HMML microfilmed manuscripts in Syriac and Christian Arabic

The Hill Monastic Manuscript Library, under Fr Columba Stewart, has been photographing manuscripts in the East for quite a few years now, and creating microfilms of them.  How necessary this work is, has been shown graphically in recent weeks by the barbaric destruction of Assyrian monuments in Iraq by Muslim thugs, apparently out of sheer savagery.

This evening I learned by accident that the microfilms are being uploaded to Archive.org, as the Center for the Preservation of Ancient Texts, complete with catalogues.  For instance, the catalogue of microfilms of manuscripts from the Coptic Patriarchate is here:

Unfortunately the collection is very badly organised, at least to a newcomer.  Thus I know that manuscripts of the 13th century Christian Arabic writer al-Makin’s History are in this collection.  And indeed a search of the PDF – the online reader is unusable for black and white – reveals a mention of al-Makin, and some mysterious references:

Jirjis aI-Makin Ibn al-‘Amid:

Excerpts from the history of Agapius of Manbij falsely ascribed to him: CMA 7-13-12.
Kitab al-ta’rikh: CMB 8-15; 12-5; 13-3.
Ta’rikh al-Muslimin: CMB 12-16.

Erm, right.  I think we want the second one, the Kitab al-Tarikh.  So what is CMB 8-15?  More to the point, how do I find the microfilm of this on Archive.org?  Here I ran into difficulty.

I learned from the catalogue that CMB means volume B of some other catalogue of the mss of the Coptic Museum.  So far so good.  It looks as if this is connected to the name of the uploaded PDF.  CMD10-8 is https://archive.org/details/CMB10-8, for instance.  So …  no luck with al-Makin, then.

But perhaps it will come.  In the mean time, look around.  There are also Slavonic texts up there.  It is a huge treasure chest – if we can find anything.

A list of translations into Arabic of biblical texts from Graf’s GCAL

Seven years ago I placed online the table of contents to volume 2 of Graf’s GCAL,[1], which lists the original compositions in Arabic by Christian writers up to the 15th century.  I then promptly forgot all about it.

This evening I have been looking at volume 1.  This contains details of the translations into Arabic of Christian material from other languages.  I thought that it might be interesting to give what he says about biblical translations into Arabic.  Few know what exists, after all.

I include the page numbers from Graf, straggly though this makes the content, as it gives an idea of how much material there is under each section.

Complete bibles

Hunain ibn Ishaq         89
Melkite complete bible 89
Coptic complete bible 92
Polyglots of Paris and London 83
Propaganda edition 96
Raphael Tuki 97
Protestant editions 98
Dominican edition (Mosul) 99
Jesuit edition (Beirut)

A. Old Testament

1. Pentateuch translations……………………………101-108 —
by Gaon Saadia………………………………..101
from the Greek…………………………….103
from the Coptic………………………………103
from the Syriac………………………………104
by al-Harit ibn Sinan ibn Sinbat………………….107
from the Latin Vulgate……………………….108
of unknown origin…………………………..108

2. The other historical books…………………………108-114 —
Joshua…………………………………………109
Judges…………………………………………110
Ruth…………………………………………..110
Kings and Chronicles………………………………111
I and II Esdras………………………………..112
Tobit…………………………………………113 Judith…………………………………………113 Esther…………………………………………113 II Maccabees……………………………………114

3. Psalms…………………………………………..114-126 —
Oldest translation…………………………….114
Abu ‘l-Fath ‘Abdallah ibn al-Fadl………………….116
Coptic-Arabic Psalters……………………..119
Psalterium octaplum………………………………120
Roman edition (1614)…………………………121
Edition by Quzhaiya (1610)……………………..121
Other translations from Syriac…………..123
Mozarabic Psalter…………………………….124
Translations from Hebrew………………….124
Translations of unknown origin………………125

4. Job translations………………………………….126-127 —
from a syro-hexaplaric basis………………….126
by Pethion (Fatyun ibn Aiyub)……………………126
from the Syriac………………………………127
from the Coptic………………………………127
of unknown origin…………………………..127

5. Wisdom literature translations………… 127-131 —
from the Septuagint………………………………127
by al-Harit ibn Sinan ihn Sinbat………………….129
by Pethion……………………………………..130
of unknown origin…………………………..130

