Arabic Manuscripts in Uppsala University Library

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Arabic Manuscripts in Uppsala University Library

Hans Nordesjö
Millenary Manuscripts Conference, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, 27 th September 2004

Uppsala University Library was founded in 1620. It rapidly acquired valuable collections, in part due to the wars of the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus. During these valuable collections were transferred from libraries in Poland, Germany and Czechia to Sweden. It is now a library containing over 5 million books, with very valuable collections of manuscripts, incunabula and other old books. The main building is from the first part of the nineteenth century . Two slides showing the front of the library and the Book Hall.

The Uppsala University Library has over 540 Arabic manuscripts. The most valuable and interesting ones were acquired by Swedish diplomats and travellers during the 17th and 18th centuries, at a time when Sweden established strong relations with the Ottoman Empire and to a lesser extent with Persia.
The Arabic, Persian and Turkish manuscripts have been described by two Swedish scholars Carl Johan Tornberg (1807-1877) and Karl Vilhelm Zetterstéen (1866-1953). Their catalogues are unfortunately written in Latin and in German and are therefore not accessible for many scholars. Two overheads. My colleague, Dr. Ali Mirmohandis, is working on a catalogue of the Persian manuscripts.
With the help of the Alexandria library, above all with the help of Professor Youssef Ziedan, five or six of our Arabic manuscripts will eventually be available on the Internet. This project is financed by the Swedish International Development Authority SIDA, and the Royal Library in Stockholm, represented by Dr. Johan Mannerhem, is also a partner in the project.
We have a handful of Arabic millenarian manuscripts. First of all, two early Maghrebine Qur’ans (dated 483 A.H. (1090 A.D.) and 591 A.H. (1195 A.D.) were acquired in the 18th century. Here is shown the first one, a fragment dated 483 A.H. Four slides showing leaves 1b-2a, 2b-3a, 4b-5a, 61a-62a. It contains only the suras 52-114. The copyist has also skipped suras 108-112. Leaves 7-22 (containing suras 54-59) are in several different and probably later hands.

The manuscripts consists of 78 leaves of 11 lines. The leaves are 17,3 to 17,,5 cm i height and 14,3-14,5 cm. in width, with the text area varying, 13,9-14,5 in height and about 10,5 in width. It is beatifully decorated in gold. Tashdid and sukun are in blue, vowel signs in red. The headings of the surahs are accompanied by palmetto-like decorations.

This seems to be the earliest dated Qur’an from Maghreb and in Maghrebine script. On leaf 77b the manuscript ends: Tamma al-juz’ al-thamin bi-hamd Allah wa-’awnihi wa-salla Allah ’ala Muhammad wa-’ala alihi wa-sallama wa-dhalika fi shahr Jumada al-ula min sanat tahalath wa-thamanin wa-arba’ mi’ah , rahima Allah katibahu …
This manuscript was acquired in Rome June 1771 by a Swedish scholar and traveller, Jacob Jonas Björnståhl. The manuscript has been shown in Granada 1992 at the exhibition al-Andalus and in Paris 2001 at the Institut du monde arabe.

In the field of history of science some interesting manuscripts have been obtained by the Library.

Ibn Wahshiyah, Ahmad ibn ’Ali, Kitab Asrar al-tabi’iyat fi khawass al-nabat. (O Vet. 21 = Tornberg 338).

The famous, and controversial, Ibn Wahshiyah has been considered a clumsy translator from Syria or a forger of Nabatean documents. The vigorous debate about his person and his activities has had the result that this work has not been edited until recently, by Dr. Toufic Fahd, al-Filahah al-nabatiyah, Damascus, 1993. It is a work on botany and agriculture, with many descriptions of different plants. Fuad Sezgin1 and indeed Dr. Fahd considers it a translation of older works.

