northern Ethiopia, in the fifth century. These texts have subsequently been copied by scribes using techniques that appear to have changed very little up until the present day and it is this that should make the study of Ethiopian bookmaking so important for modern scholars. It was not until the twentieth century that any of the books were widely available in printed form and, until a few years ago, the Sinksar (Synaxarium - a very large compendium of biographies of the Saints with notices of the festivals and fast days) only existed in manuscript form.