Historical Account of the Formation of the Collection of Arabic Manuscripts and Their Study
In 1986, The Arabic Manuscripts Kept at the Institute of Oriental Studies. A Brief Catalogue was published, being the completion of the work carried out by several generations of St Petersburg scholars; the collection of Arabic manuscripts had been gathered over more than 150 years and they had been catalogued on many occasions. Ch.D.Frähn, B.A.Dorn, V.R.Rosen, K.G.Salemann, I.J.Krachkovsky and V.I.Belyayev, each in his own time, spoke about the primary importance of the cataloging of Arabic manuscripts kept at the Asiatic Museum (AM) and took some practical measures for this purpose. Like some other Orientalists, they did a lot to open the manuscripts treasures of the AM for experts and broader circles, but the number of manuscripts kept increasing and the entire project had never been brought to fulfillment.
By 1818, the St Petersburg Academy of Sciences (AS) had three to four tens of Arabic, Persian and Turkic manuscripts on theology and grammar which had been passed to the Asiatic Museum along with other documents. It is difficult to define exactly the contents of the initial collection, since it was mixed with later acquisitions and there are now descriptions of it in academic literature save for a very obscure mention by J.Bacmeister.
The core of the Arabic and Muslim collection of the AM comprised two collections purchased from the French diplomat J.-L.Rousseau by the Russian government in 1819 and 1825. The first of them, consisting of 500 volumes (276 of which were Arabic treatises), was described by its own possessor at the brief catalogue composed by him for the deal in French. In the same 1819, the AM’s head Ch.D.Frähn gave an account of the collection for the appendix to St Petersburg Vedomosti newspaper and in 1826 published there a popular paper about the second collection of J.-L.Rousseau, consisting of 200 manuscripts, almost entirely in Arabic.
This way, the AM acquired a set of very important treatises in Arabic, Persian and Turkic languages, created by peoples of the Muslim East in the era of florescence of their cultural life. Manuscripts played a great role at that time and scholars worked with them directly since there were just a few texts published and even scholars had but a fragmentary knowledge of them. Ch.D.Frähn realized the academic value of the AM’s acquisitions and began using them in his own works. He was especially interested in the information on peoples of Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia which could be found in geographical, historical or encyclopedic treatises dated from the 9th through 15th century. With his works, such as On the Russians and Khazars, On the Bashkirs and some others, especially his extensive study of Ibn Fadlan, Ch.D.Frähn founded a new fruitful branch of Russian Arabic studies, namely the research into Arabic sources on the mediaeval history of Russia and adjacent countries. In many instances he used (edited some fragments, translated and interpreted) manuscripts of the geographical dictionary by Yaqut, historical topographic description of Haleb by Ibn ash-Shihna (in extraction by al-Batruni), historical treatises by Mohammad al-Hamavi, Ibn Wasil and as-Suyuti (at the catalogue, see Nos 9595, 9636, 9334, 9336, 9364), and in his later papers used also other manuscripts after their acquisition (such as work on general history by al-‘Ayni, No 9356).
If the Rousseau collections were purchased by happy chance, thanks to which Arabic manuscripts were given a very significant place at the AM’s entire collection as especially numerous and valuable, then their systematic replenishment during the first 25 years of the AM’s existence was due to the tireless and efficient activity by Ch.D.Frähn. He was occasionally granted money for the purchase of manuscripts, sometimes he used for this purpose money obtained from the selling of some non-useful replicas, he also composed lists of texts to be looked for first of all, and claimed the Military ministry to take and pass to the AM books (and other items of material culture) as booty and contributions.