6. The Prophets translations……………131-137 —
by al-‘Alam……………………………………131
from the Septuagint……………………..133
from the Coptic………………………………133
from the Syriac………………………………134
from the Latin…………………………….136
of unknown origin…………………………..136

B. New Testament 138-185

2. Gospels translations…………………………….142-170 —
from Greek…………………………….142
from Syriac………………………………150
from Coptic………………………………155
in polished prose………………………………163
from Latin…………………………….167
of unknown origin…………………………..169

3. Acts translations…………………………..170-181 —
from Greek…………………………….170
from Syriac …………………………..172
from Coptic ……………………178
from Latin…………………………….179
of unknown origin…………………………..180

4. Revelation translations……………..182-184
from Greek ………………………..182
from Syriac………………………………182
from Coptic………………………………182
of unknown origin…………………………..184

5. Translations and editions of portions of the N.T. in vulgar Arabic dialects………………………………..194

Now that’s slightly more than 100 pages of detailed information.  And it ought to exist in English.  Really it should.

So … why doesn’t it?

  1. [1] Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Litteratur.  The contents may be found here.

The two recensions of al-Makin

There are quite a number of manuscripts of the history by the 13th century Coptic historian al-Makin ibn al-Amid.  I have listed these in a previous post here.  Martino Diez, in his important article on the subject[1] has obtained copies of three of the manuscripts.  This is no small feat in itself, as I can bear witness myself after attempting it. Indeed a look at the prices on the Bodleian website today was quite enough to dissuade me from trying to obtain a copy of any of their manuscripts!  I have commented before on the corruption involved in charging huge sums for reproductions of public-owned manuscripts.

Diez obtained somehow copies of the following:

  • Vatican ar. 168. (16th c.)
  • Bodleian ar. 683. (AD 1591) (=Pococke 312)
  • Paris ar. 4729 (19th c.)

He writes:

Investigation shows that the three manuscripts belong to two different recensions.  One, the shorter, is present in ms. Vat. ar. 168 and in Pococke 312, and the other, longer, preserved in ms. Paris BNF ar. 4729.  The exact relationship between the two recensions seems, on first sight, difficult to establish.

The existence of two families of witnesses was already highlighted by Gaston Wiet in a long note to the History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria.  The French researcher proposed to call the first family the vulgata and assigned to it most of the witnesses, notably Paris BNF ar. 4524, Vat ar. 168 and 169, Borg. ar. 232, and Pococke 312.  All the same, Wiet noted the existence of a second family, “completed and retouched using [the Annals of] Eutychius, such as ms. Paris ar. 4729.”  “This manuscript reveals that its copyist had literary, confessional and chronological concerns: the material of al-Makin is treated very freely.  But the modifications at bottom belonging to the Chronicle [of al-Makin] have not been invented by the copyist.  It is obvious that he worked with a copy of the Annals of Eutychius before him.”  For Wiet, therefore, the vulgata is the original work of Ibn al-Amid, while ms. Paris ar. 4729 (which we will refer to as the “expanded” recension) represents a later elaboration, contaminated from other sources, notably Eutychius, and not without literary ambitions.

In reality the relations between the two recensions are more complicated.  That they are both fundamentally the same work is clear, because of the existence of the same rubrics for people (166 in both recensions), but it is not always the expanded recension that completes the vulgata.  It is not uncommon for the reverse to be the case.  Taken together, the differences are not marginal, especially in certain sections such as the introduction, or the history of Alexander.  The key to understanding this is supplied by the author himself in his preface.  …

Here Diez gives a transcription of the incipit from all three manuscripts and portions of the preface; unfortunately without translation, so of course I cannot follow it.  Then:

The text clearly shows that the vulgata represents an abridgement (muhtasar) of the chronicle, made by the author himself.  He states, in fact, that, after completing a first version of his work, he came into possession of new sources (on the origin of the world, the shape of the world, on the patriarchs, on the kings of Persia) which enriched the treatment of certain periods.  However the work was already too long, and someone, “to whom it was not possible to say ‘no'” (“someone who sought to make his request accepted and to assist in the pursuit of his desire”) asked Ibn-al `Amid to make an abridgement which contained all the best known events.  And this is exactly what is called the vulgata of Ibn-al `Amid.

