Extracts from Brockelmann’s “History of Arabic literature” – 1

For the last week or so, I’ve been reading sections of vol. 1 of the 2nd edition of Carl Brockelmann’s History of Arabic Literature.  I’m starting to get some idea of what exists, which is the object.  I thought that it might be useful to give some extracts in English here.  Let’s look at some material from the introduction, starting on p.2.  I’ve added links to the books where I could find them online, but if you can find more of them, do let me know!

II. Sources and earlier manuals on the history of Arabic literature.

The most important sources for biography and bibliography for the whole subject, leaving to one side monographs on particular subjects that will be given in their place, are the following:

1. Biographical works.

b. Ḫall. = Ibn Ḫallikān (S. 326), Wafayāt al-A`yān, Būlāq 1299 1) Vitae illustrium virorum, ed. F. Wüstenfeld, Gottingae 1835-40. [vol.1, vol. 15 - there are other vols online] Ibn Khallikans biographical Dictionary translated from the Arabic, by Mac Guckin de Slane, 4 vols. Paris-London 1843—71. [vol.1, vol.2, vol.3, vol.4 I could not find]

Fawāt = M. b. Šākir al-Kutubī (II, 48), Fawāt al-wafayāt, 2 vols. Būlāq 1299.

2. Bibliographical works.

Fihr. = Kitāb al-Fihrist, ed. by G. Flügel, after his death continued by J. Rödiger and A. Müller, 2 vols. Leipzig 1871/2. [I couldn't find this online]

HḪ = Lexicon bibliographicum et encyclopaedicum a Mustapha ben Abdallah Katib Jelebi dicto et nomine Haji Khalfa celebrato compositum, ed. latine vertit et commentario indicibusque instruxit G. Flügel, Leipzig-London 1835-58, 7 vols.  [I could not find vols 1 or 2, vols.3-4, vol. 4, vols.5-6, vol. 6]  Kesf el-Zunun, Birinci Cilt, Katib Celebi elde mevcut yazma ve basma nüshalari ve zeyilleri gözden gecirilerek, müellifin elyazisiyle olan nüshaya göre fazlalari cikarilmak, eksikleri tamamlanmak suretiyle Maarif Vekilligin karari üzerine Istanbul Üniversitesinde Ord. Prof. Serefettin Yaltkaya ile Lektor Kilisli Rifat Bilge tarafindan hazirlanmistir, Maarif Matbaasi 1941.

This is followed by others, of no obvious special use, and then a list of catalogues of manuscripts.  There is a footnote on Ibn Khallikan:

1. As this volume will be cited mainly using the numerals of the Lives, here is a short concordance with that of Wüstenfeld: W. 1-75 = K. 1-75.  Missing in K. are: W. 76, 78, 133, 147, 149, 150, 154, 186-199, 201, 202 (= Fawat I, 145), 213, 214 (= Fawat I, 149), 217, 277, 278 (= Fawat I, 171), 288, 291, 292, 293, 294, 303, 317, 318, 337-347, 364, 380, 381, 528, generally only a single line, occasionally with date of death.  On the other hand 297 K. is missing in W.; 357 was skipped by W. in the count of numbers; 405 W. gives as an appendix to 404 = 367 K. and not separately ennumerated. In the following Lives K. is more detailed than W.: 220 K. = 233 W.; 223 K. = 236 W.; 230 K = 243 233 K. = 246 W.; 248 K. = 261 W.; in the other direction only 242 W. is more detailed than 229 K. On the other hand 181 K. = 186 W.   Because W. reverses the sequence Ha’-Wäw in K., note the following: W. 778-90 = K. 745-57 and W. 791-96 = K. 739-44.

Not that “Wüstenfeld” has been mentioned yet — sloppy editing, this — but fortunately for me I started at the histories, and this was defined at the top of the section, in the middle of p.140, which gave these general sources:

F. Wüstenfeld, Die Geschichtschreiber der Araber und ihre Werke, Abh. d. Kgl. Ges. d. Wiss. zu Göttingen, vols. 28 and 29, 1882/3, (cited as “Wüst.”).

E. Sachau, Studien zur ältesten Geschichtsüberlieferung der Araber, MSOS VII Westas. St. 154/96.  [I could not find this online by title, although it dates to 1905][PS. it's here]

A curiosity appears on p.6, after a long list of catalogues of Arabic manuscripts:

2.  The first attempt to present a complete history of Arabic literature was made by J. Hammer-Purgstall.1)  The shortcomings of this book are so familiar that we may simply ignore it in what follows.  The same is true of Arbuthnot’s work.2)  The short sketch by A. von Kremer 3), however, is masterful and we acknowledge our debt to it.

1. Literaturgeschichte der Araber, von ihrem Beginne bis zu Ende des zwölften Jahrhunderts der Hidschret, 7 vols, Wien 1850-56.  [At Google books: vol.1, vol.2, vol.3, vol.4, vol. 5, vol.6, vol.7]
2. Arabic authors, a Manual of Arabian History and Literature, London, 1890.
3. Kulturgeschichte des Orients unter den Chalifen, vol. II, Wien 1877, p. 341-484.

That’s enough of this highly condensed information for now, I think. All these reference works were very, very rare.  How delighted and excited Dr Brockelmann would have been, to see links to them accessible at the touch of a key!

4 Responses to “Extracts from Brockelmann’s “History of Arabic literature” – 1”


  1. Thomas Rudder

    I wonder how many of those Arabic manuscripts have scrubbed Greek, Coptic, Latin, Christian, etc. texts underneath? This catalog might help to narrow the list of possibilities and provide avenues to locate those that are still extant. Given its scholarly merit, JSTOR might also be interested in your translation?

  2. Roger Pearse

    Interesting question. Some must, I would have thought. But I know nothing about Arabic mss.

    There’s no way that I can translate very much of Brockelmann. I’ve been trying to assemble the material on biographies of Mohammed. It’s awful!

  3. mondain

    Sachau’s Studien is available here.

  4. Roger Pearse

    Thank you very much! — I couldn’t find it myself, but I will update the main post.



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