Ch.D.Frähn regularly reported at the meetings of the AS about new acquisitions of the AM, including manuscripts. Thus, in 1819, Ch.D.Frähn told about five Arabic manuscripts brought by Captain Rosenberg as a booty from the Turkish mosque located on the island of Tenedos. In 1820, the then Head of the AS, Earl S.S.Uvarov, offered a manuscript of the Quran. The following year, in 1821, a manuscript with two grammatical treatises were obtained. In 1826, two parchment folia from the Quran were purchased from F.Castiglioni. In 1828, Ch.D.Frähn passed to the AM thirty manuscripts from his own collection. In the same year, three Arabic manuscripts were acquired from Mr Lorsbach from Siegen. In 1834, the Russian ambassador in Constantinople, A.P.Butenev, sent a rare Arabic manuscript on the military science, having interesting data on the use of Greek Fire. Next year, in 1835, just one new Arabic manuscript was acquired, that presented by Prince Meshchersky. In 1837, two Arabic MSS were purchased from a book seller from London, Mr Straker, and later in the same year A.D.Zhaba sent from Smyrna (Izmir) 11 MSS, including eight Arabic ones. In 1838, in Egypt three volumes of General History by al-‘Ayni were purchased via Rudolf Frähn, and a copy of The Meadows of Gold and Mines of Gems by al-Mas‘udi were ordered and obtained a year later. In 1839, from Egypt eight Druze treatises were acquired from Klot-Bey (apparently, thanks to R. Frähn who was there at the time) and one MS on fiqh from Prince Obolensky. By order of Ch.D.Frähn a manuscript copy of the historical geographical parts of catalogues from a number of Istanbul libraries was made.
In one of his newspaper articles, Ch.D.Frähn noticed that, by 1828, the number of Arabic, Persian and Turkic MSS was 851, including 570—580 in Arabic. Obviously, by that time Ch.D.Frähn had completed an initial processing of the manuscripts collection and compiled a Latin inventory catalogue covering 848 items. The Ch.D.Frähn catalogue was organized in thematic order and consisted of nine chapters such as fiction (Arabic 1—173, Persian 174—280, Turkic 281—321); theology (322—399); Grammar or lexicography (Arabic 400—470, Persian and Turkic 471—504); history or biographies (Arabic 505—565, Persian 566—581, Turkic 582—590); geography or cosmography (591—609); mathematics, astronomy, astrology, or magic (Arabic 610—638, Persian 639—643, Turkic 644—648); sciences, medicine (649—679); philosophy, ethics, politics (Arabic 680—729, Persian 730—738, Turkic 739—744); books of mixed contents, encyclopedias (Arabic 745—835, Persian 836—842, Turkic 843—848). The numbers under which the MSS were included into the catalogue were later used as their inventory numbers which are now called old numbers of the AM.
While processing later acquisitions, Ch.D.Frähn defined the place in his catalogue for them and gave them doublet numbers with the addition of Roman letters such as а, b, с, d, etc. During his life there were 53 such additions, so the final version of his catalogue counted 901 entries. However, the first comprehensive catalogue of Muslim MSS was not completed and remained unpublished.
B.A.Dorn who followed Ch.D.Frähn as the AM’s head, began with the writing of the abovementioned work on the history of the AM during 1819—44, dedicated to the memory of his predecessor. He also cared about the constant replenishment and processing of the AM’s collections and regularly published notes on the new acquisitions.
Among 17 MSS, passed to the AM from the Library of Academic Commission at the Ministry of Finance in 1845, only one was Arabic. Among the MSS obtained in 1850—52, there were nine Arabic ones, including three from the widow of A.-K.Bakikhanov. After the death of Ch.D.Frähn (1851) seven Arabic MSS from his collection were acquired. In several packages sent by N.V.Khanykov from Central Asia and Hurasan in 1857—60, there were seventeen parchment folia from Quran written in Qufic script and seven volumes of Arabic MSS. From his trip through the Caucasus and North Iran in 1860—61, B.A.Dorn himself brought a fragment of Qufic Quran and an Arabic ms of a treatise by Apollonius of Tyana which were passed to the AM.
In his account of the AM’s activities for 1865, B.A.Dorn mentioned a MS acquired from the Russian embassy in Constantinople, and a MS from the collection of V.V.Velyaminov-Zernov. Among the MSS obtained in 1868 from the archives of the Iranist R.Graf there were five Arabic MSS. A ms with 2 geographic treatises purchased in 1871 from the heritage of W.F.Dittel (died 1848) was extensively described by B.A.Dorn in 1873. In the collection sent by General von Kaufmann in 1874 there were four Arabic ones, and in the Fonton collection, obtained in 1876, two Arabic MSS.