He then explores what the “expanded” edition is.  Is it indeed the original version, or a longer version, enriched with further information before being condensed?  He argues that it is the former; this is, indeed, the original version produced by al-Makin.  He notes that the titles and explicits of the copies indicate something – again this is not translated so I can’t say what that is! – and then details differences.  Diez does not seem to deal with the question of contamination from Eutychius, however.

If both versions are indeed by the author, any future edition and translation needs to include both.  But clearly there is more work to be done.

  1. [1] Martino Diez, “Les antiquites greco-romaines entre ibn al-`Amid et Ibn Khaldun. Notes pour une histoire de la tradition, in: Studia Graeco-Arabica 3 (2013), 121-140.  Online here.

Graf’s Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur online!

A correspondant kindly drew my attention to an online resource for Islamic manuscripts.  The address is here:

http://www.islamicmanuscripts.info/reference/

The site includes all five volumes of Graf’s GCAL.  It may be 60 years old but it is still the only handbook of Christian Arabic literature.

The site also has a vast array of manuscript-related catalogues and resources.

Ibn Abi Usaibia – the GAL entry, and the manuscripts

I have finally managed to find some hard information on Ibn Abi Usaibia (translation here), the two editions of the text, and the manuscripts of both.  What follows may be hard going; but it is almost entirely hard data.

A google search turned up this site.  It gives, thankfully, the GAL reference for Ibn Abi Usaibia, which means that, at long last, I can find the entry.  Here is the reference on the website.

BROCKELMANN KARL (1868-1956), Geschichte der arabischen Literatur. Weimar, Berlin 1898 ; Leipzig, C. F. Amelang 1901 [vi-265 p., 23 cm]; Leyde, E. J. Brill 1943 [2e sup.] ; Leyde, E. J. Brill 1996 [augm. et préface de Just Witkam] (I) p. 325-326; (sup. I) p. 560.

I.e. p.325-6 of volume 1 of the 1st edition, plus p.560 of vol. 1 of the supplement.

Here are the corresponding pages (p.397-8) from vol. 1 of the 2nd edition (which has the page numbers of the 1st ed. in the margin):

brockelmann2_vol1_397brockelmann2_vol1_398

And from the supplement:

 brockelmann2_suppl1b_560In the interests of googleability, here’s a transcription, with a few extra line breaks to make the detailed info more comprehensible.

10. Muwaffaqaddin a. ’l-`Abbās A. b. al-Q. b. a. Usaibi`a as-Sa`di al-Hazragi, geb. nach 590/1194 in Damaskus, wo sein Vater Augenarzt war, studierte Medizin in seiner Vaterstadt und am Nāsirischen Krankenhaus zu Kairo; besondere Anregung verdankte  er dem bekannten Arzt und Botaniker b. al-Baitār (S. 492). 631/1233 wurde er von Salāhaddin an einem neugegründeten Krankenhause zu Kairo angestellt, ging aber schon 632 an den Bimāristān an-Nuri zu Damaskus und 634 als Leibarzt des Emirs ‘Izzaddin Aidamur b. `Al. nach Safad. Dort starb er im Gum. I, 668/Jan. 1270.

Wüst. Gesch. 350, Leclerc II, 187/93. `Uyun al-anbā’ fi tabaqāt al-atibba’ (noch Patna II, 317,2469), in zwei Recensionen, einer v. J. 640/1242 und einer jüngeren mit manchen Zusätzen.

Hsg. v. A. Müller, Königsberg (Kairo) 1884.

Vgl. dens. ZDMG 34, 471, Travaux du VIe congr. intern, d. or. à Leide II, 218 ff., SBBA, phil.-hist. Cl. 1884, S. 857 ff.

and from the supplement:

10. Muwaffaqaddin a. ‘l-`Abbās A. b. al-Q. b. a. Usaibi`a (1) b. Halifa as-Sa`di al-Hazragi, geb. nach 590/1194 in Damaskus, wo er 632/1234 am Bimaristān an-Nuri angestellt wurde; 634 ging er als Leibarzt des Emirs `Izzaddin Aidamir b. `Al. nach Sarhad und starb dort im Gum, I, 668/Jan. 1270.