Dr. Toufic Fahd has not seen or used the Uppsala manuscript in his edition, but he has described it on p.19 (in English translation from the French): ”136 leaves., grand naskhi, copied in Damascus 442/1050-51 by Ahm al-Qass al-Mutatabbib. Diacritical points are often missing. A partial copy with the title: Kitab Asrar al-tabi’iyat fi khawass al-nabat li-Ibn Wahshiyah …

As one can deduce from the [in the catalogue by Carl Johan Tornberg] it is a an unorganized selection of different chapters from the first part. However, the age of the manuscript makes it a copy that cannot be ignored.2

!36 leaves of paper consisting of 20 lines in naskhi. The leaves are 25,9-26,0 cm. i height and 17,5-17,8 cm. in width, the text is17,9-18,0cm. in height and 12,0-12,2 in width.
Incipit: Bi-smi Allah al-Rahman al-Rahim. Qala Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn Wahshiyah al-Nabati ba’d hamd Allah wa-al-thana … Inni dhakir fi hadha al-kitab al-musamma bi-Asrar al-tabi’iyat fi khawass al-nabat wa-ma fihi min al-asrar …

Two or three slides …

For further research on al-Filahah al-nabatiyah, this manuscript should certainly be consulted. Due to the poor condition of the binding it has not yet been digitized, but since the library now has a better camera, this will happen soon, ad as I said, we hope to have it on-line wuth the help of the Alexandra Library.

The manuscript was acquired by Fredric Hasselquist. He was an exceptionally talented disciple of Carolus Linneaus (Carl von Linné). For a short time he was Swedish vice-consul in Egypt. During his short lifetime he made very valuable studies of the zoology ond botany of Palestine. He died in Smyrna 1752 at the age of 30. His manuscript acquisitions reflect his scientific interests, with many valuable manuscripts on natural history, medicine and other fields.

al-Fārābī, Kitāb al-Ḥiyal al-rūḥānīyah wa-al-asrār al-ṭabīīyah fī daqāiq al-askhal al-handasīyah (O Vet. 27 = Tornberg 324).

60 leaves of paper with text consisting of 16 lines in naskhi. Leaves are 24,2 cm. in height and 16,5 in width. The text is in a frame 19,2 cm. in height and 10, 5 width, with text and diagrams frequently going outside the double red borders. The ’unwan and the opposing page are framed by gold between double borders. Chapters headings in cufic script are written in gold. Diagrams are in red ink.

Two or three slides …

Incipit: Bi-smi Allah al-Rahman al-Rahim. Al-Hamd li-wahib al-’aql bila nihayah wa-al-thana wa-al-shukr bila ghayah wa-salawatuhu ala Muhammad wa-allihi wa-ba’d, fa-lamma kanat jumlat al-ulum kathirah wa-al-funun la tuhsa … wa-kanat al-sina’ah al-handasiyah min ajall al-’ulum al-tabi’iyah wa-almawadd al-falsafiyah …fa-allaftu hadha al-kitab al-musamma bi-al-Hiyal al-ruhaniyah wa-al-asrar al-tabi’iyah.

At the end it says:

Wa-qad hana lina an nakhtima al-kitab wa-salawatihi ’ala Muhammad wa-alihi wa-al-hamd li-Allah Rabb al-’alamin wa-hana al-faragh min ta’lifihi ’ala yad al-faqir Muhammad Abu Nasr ibn Muhammad ibn Awzagh ibn Tarhan al-Farabi hadi ’ashara Rajab sanat ihda wa-’ishrin wa-thalathami’ah wa-al-hamd l-wahib al-’aql bi-la nihayah. - The date is according to the Julian calendar 7 July 933.
Carl Brockelmann, Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur. – Weimar, 1898. - Bd 1, p. 212, considers it a geomantic work falsely attributed to al-Farabi. But Fuat Sezgin (1974), Bd 5, p. 296 refers to a short note by two Russian scholars, A. Kobesov and B.A. Rosenfeld, who in Archives internationales d’histoire des sciences, 1996 (22), p. 50 find that it resembles a work by Abu al-Wafa’ al-Buzjani (940-998) entitled Kitab fima yakhtaj ila al-sani’ min al-a’mal al-handasiyah ”The book about what the craftsman needs of geometrical constructions.”
”The treatise of al-Farabi finished 7 July 933 contains the foreword and 10 books (maqalat). All 10 books are included as a whole into Abû’l-Wafâ’s treatise: Th I book coincides with the second half of the II chapter of Abû’l-Wafâ from 9 proposition to the end, the II-IX books entirely coincide with III-X chapters of Abû’l-Wafâ, The X book coincides with the first half of the XI chapter of Abu’l-Wafâ; deviations of Abû’l-Wafâ from al-Fârâbî are not sufficient.”
The work of Abu al-Wafa’ Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Buzjani has been published by Dr. Salih Ahmad al-’Ali, Baghdad, 1979, with a slightly different title: Kitab fima yakhtaj ila al-sani’ min al-’ilm al-handasah.
So it seems that this is a work by al-Farabi. It is a unique manuscript, and whatever the exact authorship it merits further study.
This manuscript was acquired by Matthias Norberg(1747-1826) a Swedish scholar who eventually became one of the pioneers in Mandaic studies and published an early edition of the Codex Nasareus. He spent one year in Constantinople 1779-1780, and most probably acquired the Farabi manuscript there.