His published accounts B.A.Dorn considered as just preliminary, he was going to fulfill the project uncompleted by Ch.D.Frähn, and publish the comprehensive catalogue of the Mislum collection. However, he failed to do it, his work having been kept at the archives. Nevertheless, B.A.Dorn contributed much to the area of textology by editing many MSS from the AM’s collection, mostly Persian but also some Arabic. He followed Ch.D.Frähn and Charmoi in the study of sources on the history of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Iran, expecially of the Caspian Shore. In some of his monographs he used Arabic MSS numbered В 782, С 589, В 792, С 353, etc., and sometimes even cited extracts from the MSS he used. Except for B.A.Dorn, Arabic MSS from the AM were used extensively by D.A.Chvolson (1856) and A.J.Harkawy (1874); in 1866, the Danish Arabist A.F.Meren completed the project started by Ch.D.Frähn (1820) on the edition of the cosmographic treatise by ad-Dimashqi and based on the MS numbered В 781; in 1866 and 1868, E.A.Strandmann edited in Helsinki two treatises from the ms В 3, containing biographies of a number of Arabic poets.
Arabic MSS kept at the AM were open for the study by foreign scholars as well who were preparing critical editions of texts. Thus, in 1838, Kosegarten and Greifswald were sent the MSS of Kitab al-Aghani. F.Wüstenfeld used AM’s MSS while editing The History of Mecca by al-Azraqi (1858) and The Geographical Dictionary by Yaqut (1866-70), W.Wright did it when editing texts by al-Kamil al-Mubarrad, T.G.Juynboll and B.F.Matthes when editing the treatise by Ibn Tagribirdi on the History of Egypt (1852—1861).
In the 1870s, V.R.Rosen started his intensive academic activities, and the careful description of Arabic MSS collected in Petersburg was one of his primary tasks. First, he compiled a solid catalogue of Arabic MSS kept at the Library of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and then began compiling the systematic catalogue of the AM’s Arabic MSS. A hope appeared that the great project initiated by Ch.Frähn and carried on by B.A.Dorn would be completed. Indeed, in 1881, B.Rosen published in French the first issue of the catalogue with detailed descriptions of 300 MSS supplied, when necessary, list of contents and even quotations from the beginning and the end of the texts. However, as was stated by I.J.Krachkovsky, “the second issue of the catalogue of the Arabic MSS kept at the Asiatic Museum, was never completed because the then authorities of the Academy of Sciences had no interest in his project”. For some time, academic description of the AM’s Arabic MSS stopped.
In addition to the catalogue, V.R.Rosen wrote a monograph containing the description and edition of extracts from several Arabic MSS of various contents, and, together with V.F.Girgas, compiled The Arabic Reading Book [Арабская хрестоматия] (1875—76) that was partially based upon the AM’s MSS. In some of his other papers, V.R.Rosen used the AM’s Arabic MSS, too.
In 1890, the Iranist K.G.Salemann was appointed the head of the AM and he headed it until his death in 1916. In the very beginning, in 1891, he reported to the AS a number of unprocessed “Muhammedian” MSS which had been gathered and expressed his certainty that their entire catalogue would be soon published. K.G.Salemann, holding traditions of his predecessors, cared about keeping, processing and replenishment of manuscripts and books collection of the AM. He promoted influx of MSS from Central Asia where he himself traveled many times, did his best to prepare the catalogue of the entire Muslim collection (he took the pattern of Ch.D.Frähn rather than that of V.R.Rosen), put in good order the system of numbering of all the manuscripts, newly acquired; thus, he stopped continuing the old system of numbers which was getting more and more complicated and initiated the new list, starting from 1, and with letters Nov. (meaning Novissima) put before the number.
K.G.Salemann reported regularly about new replenishments of the AM’s collection at the academic Izvestiya AN bulletin. His abovementioned report, published in 1894, contained data on 14 Arabic MSS from the collections of A.L.Kunn, 4 from that of V.V.Radlov, 2 from that of P.Lerkh, the latter being obtained 1859, and 15 from various sources. At the account of his trip to Central Asia in the summer of 1897 K. G.Salemann wrote about MSS presented to him, including several Arabic MSS such as 1 from D.M.Gramenitsky and 1 from V.P.Nalivkin, while among 96 purchased MSS 19 were Arabic. In his later accounts, K. G.Salemann published the lists of MSS acquired in Bukhara via V.I.Ignatyev from Mil-Salih Mirakbaev and other merchants, the list of MSS from the heritage of V.R.Rosen; wrote about acquisitions from D.A.Chvolson, N.F.Petrovsky, F.F.Pospelov (from the city of Kattakurgan). A special publications was devoted to an old MSS of The Chronology by al-Biruni acquired from L.F.Bogdanov, Tehran (1912). The acquisitions from 1912 to 1916 were briefly mentioned at the annual Accounts of the Activities of the Asiatic Museum [Отчеты о деятельности Азиатского музея].