Nallino, `Ilm al-falah 64ff. K. `Uyun al-anba’ fi tabaqat al-atibba’, Hdss. noch Münch. 800/1, Wien 1164, Leid, 1062/4, Paris 2113/7, 5939, Nicholson JRAS 1899, 912, Fātih 4438, Top Kapu 2859/60, Sehid `A. P. 1923, Yeni 891/2, Köpr. 1104, Dämäd Ibr. 935, Kairo2 V, 275, Mosul 25,42, XIV, 26,78, Rampur, I, 642,176, Bank. XII, 786, Abkürzung Paris 2118.

S. noch Hamed Waly, Drei Kapp, aus der Ärztegeschichte des b. a. Us., med. Diss., Berlin 1911.

(1) So die Hds. Brit. Mus.

This is the origin of the “two recensions” story; there is one made in 1242 AD, and a “younger one, with some additions”.  The details may be found in Müller, Arabische Quellen zur Geschichte der indischen Medizin, in the ZDMG 34, starting on p.469 f., which may be found online here.  This also gives a list of manuscripts of the two recensions.

The JRAS (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society) article is online, and consists of a list of Arabic manuscripts owned by orientalist Reynold A. Nicholson.  The Ibn Abi Usaibia ms. was copied in Constantinople in 1136 A.H. (=1758 A.D.), and has the inscription, “E. Libris Theodori Preston Coll. S. S. Trin. Cant. Socii Damasci 1848”, and a note stating that Mr Preston purchased it in Damascus for 900 piastres.  I wonder where his manuscripts are now.

The supplement gives a further list of manuscripts — supplemental to that in the ZDMG article –, as does the webpage with which we started:

  • Ms. Cod. Arab. 800, Berlin, Staatsbibliothek preußischer Kulturbesitz
  • Ms. Cod. Arab. 801, Berlin, Staatsbibliothek preußischer Kulturbesitz
  • Ms. 715, Universitätsbibliothek, Leipzig
  • Ms. 4781, Dublin, Chester Beatty Library
  • Ms. Ar. 2113, Paris, Bibliothèque de France
  • Ms. Ar. 2114, Paris, Bibliothèque de France
  • Ms. Ar. 2115, Paris, Bibliothèque de France
  • Ms. Ar. 2117, Paris, Bibliothèque de France
  • Ms. Ar. 2118, Paris, Bibliothèque de France
  • Ms. 2859/1, Istanbul, Topkapi Saray
  • Ms. 2859/2, Istanbul, Topkapi Saray, daté 1334

So we’re getting some real, useful information at last here.  Curious that the GAL mentioned a British Museum manuscript in the footnote as the source of the author’s full name, but does not give the shelfmark for it!  It is, no doubt, British Library Add. 7340, an exemplar of the longer recension, mentioned in the ZDMG article.

The Muller edition of Ibn Abi Usaibia is only in my hands in a rather rubbish-looking reprint, which I suspect is incomplete.  I wish the original was online!

A little information on Ibn Abi Usaibia, from Ibn Khallikan

A thought struck me, to look into Ibn Khallikan’s biographical dictionary, of which an English translation exists.  The index to this is not nearly so confusing as for the GAL, and I eventually found a reference to vol. 4, p.158, where in the footnote we read:

Abu ‘l-Abbas Ahmad Ibn al-Kasim Ibn Khalifa Ibn Abi Osaibia, surnamed Muwatrak ad-Din and a member of the Arabic tribe of Khazraj, was born in Damascus, where his father was an oculist and his uncle, Rashid ad Din Abu ‘l-Hasan Ali, director of the hospital for the treatment of the maladies of tbe eyes. He studied philosophy under Rida ad-Din al-Jili, and profited greatly by the lessons of Abu Muhammad Abd Allah Ibn Ahmad Ibn al-Baitar, with whom he made a number of botanical excursions. Ibn al-Baitar is the author of the Dictionary of Simples, a deservedly celebrated compilation of which Dr. Sontheimer published a German translation, at Stuttgard, in the year 1840.  Ibn Abi Osaibia kept up for some time an epistolary correspondence with the celebrated physician and philosopher, Abu al-Latif. In the year 684 (A. D. 1236-7), he got an appointment in the hospital founded at Cairo by the sultan Salah ad-Din (Saladin). Some years after, he accompanied the emir Izz ad-Din Aidmor to Sarkhod, in Syria, and he died there, aged upwards of seventy years.