Euclides, Kitab Uqlidis fi al-usul. (O Vet 20 = Tornberg 321).

One of the most important ones, Thabit ibn Qurrahs translation or adaption of Euclides (Uppsala O Vet 20= Tornberg no. 321)3 can unfortunately not be digitalized at this time due to its poor condition. It is difficult even to examine it at this time, since even to turn a page involves some risk. The black ink has damaged the paper. However, in a short time it will probably be possible to scan it by modern methods and publish it.
The manuscript also contains translation by Qusta ibn Luqa of Hypsicles of Alexandria, It is dated 434 A.H. or 1042 according to the Julian calendar.

Two or three slides …

The manuscript consists of 202 leaves of 21 lines. The script is naskhi with heading in cufic script. Diacritical points are often missing.

This manuscript was given to the library by the Swedish bishop , who had received from the Swedish traveller and scholar Johan Gabriel Sparwenfeld (1655-1727). He is the author of an important early Slavic dictionare and travelled extensively in the south of Europe, North Africa and in Russia.
There are two manuscripts in Uppsala that at first sight seem to be millenarian. Probably they are not. But at least one of the seems to be unique and important.
Pseudo-Apollonius, Kitāb Sirr al-khalīqah wa-ṣanat al-ṭabīah (O Vet. 39 = Tornberg 336). This fascinating hermetic and alchemistic work by Balinus or Apollonius of Tyana, The book of creation and presentation of nature is supposed to be a work of a Neo-Pythagorean or Magier from the 1st century, who in folk-lore was considered as a supeerman or magician. The work was translated into Arabic by a certain priest Sagiyus (?) from Nabulus, who is not otherwise known. It is a work that has been much discussed since Silvestre de Sacy at the beginning of the 19th century. The Czech scholar Jan Ruska showed that this work documented the original context of secret alchemistic formulas.

The text has been published by Dr. Ursula Weisser in Aleppo 1979, the Arabic text alone 632 pages. It is based on 4 manuscripts: Madrid, Leipzig, Paris and Istanbul.4

The Uppsala manucript consists of 62 leaves of paper with 15 lines of naskhi in black ink, with a few heading at the beginning in red. The height of each leaf is 22,5 cm, the width is 13,5 cm. The text area is 16,5 cm. in height, 9 cm. in width. The borders of the paper are very worm-eaten.
The manuscript was acquired by the above-mentioned Fredrik Hasselquist in Palestine or Turkey in the middle of the eighteenth century.
The last page of the manuscript, of which I unfortunately have no slide, is shown here in overhead. As you can see it ends (from the end of the second line): Tamma al-kalam ’ala al-’ilal al-tabi’iyah wa-al-baniyah al-’alawiyah [wa] wa-as-sufliyah fi hadi ’ashar Rajab min sanat ithnayn wa-’ishrin wa-thalathami’ah, [11 Rajab 322] that is 27 June 934 according to the Julian calendar.
However, already Jan Ruska found 1926 that the manuscript incomplete and with a false datation. The size of the manuscript precludes it from being complete. And Dr. Ursula Weisser writes (translated into English): Codex U is incomplete; it consists only of Book 1 and 2. The text is written without chapters or sections, new paragraphs are sometimes introduced by ”fasl”. The date in the explicit is without doubt not that of the copy (Abschrift), as the writing style (Duktus) can have started at the earliest in the 6th century.5
Avicenna, al-Ḥikmah al-arūḍīyah (O Vet. 70 = Tornberg 364).

