Dorset auctioneer Busby makes deal with Ethiopia after Bible looted for sale


A DORSET auctioneer has taken on a new role in international diplomacy after Ethiopia demanded the return of a Bible looted by the British over 150 years ago.

Busby of Bridport was to auction tomorrow a bible and a set of horn goblets which were “illegally obtained” by British forces after the Battle of Magdala in 1868 in ancient Abyssinia.

The objects were once part of the estate of Major-General William Arbuthnot CB (1838-1893) who served in the British expedition to the African nation – and are of “immense cultural, spiritual and historical value” to the Ethiopia, Telegraph reports.

It is understood that the Ethiopian embassy issued a statement calling on Busby for the auction house to distance itself from the lots, estimated at around £ 700, by sending them back to their home country – helping To close a “painful” chapter of injustice, it remains a “scar” on otherwise friendly relations with the United Kingdom.

However, the Echo can now report that the auctioneer today negotiated a deal between the private owner of the items and the Ethiopian Embassy, ​​which were sold to the Embassy for an undisclosed price.

The situation was resolved this morning, when an “amicable” agreement was reached between the two parties according to Busby’s spokesman – the auction house being “satisfied” to have played a role in sales.

This means that items can now be returned to their country of origin – thus helping to strengthen relations between the peoples of Ethiopia and the United Kingdom – which would otherwise be “warm and friendly”.

“We are happy to have been able to help, and both sides are happy to have resolved the situation,” said the spokesperson for Busby.

It is understood that the bible dates from around the 18th century and belonged to the Ethiopian fortress of Magdala before it was plundered by the British – a period of history which would represent a “great injustice” to the Ethiopian people.

Before the deal was reached between the two sides, it was reported that the Ethiopian embassy said it would be “unethical” to profit from any potential sale of the seized items.

Meanwhile, other treasures from the fort are still held by British museums, including the V&A and the British Museum, as well as at Windsor Castle, according to Afromet, the Association for the Return of Ethiopian Treasures from Magdala.


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