Three of the items amongst this collection are accompanied by testaments from the donors stating that they were acquired at the Battle of Magdala (Ethiopia) in 1868 (E.Or Mss 461, 462,and 655). A further item, E.Or Ms 651, states within the Ethiopic text that it was formerly the property of the Church of the Saviour of the World (Madḫāne ʿĀlam) at Magdala, and before that the church of Baʾatā of Gʷandar (Gondar).
Additionally, two other items (E.Or Ms 656 and E.Or Ms 673) were given to the University Library in 1869, the donation being connected to a member of the British Expedition to Abyssinia. Records of the Society of Antiquaries, through whom said donation was made, indicate that the individual in question acquired manuscripts at a number of locations whilst travelling overland to Magdala, some of which lie within the borders of modern Eritrea.
Magdala was the seat of Emperor Tewodros II (1855-68), remembered largely as a modernizer, who sought to unify Ethiopia and centralise governance. This included founding a new church and creating a centre for Christian learning at Magdala, to which ends he had gathered religious texts from across Ethiopia, in particular Gondar, assembling a vast library. The British Expedition to Abyssinia was launched in 1868 to secure the release of a group of British prisoners held at Magdala. Punitive measures were taken during the mission, including the citadel being burned to the ground. It is estimated that thousands of manuscripts, liturgical items and other valuable goods from the Magdala treasury were looted. The first-hand accounts in the memoires of those present record the vast scale of this plunder. For details of many such memoires see Rita Pankhurst, "The Library of Emperor Tewodros II at Mäqdäla (Magdala)." Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 36.1 (1973): 15–42.