His history of the physicians, entitled Oyun al-Anba fi Tabakat al-Atibba (Sources of information concerning the physicians of divers classes), contains a number of curious and highly interesting articles. The list of its chapters has been given by Mr. Wustenfeld in his Geschichte der Arabischen Aertze, No. 237, and from that work are taken the indications given here. In the catalogue of the Bodleian library , tome II. p. 131. et seq. will be also found this list of chapters.

But on what does this depend?  Wustenfeld’s work is available online, of course.  Section 237 is on p.132.  This gives only the information above, and lists three works:

  1. Fontes relationum de classibus Medicorum.  A Latin translation by Reiske is at Copenhagen, we are told, no doubt in manuscript.
  2. Liber experimentorum et observationum utilium, about which we are told nothing further.
  3. Liber de monumentis gentium, a fragment not completed.

That the titles are in Latin tells us that Wustenfeld just copied this from earlier modern writers.

But then follows a list of chapters.  Some are marked with an asterisk (*), indicating that the chapter is not found in Reiske.  Others are marked with a dagger (+), indicating that “Nicoll” does not contain them.  Some titles are written in italics – Wustenfeld doesn’t say why.

The differences between the contents given by Reiske, and that by Nicoll, in later sections of the book are fairly considerable.  Clearly there are different versions of this text in circulation.

If we look for Ibn Abi Usaibia’s name in the Kopf translation (here), we quickly find that it appears as a source for various statements.  This itself suggests that the author of the work is someone else, someone later.

An interesting experiment at HMML by Adam McCollum

Adam McCollum is the dedicated cataloguer of manuscripts at the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library run by Fr. Columba Stewart.  The latter is doing an enormously valuable job; of getting copies of all the Syriac and Arabic manuscripts located in oriental monasteries in places like Syria and Iraq.  The urgency and importance of this task should be obvious to us all at the moment.

Adam’s task is seemingly more prosaic; to catalogue the results.  In practice this requires a wide familiarity with the literature and a great deal of dedication.  But it also gives him the chance to make original finds, and to publicise the texts.  

On his blog today is an interesting post, and a PDF download:

Among some manuscripts at the Church of the Forty Martyrs, Mardin, that I have recently cataloged are some that deal with the hagiographic Qartmin trilogy of the stories of Samuel, Simeon, and Gabriel.

Some of this material has been published (and even partly translated), but the published texts are not easy to come by. While going through these texts I came across one episode in The Story of Šemʿon (Simeon) in Syriac and in Arabic that, not too short and not too long and of enough entertainment value and philological interest, called for greater readership than it currently has residing in manuscripts.

The text, in either or both languages, would be suitable for intermediate, perhaps even beginning, reading courses, and of course anyone interested in hagiography and the history of asceticism, and more generally scholars of Syriac and Arabic, would lose nothing by studying the passage. I stress that the file below is merely a beginning effort, and while I have proofread it, it still should be considered a draft! Here it is:

episode_mar_shemun_syr_arab

The ease of making texts available this way — from manuscript to electronic file to the internet in a matter of days, with the option of correction always there — has the potential to change greatly any academic field based on texts, and I hope that more such text presentation will appear. Comments especially on this general prospect are encouraged!

Emphasis mine.  He is quite right.  The PDF presents the text, in Syriac and in Arabic, in a perfectly serviceable form.  And … the world can see it and use it.

Well done, that man.

Hunting for Ibn Abi Usaibia in Brockelmann

I want to know some details about an Arabic writer.  I look in Brockelmann’s Geschichte der arabischen Literatur, right?

It’s not very easy.  My first port of call was the index.  But this is in a strange order, and also heavily abbreviated.  After a lot of effort, I gave up.

