The lion’s share of cataloging work I do at HMML is by means of high-quality digital images, the result of partnerships HMML maintains with the institutions and individuals that own the physical manuscripts themselves. HMML and Saint’ John’s University do, however, have a (physical) manuscript collection of their own, including Latin, French, Arabic, and Gǝʿǝz books (and scrolls). I’d like to share one such manuscript now, Or. A 11.
This is a seventeenth-century copy of a commentary (šarḥ) on the important Arabic grammatical — specifically morphology (taṣrīf) — work by Aḥmad b. ʿAlī b. Masʿūd (probably fourteenth century), which has the title Marāḥ al-arwāḥ (The Resting Place of Spirits). Ibn Masʿūd’s book itself has been published together with an introduction, English translation, and commentary not long ago (2001) by J. Åkesson. As she mentions in her introduction, Ibn Masʿūd’s work was the object of more than one commentary, but that of Ḥasan Pāšā b. ʿAlāʾa ‘l-Dīn al-Aswad al-Niksārī (late fourteenth century), called Al-mifrāḥ fī šarḥ marāḥ al-arwāḥ (The Joy-giver, A Commentary on the Resting Place of Spirits), has the claim of earliest. This particular copy is the work of a scribe named Muṣṭafá b. Isḥāq, completed 25 Ṣafar 1079 AH (= 4 August, 1668 CE).
There are a few other manuscript copies of Ḥasan Pāšā’s commentary, including Wien A.F. 206 (no. 204 in Flügel’s catalog, vol. 1), which is available on microfilm at HMML. I do not know that there is a printed edition of it, but I will gladly learn to know that there is.
Some water damage can be seen in this image, and it is present on many folios, but very mild, the text thus still legible. The script is pleasant and mostly clear. As can be seen in this excerpt, the commentator cites the text commented upon, or at least the beginning of it, with the rubric qawluhu and then proceeds to offer his own remarks.
If the study of ancient and medieval grammatical works in any language (Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Syriac, Arabic, Hebrew, etc.) is an arcane and perhaps abstruse field, then inspecting commentaries on those works is even more so, but let this little notice serve at least as a gentle indication and reminder that such texts exist and that they are worth studying.
GAL II 21; GALS II 14 (the commentary is mentioned in the section on the Marāḥ)
Joyce Åkesson, Arabic Morphology and Phonology: Based on the Marāḥ Al-arwāḥ by Aḥmad B. ʻAlī B. Masʻūd (Leiden, 2001). Rev. by W. Smyth of her earlier edition of pt. 1 (the strong verb) in JAOS 112 (1992): 711-712.
Kees Versteegh, Landmarks in Linguistic Thought III: The Arabic Linguistic Tradition, Routledge History of Linguistic Thought (London and New York, 1997).