At the end of the 19th through the beginning of the 20th century both Russian and foreign scholars continued using the AM’s Arabic MSS. It suffices to mention the most important publications.
In 1896, D.Ginzburg made a facsimile edition of the unique ms of Ibn Quzman’s diwan which turned out to be a significant source for the students of Arabic Spanish poetry from the 12th century. Some monographic researches, remaining valuable till present, such as Materials on the History of Golden Horde [Материалы по истории Золотой Орды] by V.G.Tiesenhausen, Turkestan [Туркестан] by V.V.Barthold, Palestine [Палестина] by N.A.Mednikov, are also partially based upon the AM’s Arabic MSS. The MS of pseudo-al-Jahiz, thanks to the data published by V.R.Rosen, was used by van Vloten who edited the text; K.Brockelmann used the ms of The Book of the Sources of Information by Ibn Kutaibah, M.‘Amari the unique MS of Al-Tarikh-ul-Mansuri, H.Derenbourg the MS of The Book by Sibawaihi, C.Schiaparelli that of Ibn Hamdis’s diwan, H.Hirschfeld that of Hassan bin Sabit’s diwan. The Master’s paper by I.J.Krachkovsky was based upon the research into MSS of diwan of al-Wa’wa of Damascus, two of which belonged to the AM’s collection. V.V.Barthold and I.J.Krachkovsky published a few monographic descriptions of the AM’s Arabic MSS, both of them used the MSS extensively in their historical and philological works.
Though, as was stated, there were many replenishments of the AM’s MSS collection, each of them brought a small number of MSS, and by 1915 the Arabic collection consisted only of 800 items. From 1915 to 1917 there appeared a great influx of texts, thanks to which the Muslim collection got almost doubled as much. By the recommendation of V.V.Bartold, A.Z.Validov was sent to Central Asia with the aim of collecting MSS, and in the package sent by him there was one Arabic MS. Then, 41 MSS were purchased from V.A.Ivanov, who was back from his trip through Iran and Belujistan. When in the summer of 1915 V.A.Ivanov was going to undertake another trip to Bukhara so as to study the local dervishes, again he was asked to look for and purchase some interesting MSS for the AM. His mission brought about excellent results, during his trips he gathered all in all 1057, the so-called Bukharian collection of V.A.Ivanov. From 1916 on, S.V.Ter-Avetisyan, the senior curator of the Caucasian Museum, began sending packages with MSS gathered by him by the order of the AS in the territories around the Lake Wan, Erzerum, Erzinjan, etc., occupied by the Russian troops. This collection, called the Wan collection, included, inter alia, more than 1,000 items of Arabic MSS.
In late 1916, K.G.Salemann, whom “death found in the middle of his works on the recognition and numbering of newly acquired Muslim MSS,” suddenly died. The catalogue that he had worked on remained incomplete. The AM had to think about how to finish the project he had started. For the processing of the V.A.Ivanov Bukharian collection the collector himself was enrolled and he compiled the catalogue of its Persian part and briefly described the entire collection, but his work was never published. For the preliminary processing of the Arabic parts of the Bukharian and Wan collections and, in general, for the continuing of the systematic catalogue started by V.R.Rosen, I.J.Krachkovsky was invited and he published several papers on especially interesting pieces of the Bukharian collection and the short catalogue of the Arabic part of the Wan collection. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the AM there was published a special pamphlet with papers by V.V.Barthold and I.J.Krachkovsky concerning the Arabic collection.
