From my diary

I’m trying to discover whether there is knowledge anywhere that Ibn Abi Usaibia (d. 1207) did, or did not, produce two editions of his great work, The History of Physicians.  The reason that I want to know is the existence of a supposed quotation from Porphyry, extant in a version of the text different from that translated by Kopf, presumably from the Muller edition.

The obvious place to look is Brockelmann’s Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur.  I believe that I have expressed my opinions of this mess of a book at some length in the past.  Briefly, B. produced his book in 2 volumes in 1898.  Then, during the 20’s, he produced 3 volumes of supplements for it.  Finally in the 30’s he produced a second edition of the original 2 volumes, complete with references back to the 3 volumes of supplements, which themselves refer to the pages of the 1st edition.  So you need all 7 volumes to find anything.

It’s a mess, in short.  I once decided to translate the stuff on early biographies of Mohammed.  It really is not possible to assemble all the material on one topic into one narrative – or, at least, it wasn’t for me.

And for reasons we can hardly imagine, the editors allowed him to abbreviate virtually every name and every other word, in the certain knowledge that few would understand the abbreviation.  To use the GAL as it is known is to know suffering.

Now the supplements and the first volume of the 2nd edition are online at the Digital Library of India site (and good luck to working out how to download them; but I managed it, once, so you can also).  The other two are at Google books, in a low-resolution form.  I was able to get to print me a copy of the 2nd edition volume, plus the first supplement (split into two halves, because of size limits at Lulu), and these, fittingly in a green cover, stand on my shelves.  And … they don’t contain what I want.  They contain sections on medicine; but no entry on Ibn Abi Usaibia (or “b. a. Us.” as Brockelmann unhelpfully calls him).

I’ve just looked through my PDF of vol. 1 of 1st ed; nothing.  I wonder if there is an index at the end of vol. 2…?  And there is!  And … it is in some mysterious non-alphabetical order!  And abbreviated heavily too!  Which means … I can’t find the name in here either.

Boy, it all eats time!

He must have an entry … somewhere … mustn’t he?


Leave a Reply