My next thought was to look in the table of contents in each volume for “medezin” and look at each section.  Luckily I already know when he lived — he died in 1270 AD — so all I have to do is find the right one.  A search in the first edition draws a blank.  Ditto one in the last section of the 2nd ed.  But the latter does refer to “b.a.Us.” under each medical writer.  That’s our boy, of course, heavily abbreviated.  So he must be here somewhere.

Eventually I find, on p.265 of vol. 1 of the 2nd ed., in what is evidently the first section dedicated to medical writers, that it starts with a few general works.  And “Ibn a. Usaibi`a” is the first of these, and — blessedly — “S. 325/6”, i.e. look at p.325-6.  It also gives the edition as by Muller, Konigsberg, 1884, which is wrong — it’s Cairo, 1882.

Except p.325-6 doesn’t contain our boy.  “S” must mean “Supplement”, then?  Nope.  Suppl. 1, p.325 contains nothing of the kind.  Or is it supplement 2?  Nope.

Is it possible, is it really possible… that this muppet means “page 325-6 of the first edition”?  And … yes he does!  Hallelujah!  And it’s in section “personalgeschichte”, which means that the corresponding section in the supplement and 2nd edition should now be findable.  And indeed, on p.397-8 of the 2nd edition, there’s more about Ibn Abi Usaibia.  There’s even the numeral “325” in the margin.

I hope that I am giving some impression of the despair that anyone in a hurry must feel, confronted with this mess.   How we need some Arabist — or group of Arabists! — to produce a usable handbook!

Ibn Abi Usaibia in French in the Journal Asiatique

A correspondent has written and let me know that French translations exist of chunks of Ibn Abi Usaibia’s History of Physicians.  They were done by Sanguinetti in the Journal Asiatique, with the chunks starting in 1854.  I’ve seen five bits so far.  The first chunk is here (1854, series 5, tome 3, p.230 f.), and includes a useful biography of Ibn Abi Usaibia.  The second part is here (1854, series 5, tome 4, p.177 f.), mostly from the second chapter of the book, about Asculapius.   The third part is here (1855, series 5, tome 5, p.401 f.), extracts from chapter 7.  Unfortunately the BNF does not have 1855 series 5, tome 6 online, which must contain the fourth part — tome 7 does not contain it. [Update: it’s here at Google books, p.129]  The fifth part is here (1856, series 5, tome 8, p.175 f.), extracts from chapter 4 (Hippocrates).

That seems to be all, as the next tome (9) contains an article also by Sanguinetti, on p.392, headed Biographical notices of various physicians, taken from an Arabic work by Assafedy: French translation with notes.

All this material is useful to have.   I thought that I would translate chunks of Sanguinetti’s introduction, which also includes a biography of Ibn Abi Usaibia.  Note that I have not attempted to change his transcription of Arabic names from the older French style into those used today.

The purpose that I had in view, in the present work, is to contribute to make known a work whose complete publication would render much service to all those who are busy with the history of sciences in general, and particularly to those who study the history of medicine and philosophy.  The fragment that follows is composed of the preface of the Arab author, then the first chapter of the work, which deals with the origin of medicine.  In his introduction Ibn Abi Usaibia develops the subjects which he intends to include in his book.  He then indicates the plan and mentions the content. I will refrain from dwelling on these different points.  The manner in which the author treats the difficult subject of the origin of medicine seems to me more complete than that of authors who preceded him; … in the citations which the author makes from earlier works, from the beginning of his work on, he makes known to us passages of books which are lost to us, and may, perhaps, sometimes help us to look for them.  …

In order to carry out this work, I had on my desk three manuscripts of Ibn Abi Usaibia, belonging to the Bibliotheque Imperiale, one of which is merely an abridgement of the complete work:

1.  No. 674 of the Supplement arabe, drawn up by Reinaud, quarto manuscript, 150 folios, but incomplete and only containing the first 8 chapters.  It is in very good condition, containing here and there marginal glosses which are sometimes interesting, and is, in my opinion, the best of all the manuscripts of this work in the Bibliotheque imperiale.  This in particular allowed me to establish the text of the extract I give here.  Part of this text is in rhymed prose, and is far from easy, and is ready for printing.  I think that reading and studying it would offer more than one kind of interest and utility, and I would hope that a favourable occasion will present itself to publish it.