After the October Revolution, various arms of the Soviet government passed to the AM a number of collections that had belonged to the state institutions or private possessors. For the Arabic part, especially important were two MSS collections. The first one included 42 volumes of mostly Christian treatises by the Patriarch of Antioch, Gregory IV, which had been “offered” to Nicolas II in 1913 for reasonable requital and kept at the library of the Winter Palace, and soon after they got to the AM, I.J.Krachkovsky published their description. The other one was the collection of the Educational Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and it consisted of around 250 Arabic MSS and had a special and extensive history. They began to gather the collection from the moment it was founded, in 1823. Its core was formed with the MSS collected by a well-known collector and diplomat, A.J.Italinsky and General P.P.Suchtelen. Later the library was replenished with MSS presented by teachers and former pupils of the Educational Department. Its catalogue was published in 1877, while some MSS possessed by A.J.Italinsky had been mentioned in periodicals even before. MSS from the library along with the AM’s texts were used by Russian and, partially, foreign Arabists who edited texts and carried out historical and philological studies such as above Frähn, d’Ohsson, Charmoi, Dorn, Rosen, Tiesenhausen, Mednikov. Moreover, MSS from the Educational Department were used by V.Girgas when he edited the historical treatise by al-Dinavari, and by a scholar from Lebanon Antun Salhani who edited al-Ahtal’s diwan.
In the 1920s through the 1930s, the scholars of the AM and then the Institute of Oriental Studies founded on the basis of the AM carried on the preparatory work to compile the catalogue of the Muslim collection and processed new acquisitions. A paper was published by V.A.Ebermann on several Arabic MSS obtained from Iran, and the list of Arabic MSS from the former V.A.Ivanov Bukharian collection compiled by V.I.Belyayev.
In 1929, the AM’s Muslim collection was reorganized according to the size of the books, and the numbering system was changed accordingly; thus, the collection was divided into five groups marked with letters А, В, С, D, and Е. MSS inside each group receivednumbers, from 1 onward. This way, the MSS’s numbers were shaped in their current form, consisting of a letter and a number. The new numbers were given to an entire volume, regardless of the number of treatises included, or to many-volumed editions, in contrast to the old system when each treatise in a convolute could have its own number. This procedure was accomplished by V.A.Embermann and K.D.Ilyina with some participation of E.E.Berthels. MSS of the Muslim collection were now put in a convenient order, but were still not classified according to their language. All subsequent acquisitions were naturally given numbers according to the new system.
The card-index reflecting the new system of numbering was also compiled. In the 1930s, it was systematically checked, replenished and copied by V.I.Belyayev, S.L.Volin, G.G.Gulbin, I.N.Lemanov, A.M.Muginov. They also processed new acquisitions and made cards, mostly for the topographic catalogue. Their work, however, was never completed, probably because of a huge number of new documents. In 1934, the archaeographic expedition organized by the Institute of Oriental Studies discovered around 1200 volumes in various districts along the Volga river, such as the districts of Tatarstan, Bashkiria, Orenburg (then Chkalov); in 1936, another expedition was dispatched and this obtained several hundred MSS in addition (in all both expeditions brought 1,534 MSS containing Arabic treatises). In the same year (1936) a large collection of S.G.Vahidov from Kazan was passed to the Institute along with four Arabic MSS, including a parchment Qufic Quran, from the legacy of I.G.Naufal purchased from M.M.Charov. In 1938, among other Oriental texts passed from the Institute of Books, Documents and Writings (earlier they belonged to the private collection of N.P.Likhachev), were some Arabic MSS which were carefully described. Many other acquisitions took place but only few were reported in periodicals.
In the 1920s through the 1930s, Soviet Arabists ran many researches on the basis of the AM/IOS’s MSS, both old and new. I.J.Krachkovsky continued to use them in his works, such as a few monographic descriptions of MSS and editions of texts; M.A.Salye wrote some papers on MSS of One Thousand And One Nights, V.I.Belyayev wrote on the unique MS of the anonymous chronicle from the 11th century, A.J.Borisov published papers on the MS of an astrological treatise and miniatures of the Maqamat of al-Hariri, S.L.Volin a paper on Arabic MSS with Khorezmian glosses. Several Arabic MSS were used for the first volume of The Documents on the History of the Turkmen and Turkmenistan [Материалы по истории туркмен и Туркмении], the edition of Ibn Fadlan’s journey made by A.P.Kovalevsky; A.M.Barabanov edited and translated the chronicles of the Shamil movement. Foreign scholars for the edition of texts were granted several texts such as the cosmography by al-Gharnati, B 782 (to G.Ferrand, Paris), the description of the journey of Macarius of Antioch, B 1230 (to B.Radu, Bucharest), one of the volumes of the chronicles by Ibn Iyas, C 782 (published entirely by P.Kahle and M.Mustafa, Cairo 1931).
