The library at Meshed / Mashhad in Iran — unknown classical texts!

Let me direct you all to the comments on my earlier post about the discovery of some lost portions of Galen’s On my own books here.  The material is in Arabic translation, and found in a manuscript in Iran, at the library of Meshed.  I’d never heard of it!

A commenter has dug into the question and produced gold!  It seems that there are other unpublished texts there, including a mathematical commentary by Hypatia on Diophantus.  The library is now in a brand new building as well and has a website.

If you know Arabic and want to discover new classical texts, you need to visit Meshed / Mashhad.

8 Responses to “The library at Meshed / Mashhad in Iran — unknown classical texts!”


  1. ikokki

    This is wonderful news. Nothing by Hypatia had survived! All we really knew about her was what some late antiquity historians mentioned. The rest was projection by anticlerical groups of their desires into the past

  2. Roger Pearse

    I think so too! And yet … where is the interest? Does anyone know, even?

  3. Maureen

    Well, apparently it has been a hot argument as to whether it’s A) more Diophantus, B) Hypatia commenting on Diophantus, or C) none of the above. Some guy published about this back in 1968 and I guess they argued about it in the 1970′s and such, but maybe it was mostly a mathematician fight instead of a patristics/classicists fight?

  4. Maureen

    Well, apparently it has been at some time a hot argument as to whether it’s A) more Diophantus, B) Hypatia commenting on Diophantus, or C) none of the above. Some guy published about this back in 1968 and I guess they argued about it in the 1970′s and such, but maybe it was mostly a mathematician fight instead of a patristics/classicists fight?

  5. Maureen

    Apparently many valuable manuscripts from throughout Iran have been moved around and transferred to and from “national libraries” in Tehran. Apparently the Malik Museum’s library has a lot of stuff, and so does the National Parliament’s library. Still not seeing a good catalog online, though.

    There seem to be book-form lists of various Iranian libraries’ mss holdings, and apparently various foreign dignitaries (associated with libraries) have been given them.

  6. Maureen

    The other libraries seem to have manuscript catalogs online, of some sort, but Google doesn’t do Farsi — and it doesn’t seem to do Arabic very well, either.

    The special value of the shrine library is that, under this waqf system of donation (apparently modelled on the Jewish corban), donated books belong to God (and the shrine) and cannot be sold away or destroyed (by anybody but Allah, anyway). But this does seem to create an Iranian library culture at other libraries, that is pretty enthused about getting all the donations of mss and rare books that they can get. (As opposed to many libraries in the world that have trouble finding places to put things, and so only accept donations they can use; or deaccession unwanted bits of donated collections.)

  7. Maureen

    Aeh, I’m an idiot. Google Translate does have Farsi, but it’s listed as “Persian”; but depending on the website, it can be even more at a beginning level than their Arabic. Gibberish with occasional sense poking out.

    The Iranian National Library does have at least some of its mss and rare book collection digitized. It’s on a site called their “Digital Library” (http://dl.nlai.ir/UI/Forms/Index.aspx), which does seem to work pretty well with Translate. If you click on the front page link for “Manuscripts”, you get to a bunch of digitalized stuff. Unfortunately it’s just browsing straight through if you’ve got no search terms, but a determined parallel use of the website and Translate’s version of webpages would probably work out.

  8. Roger Pearse

    This is very useful – thank you! I’m very tied up, but I want to pursue this.