2.  No. 756, ancient fonds arabe; it is likewise in quarto, is composed of 138 folios, and also contains only the first 8 chapters.  This ms. is somewhat mediocre, and certainly not as good as the preceding one.

3.  No. 873, ancient fonds arabe: this is a small volume, small quarto, of 111 folios, and is an abridgement of the whole work.  Its condition would be very good, but unfortunately it has so suffered from damp and from other causes that it is often illegible.

Finally, as may be seen below, I also made use of the manuscript of this work which is in the Bibliotheque imperiale, Supplement arabe 673, and which is the only one that is complete.  This is a folio volume, of 273 folios, modern and mediocre.

I cannot avoid saying something about the Arab author and his works.  Some details on this may be found in the work of Abou’l mahacin, under the year 668 AH, at the end [1], in Hadji Khalfah[2], Reiske [3], Wustenfeld [4], etc, but particularly in the last two chapters of Ibn Abi Usaibia’s own work, where the author speaks several times about his family and himself[5].  I will content myself with giving, in summary, a small number of the most important facts.

The name of our author was Mouwaffik eddin Abou’l’abbas Ahmed, son of Abou’lkacim, son of Khalifah Alkhazradjy [6], but he is better known under the name of Ibn Abi Usaibia.  He was born at Damascus, late in the year 600 AH (1203 AD) and he learned medicine from his uncle Rachid eddin ‘Ali, son of Khalifah, practitioner of medicine and director of the hospital at Damascus for eye problems.  He also studied under his father, who was above all a surgeon and oculist.  His teacher of philosophy was the jurisconsult and philosopher Radhy eddin Aldjily (i.e. of Ghilan).  He had connections with Ibn Albaithar, who gave him some lessons on botany, with ‘Abdallathif and others among his famous contemporaries.  In the year 634 AH (1236-7 AD)  Ibn Abi Osaibia went to Cairo, where he practiced medicine, and was even employed in a hospital.  About a year later he went to Sarkhad, in Syria, and entered the service of the commandant ‘Izz eddin Aidemir, son of Abdallah, whose first doctor he became.  He died in the month of djoumada I, in the year 668 AD (January 1270 AD).  He was then almost a septugenarian, and indeed older than that according to Abou’l mahacin.

The principal work of Ibn Abi Usaibia is, without question, his History of physicians, as the real title indicates: “Sources of information on the subject of the classes of physicians”[1], and which was regarded as a classic in its genre.  He also left another book of practical medicine, entitled “Useful experiences and observations” [2].  He also had begun a third work, which he did not finish, but which he intended to call “Monuments of the nations and histories of the wise” [3]  Finally Ibn Abi Usaibia was the author of various pieces of verse, one of which, among many, was  the eulogy of the emir Amin Addaoulah, and Abou’; mahacin gives a fragment of this.

  1. [1] BNF, ancien fonds arabe, 661, f. 219 r and v.
  2. [2] From BNF ms. ancien fonds arabe 875.
  3. [3] Opuscula medica ex monumentis Arabum et Hebraeorum, Grunier, p.55-6.
  4. [4] Geschichte der arabischen Aertze und Naturforscher, p.132.
  5. [5] See, among others, the biography of Ibn Albaithar, that of Abdallail, and notably the biography of his uncle Rachid eddin ‘Aly.
  6. [6] And therefore belonged to the tribe of the Khazradj.

More on Ibn Abi Usaibia

I’m interested in the references to the Christians that appear in the works of the 2nd century medical writer Galen.  I discovered that a bunch of them appear only in the medical dictionary of the Arabic writer Ibn Abi Usaibia. 

A while back I discovered that an unpublished English translation exists in typescript at the US National Library of Medicine (see also here and here).  Since then I have been in contact with the NLM, to try to obtain a copy.

My initial contacts were very unpromising, but things have improved and I learn that the translation was made under a US-Israeli government contract back in the 1960’s, and  that the translation is probably in the public domain.  This is because US-government commissioned stuff is automatically public domain, and quite right too.

A reader contacted me and said that he has been to the NLM and inspected the manuscript.  It’s in typescript, and about 1,000 pages.  But from the look of it, it’s all  good stuff.  There’s no footnotes or commentary; but what do we care?

Here’s hoping that I can lay hands on a copy of this object!