A number of sad events such as World War 2, the blockade of Leningrad, the death of a number of specialists, the break in the preparation of new cadres, the numerous moves of collections, and the reorganization of the Institute stopped the work on the manuscripts for a long time. It was started again only in the 1950s when the need to prepare lists of Persian/Tajik and Turkic MSS was stated. Arabic MSS were processed then by V.I.Belyayev who continued to improve card-indexes and, in 1953, he published an extensive account of the history of the formation of the collection, with attention to most interesting MSS on history, geography, literature, mathematics, and medicine. In the post-war years, several papers by I.J.Krachkovsky were also published, with the use of Arabic MSS of the IOS. At the same time, Sami al-Dahhan, Damascus, used our MSS for his critical edition of some Arabic texts.
From the 1950s onward, the staff of the Institute was replenished with young Arabists, graduated from Leningrad University, and the work was given a new impetus. First, from 1952, A.I.Mikhailova under V.I.Belyayev’s supervision began describing Arabic MSS on geography and cosmography, a little bit later, from 1956, A.B.Khalidov started to work with MSS containing fiction. Soon, in 1960 and 1961, the first 2 issues of The Catalogue of Arabic Manuscripts [Каталог арабских рукописей] were printed. From 1957 to 1963, the MSS on medicine were processed by I.R.Babayants, while A.I.Mikhailova and A.B.Khalidov moved to the other sections of the collection, historical and poetical respectively. From 1961 to 1962, the work was even more broadened, and new researchers were added such as K.A.Boiko (fiqh), P.A.Gryaznevich (Quran and Quranic sciences), L.I.Nikolaeva (Grammar), S.B.Pevzner (hadiths).
In the same years, facsimile edition of some Arabic MSS was fulfilled by T.A.Shumovsky, P.A.Gryaznevich and A.B.Khalidov. Several papers based on Arabic MSS and two general reviews of the collection appeared. When the scientific heritage of Ibn Sina and al-Biruni was translated into Russian and Uzbek in Tashkent, they used some Arabic MSS kept at the Institute. The historian of sciences B.A.Rosenfeld (Moscow) was interested in MSS on mathematics; he published the list of them according to the card-index, and mentioned them in some of his papers.
Attention to Arabic MSS kept at the Institute was paid also by foreign scholars who ordered microfiches of them or even came to Leningrad so as to get direct access. Many historians of arts published copies of miniatures from the famous 13th century ms Maqamat al-Hariri (9138). When the critical edition of Kitab al-ansab as-Sam‘ani was prepared a photo copy of the ms С 361 was passed to the Institute Dairat ul-Ma‘arif al-Uthmaaniyyah, Hyderabad, India.
Nevertheless, the description of Arabic MSS was not a fast process. Soon it was clear that discreet efforts of these scholars would not be enough to fulfill the task in a short time and many Arabic MSS would reemain unprocessed for some time. Only the third issue of the catalogue was published in 1965, than on historical MSS. Therefore, in 1963, a decision was taken to publish the brief catalogue as it was prepared as a collective work of the researches of the Arabic Section. From 1963 to 1964, the preparatory work was made, the scholars exchanged the previous card-index for a thematic card-index, developed the structure of the catalogue and the system of description of each MS, ascertained a modus operandi and discussed trial pieces. By 1969, the catalogue was completed in rough. By 1971, it was revised and enlarged, after which supplied with indices and prepared to be published.
(on the basis of the introduction to The Arabic Manuscripts of the Institute of Oriental Studies. A Brief Catalogue [Арабские рукописи Института Востоковедения. Краткий каталог]. Ed. by A.B.Khalidov. Pt. 1. Moscow, Nauka Publishers 1986. Pp. 18-27).
Tr. by A.Zorin; proofread by S.Wickham-Smith