“...It was during the era of the European conquests and colonization of the African continent, that renewed interest by scholars in the legendary country of "Prestor John" began. Fragmentary accounts and oral reports of a remote Christian kingdom in the heart of Africa amidst a sea of pagan nations, captured the imagination of several European explorers. Both Spain and Portugal hoped to find in this kingdom a possible ally against Islam and the rising power of the Ottomans.
One of the earliest collections of documents of the country of the "Negus" (King) came through the writings of Francisco Alvarez, official envoy which Emanuel, King of Portugal, sent to David, King of Ethiopia, under Ambassador Don Roderigo De Lima. In the papers concerning this mission, Alvarez included an account of the King of Ethiopia, and a description in Portuguese of the habits of the Ethiopians, which was printed in 1533.
In the first quarter of the 16th century, PN Godinho published some traditions about King Solomon and his son Menyelek, derived from the KEBRA NAGAST. Further information about the contents of the KEBRA NAGAST was supplied by Baltazar Tillez (1595-1675), the author of the Historia General de Etiopia Alta (Coimbra, 1660). The sources of his work were the histories of Manuel Almeida, Alfonson Mondez and Jeronimo Lobo.
Among the most complete, and least known, translations of the KEBRA NAGAST, is the exhaustive work of Enrique Cornelio Agrippa (1486-1535) Historia de las cosas de Etiopia (Toledo, 1528)--a greatly amplified account. Agrippa was an alchemist, expert in magical sciences and Cabala, and physician to the King; he resided in the courts of Maximilian I and of Charles V; eventually he suffered imprisonment in Grenoble by order of Francis I, where he died.
Additional information on Arabic additions to the original narratives of the KEBRA NAGAST was included by the Jesuit priest Manuel Almeida (1580-1646) in his Historia de Etiopia which does not appear to have been published in its entirety. Manuel Almeida was sent out as a missionary to Ethiopia, and had abundant opportunity to learn about the KEBRA NAGAST at first hand, owing to his excellent command of the language. His manuscript is a valuable work. His brother, Apollinare, also went out to the country as a missionary and was, along with his two companions, stoned to death in Tigre.