If you wish to learn the literature of a people, a good place to start is their histories of themselves. For Arabic Christian literature – the literature of the Christian peoples occupied by the Muslims in the 7th century, there are five such histories. I have done some work on Agapius and Eutychius.
But the world history from the Creation to his own times of al-Makin, a 13th century writer, has remained outside the knowledge of most people. It exists in two parts; the first part taking the story up to the Arab Invasions, and the second part to his own day.
The first part of al-Makin has never been printed, to my knowledge. The second part was badly printed by Erpenius centuries ago from a manuscript which had lost the last section, with a Latin translation. The missing text at the end was printed by Cahen in the 1950’s.
Foolishly, I decided that it ought to be possible to get the whole text transcribed from manuscripts. If an electronic Arabic text existed, then at least we could all use machine translation on it or something.
Unfortunately the project went hopelessly awry, because I was dealing with people in other cultures, who proved intractable. I ended up $600 out of pocket and with nothing that was usable. Somehow my wish to transcribe part 1 became a transcription of part 2. My wish to transcribe from manuscripts turned into a transcription from Erpenius. Unfortunately the PDF of Erpenius was damaged; and getting it fixed was beyond my powers of communication or persuasion, even though the portion to fix was trivial, if you know Arabic letters.
In fact the psychological pain, caused by the stress and frustration in trying to get this done, became so acute that I was obliged to abandon the project. I have never regretted that decision. It was stupid for me to try to deal with foreigners on a text in a language which I do not know using an alphabet that I do not know.
I believe that someone with knowledge of Arabic might fix the transcription in an hour. I could not do so. If anyone would like to do this, I would be grateful. So it seems to me that it might be useful to upload the mangled text, and the PDF, marked up with the fixes, in case anyone does feel like running with it. So here it is:
- Erpenius_with_fixes – small (PDF of the copy of Erpenius from which the transcription was made, with pages that should have been inserted marked in red, and duplicate pages that should not be in the transcription marked also).
- complete Makin (PDF of transcription of Erpenius, complete with errors)
- complete Makin (.doc of transcription)
- cahen1 (PDF of part 1 of original article by Cahen)
- cahen2 (PDF of part 2 of original article)
- cahen1 (.doc) – transcription of Cahen)
I also have PDFs of various manuscripts, about which I have written in other posts (click on the tag for “Al-Makin” at the bottom of this post to see them). Rubbish quality most of them are too! But as more manuscripts come online, it may well be possible to attack this problem again. And it should be done.