84 leaves of paper of 17 lines in naskhi, the height of a leaf 19,5-19,7 cm., the width 14,5 cm, while the text area is 16,0 cm in height, 10,5 in width. On leaf 66 b there is a geometrical diagram partly in red ink, otherwise black ink is used. The first leaf is damaged at the margins and has wormholes.

Two or three slides …

Incipit: al-Hamd lillah alladhi wahib al-’aql wa-mulhim al-sawab wa-salawatuhu ’ala nabiyihi Muhammad … fi bayan al-hajah ila sina’at al-mantiq. However it consists of 4 further parts on rhetorics, poetics and natural science.

At the end, on the last line it says: Wa-sannafa hadha al-kitab al-Rayyis sanat ihda wa-tis’in wa-talathami’ah.
This manuscript has been extensively described by Father Georges Anawati in 1950 in Mu’allafat Ibn Sina (p. 24-25 or no. 10) and by Professor Yahya Mahdavi in 1954 in Fihrist-i Nuskhah’ha-yi musannafat-i Ibn-i Sina (p. 76-80 or no. 62). Since they both date it to the 7th Islamic century at the earliest, it does not really belong here. Both regard this manuscript as a unique manuscript, a witness of one of Ibn Sina’s earliest works, written in 391 anno Hijrah at an age of 21, a compilation made at the request of Abu al-Hasan Ahmad ibn ’Abd Allah al-’Arudi. The manuscript is incomplete and the leaves are not in order. A part of it has been published in Cairo 1969 by Dr. Mohammed Silím Sálem: Kitab al-Majmu’ aw al-Hikmah al-’arudiyah fi ma’ani kitab al-shi’r.
As I said, this is not a millenary manuscript, but it is unique, and it merits further study, and therefore it deserves to be published on the Internet by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. We at the Uppsala University Library are very grateful to professor Youssef Ziedan and his colleguaes for this opportunity.


Abu al-Wafa’ al-Buzjani, Ma yahtaj ilayhi al-sani’ min ’ilm al-handasah / li-Abi al-Wafa’ Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Buzjani ; haqqaqahu wa-qaddama lahu Salih Ahmad al-’Ali. – Baghdad : Matba’at Jami’at Baghdad, 1979. – 177 p. : ill.

Apollonius, of Tyana, Sirr al-khaliqah wa-san’at al-tabi’ah, [aw], Kitab al-’ilal / Bulinus al-Hakim ; tahqiq Ursula Waysar. – [Aleppo] : Ma’had al-turath al-’ilmi al-’arabi, Jami’at Halab, 1979. – 18, 12, 703, 66 s. – (Masadir wa-dirasat ta’rikh al-’ulum al-’arabiyah al-islamiyah. Silsilat al-’ulum al-tabi’iyah ; 1). – Title on added title page: Buch über das Geheimnis der Schöpfung und die Darstellung der Natur (Buch der Ursachen) von Pseudo-Apollonios von Tyana, edited by Ursula Weisser.
Anawati, G.C., Mu’allafat Ibn Sina / wada’ahu Jurj Shahatah Qanawati = Essai de bibliographie avicenniene / par G.C. Anawati. – al-Qahirah, 1950. – 31, 464, 20 p.
Avicenna, Kitab al-Majmu’ aw al-Hikmah al-’arudiyah fi ma’ani kitab al-shi’r / Ibn Sina ; tahqiq wa-sharh Muhammad Salim Salim. – [Cairo] : Matba’at Dar al-kutub, 1969. – 38 p. – Title on added title page: Kitab al-Magmu’ ”al-Hikmah al-’audiyyah fi ma’ani kitab al-shi’r” / by Ibn Sina ; edited by Mohammed Silim Salem.
Brockelmann, C., Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur. Bd 1. – Weimar, 1898. – xii, 528 p.

Carrillo, J.L., & Paz Torrez, M. (eds.), Ibn al-Baytar y el arabismo español del XVIII. : edicion trilingüe del prologo de su ”Kitab al-Chami”. Benalmádena, 1982.- 57, 5 p. : facsim.

