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Shiʻi Treasures in North American and European Libraries

This communication, Shiʻi Treasures in North American and European Libraries: A Zaydī Multitext Manuscript from the Glaser Collection, provides an expanded description of the contents of a Yemeni codex from the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, MS Glaser 37. It discusses the dating of the codex and some of the unique texts preserved in it.

The manuscripts of the Glaser collection are one of the most important sources for the study of Zaydism. Collected in Yemen by Eduard Glaser (1855-1908), they are currently held in several European libraries, including the British Library, the Austrian National Library, and Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. Wilhelm Ahlwardt was the first to describe the manuscripts of the Glaser collection at Staatsbibliothek.

In 1887 he wrote that the collection belonged to an insular and highly developed tradition, of which even the Muslim bibliographers (Ḥājjī Khalīfa, for instance) were unaware. Not all manuscripts in the collection are composed by Yemeni Zaydis or even by Yemeni authors—some of them were categorized by W. Ahlwardt as “allgemeine Litteratur.” The manuscripts in the Glaser collection cover a variety of topics—ḥadīth, philosophy, grammar, lexicography, poetry, history, theology and law. Most manuscripts in the collection have been dated by W. Ahlwardt to the eighth through tenth century AH (fifteenth through seventeenth century AD), but many lack colophons, which makes precise dating problematic.

MS Berlin, Glaser 37, a codex from this collection owned by the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, is an interesting case. First, it is a compilation of texts whose dates of composition span eleven centuries, composed by an impressive range of authors, not all of whom were Yemenis or Zaydis. Second, it apparently underwent considerable transformations before it reached its current state. A study of the compilation process might offer insights into the intellectual life of Yemeni scholars. Finally, although Ahlwardt’s description of the manuscript is detailed, it is far from complete and some texts contained in the codex that could be of interest to scholars of Zaydism have so far remained understudied. The codex contains several large texts and a poetic compilation. It begins with two chronicles, Kitāb al-Ifāda fī tārīkh al-a ʾimma al-sādaand Tatimmat  Kitāb al-Ifāda, that together complete a history of Zaydi imams from ʿAlī b.  Abī Ṭālib to al-Mutawakkil ʿalā llāh Ismāʿīl (d. 1087/1676). The manuscript also incorporates Sarḥ al-ʿUyūn fī sharḥ Risālat Ibn Zaydūn, a commentary on al-Risāla al-Hazaliyya of the Andalusi poet Ibn Zaydūn (d. 463/1071) composed by Jamāl al-Dīn Ibn Nubāta al-Miṣrī (d. 768/1367). The rest of the codex contains large parts of Abū Firās al-Ḥamdānī’s (d. 357/968)dīwān, and a compilation of poetry. In all, the manuscript contains works of 54 authors.

Shiʻi Treasures in North American and European Libraries

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