Al-Filahah al-nabatiyah. Juz’ 1 / al-tarjamah al-manhulah ilá Ibn Wahshiyah , Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn ’ali ibn Qays al-Kasdani ; tahqiq Tawfiq Fahd. – Dimashq : al-Ma’had al-’ilmi al-faransi lil-dirasat al-arabiyah bi-Dimashq, 1993. – 40, 759, 32 p.
Kubesov, A., & Rosenfeld, B.A., ”On the geometrical treatise of al-Farabi.” // Archives internationales d’histoire des sciences. – ISSN 0003-9810. – 1969(22):88/89, p. 50.
Mahdavi, Y., Fihrist-i nuskhah’ha-yi musannafat-i Ibn Sina. – Tihran, 1333 [1954]. – 29, 413, 20 p. : facsim.
Ruska, J., Tabula Smaragdina : ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der hermetischen literatur. – Heidelberg, 1926. – vii, 248 p. – (Arbeiten aus dem Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaft ; 4) (Heidelberger Akten der Von-Portheim-Stiftung ; 16).
Sezgin, F., Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums. Bd 4, Alchimie, Chemie, Botanik,

Agrikultur bis ca. 430 H. – Leiden, 1971. – x, 398 p.
Fuat Sezgin, Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums. – Bd 5, Mathematik bis ca. 430 H. - Leiden, 1974. – xiv, 514 s.
Tornberg, C.J., Codices Arabici, Persici et Turcici Bibliothecae Regiae Universitatis Upsaliensis. – [Uppsala], 1849. – xxiv, 354 s.
Ullmann, M., Die Medizin im Islam. – Leiden, 1970. – xxiv, 379 p. – (Handbuch der Orientalistik. Abt. 1, Der Nahe und der Mittlere Osten. Ergänzungsband 6 ; Abschnitt 1).

Ullmann, M., Die Natur- und Geheimwissenschaften im Islam. – Leiden, 1972. – vii, 500 p. – (Handbuch der Orientalistik. Abt. 1, Der Nahe und der Mittlere Osten. Ergänzungsband 6 ; Abschnitt 2).

Weisser, U., Das ”Buch über das Geheimnis der Schöpfung” von Pseudo-Apollonius von Tyana. – Berlin, 1980. – xl, 258 p. – (Ars medica ; 2).
Zetterstéen, K.V., Die arabischen, persischen und türkischen Handschriften der Universitätsbibliothek zu Uppsala. – Uppsala, 1930-1935. – 2 v. (xviii, 498 ; x, 179 p.) – (Acta Bibliothecae R. Universitatis Upsaliensis; v. 3-4). – Also published as v. 22 and 28 of Le monde oriental.

1 Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums. Bd 4, p. 282.

2 p.19: ” Uppsala 338, 136 fol., grand nashi, copié en Damas 442/1050-51 par Ahm al-Qass al-Mutatabbib. Les points diacritiques manquent souvent. Copie partielle intitulée: [in Arabic script] Kitab Asrar al-tabi’iyat fi khawass al-nabat li-Ibn Wahshiyah …

Incipit: …

Ainsi comme en peut le constater en se référant à la table des matières, cest un choix désordonné de quelques chapitres de la première partie de l’ouvrage [al-Filahah al-nabatiyah]; mais son ancienneté et son origine font de ce copie partielle un témoin non négligeable.”

3 Tornberg, C.J., Codices Arabici, Persici et Turcici Bibliothecae Regiae Universitatis Upsaliensis. – [Uppsala], 1849.

4 Weisser, 1980, s. 39, note: ”Derzeit sind rund 30 zum Teil unvollständige Textzeugen bekannt. Der kritische text [ herausgegeben 1979] beruht auf folgenden Codices: M = Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional Gg 153; L = Leipzig, Universitätsbibliothek 832 ; P = Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale arabe 2300 ; K = Istanbul, Köprülü 872”.

5 Weisser in Apollonius of Tyana, 1979, p. 16 in the German Einführung:

”Codex U ist unvollständig; er enthält nur die Bücher I und II (bis. S. 210,5). Der Text ist ohne Absatz geschrieben, neue Paragraphen werden gelegentlich durch ”fasl” eingeleitet. Das im Explicit angegebene Datum ist mit Sicherkeit nicht das der Abschrift, welche dem Duktus nach frühestens im 6. Jhdt. H. Entstanden sein kann.” With a reference (note 33) on p. 59: ”vgl. Ruska a.a.O., S. 128 [i.e. Ruska, 1926].”

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