Archive for the ‘Arabic manuscripts’ Tag

A treasury of Arabic (Garšūnī) hagiography: Saint Mark’s, Jerusalem, № 199   Leave a comment

The first Garšūnī manuscript that I remember studying closely is SMMJ 199, a huge manuscript copied in 1733-1734 and now divided into two parts due to its size. Altogether, it is 750 folios long, with 90 distinct longer or shorter hagiographic pieces. Fortunately the colophon has also survived. This colophon, with a few Syriac elements, but mostly in Garšūnī and Arabic, tells us not only the completion date, but the beginning date, where it was copied (and translated), and about its textual basis. It was copied and translated at Dayr al-Zaʿfarān from a Syriac manuscript dated 1490 AG (= 1178/9 CE) “into the Garšūnī language” by the scribe of this manuscript himself, Bišāra of Aleppo.

SMMJ 199B, f. 750v

SMMJ 199B, f. 750v

Among the later notes to the manuscript is one on f. 367v by Yulius, Metr. of Malabar dated 1933.

SMMJ 199a, f. 367v

SMMJ 199a, f. 367v

According to notes on f. 751 of SMMJ 199 B, the manuscript was purchased in Aleppo and donated to Saint Mark’s in 1874.

William Macomber’s catalog of the manuscript for the BYU microfilm project is available here, and the earlier record by Graf is in Oriens Christianus n.s. 3 (1913): 311-327. I am finishing up the new record of the manuscript for HMML’s own catalog now, but here is an alphabetical index that I made some time ago (also in PDF here: SMMJ_199_index). A few more images from the manuscript follow the index.

The stories are alphabetized by the names of the saints (or the miraculous events) themselves. The parenthetical reference to Graf is to vol. 1 of his Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur (Vatican City: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1944)

Aaron, 187a-195b (Graf 523)
ʿAbd Al-Maṣīḥ, 651b-657a (Graf 523)
Abel, see below under Martyrs
Abḥai, 513a-524a (Graf 523)
Abraham, 401a-409a (Graf 523)
Abraham of Qidun, 174b-182a (Graf 523)
Abraham of Kashkar, 310a-311b (Graf 523)
Addai, 545b-547a (Graf 524)
Agrippas, see under Lawrence & Agrippas
Andronicus & Athanasia his wife, 153b-156a (Graf 404)
Antonius, 4b-33b (Graf 312)
Arcadius, son of Xenophon, see under Xenophon
Archelides, 138a-142b (Graf 498)
Athanasia, see under Andronicus
Athanasius, 446b-452a (Graf 315)
Awgen, 323a-340a (Graf 525)
Awtil, 166b-171a (Graf 524)

Bacchus, see under Sergius & Bacchus
Barbara & Juliana, 714b-716a (Graf 499ff.)
Barsawma, 226a-265b (Graf 524)
Miracles of Basil, 462a-469b (Graf 328)
Basilia, see under Eugenia
Bayt Al-Šuhadāʾ, 313a-323a (Graf 525)
Bishoi, 67a-81a (Graf 539)

Children of the rulers of Rome & Antioch, 150b-153b
Christopher the Barbarian, 642a-646b (Graf 500)
Clement of Rome, 440b-443a (Graf 304)
The Invention of the Cross, 412a-414b (Graf 244)
Cyprian & Justa, 494a-498a (Graf 517)
Cyriacus & his mother Julitta, 646b-648b (Graf 500)

Daniel of Scetis, 156a-159a (Graf 403)
Daniel & the Virgins, 675a-677b (Graf 403)
Daniel of Ǧabal Galaš, 266a-272a
Dimet, 171b-174b (Graf 525)
Dionysius, see under Peter & Paul
Dometius, see under Maximus

Ephrem the Syrian, 453b-462a (Graf 433)
Eugenia, her family, & Basilia, 723a-729b (Graf 501)
Eulogius the stonecutter, 156a-159a (Graf 403)
Eulogius the Egyptian, 390b-400a (Graf 526)
Euphrosune, 689a-693a (Graf 501)
Eupraxia, 677b-684a (Graf 518)
Eustathius, see under Placidus
Evagrius, 362a-363b (Graf 399)

Faith, Hope, & Love, & their mother Wisdom, 719a-723a (Graf 513ff.)
Febronia, 729b-737a (Graf 502)
The Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, 570b-574a (Graf 510)

George, 578b-582a (Graf 502-504)
Gerasimus, 308a-310a (Graf 408)
Gregory the Illuminator, 484a-494a (Graf 310, 518)
Gregory Thaumaturgus, 479b-484a (Graf 309)

Habib, 635b-638b (Graf 526)
Hagna, 718a-719a (Graf 526)
Hilaria, 684b-689a (Graf 526)
The Himyarites, 624b-631b (Graf 516)

Ignatius, 437b-439b (Graf 305)
The Image of Christ made by the Jews in Tiberias, 366a-379b (Graf 245)
Invention (of the Cross), see above under Cross
Isaiah of Aleppo, 349b-356a (Graf 528)
Isaiah of Scete, 363b-366a (Graf 403)

Jacob, 582a-585b (Graf 504ff.)
Jacob the Anchorite, 272a-277a (Graf 527)
Jacob Baradaeus, 527a-533a
Jacob of Nisibis, 452a-453b (Graf 527)
Jacob the Recluse, 379b-390a (Graf 527)
Jacob of Sarug, 526b-527a (Graf 452)
John the Anchorite, 409a-412a (Graf 527)
John the Baptist, 434a-437b (Graf 506-508)
John Chrysostom, 469b-479b (Graf 353ff)
John of Edessa, see under Paul of Cnidus
John the Evangelist, 422b-434a (Graf 261ff.)
John of Kfar Sanya, 590a-599a (Graf 527)
John of Tella, 533a-545b (Graf 528)
John of the Well, 290b-294a (Graf 527)
John, son of the emperor (John of the Golden Gospel), 142a-146a (Graf 505)
John the Short, 81a-98a (Graf 534)
John, son of Xenophon, see under Xenophon
Juliana, see under Barbara & Juliana
Julianus, 182a-187a (Graf 367)
Justa, see under Cyprian

Lawrence & Agrippas, 612b-624b (Graf 528)

Macarius, 33b-52a (Graf 395)
Malchus, 340a-349b (Graf 528)
Malchus of Clysma, 280a-282b (Graf 529)
Mamas, his father Theodotus, & his wife Rufina, 648b-651b (Graf 520)
Mari(n)a, 693a-694a (Graf 508)
Mary the martyr, 716a-718a (Graf 528)
Mary the Egyptian, 698b-703a (Graf 508)
Mark of Ǧabal Tarmaq, 110b-114a (Graf 512)
Mark the Merchant, 286b-290a
Martinianus, 277a-278a (Graf 510)
The Holy Martyrs, beginning with Abel, 564b-566b (Graf 528)
The Assumption of the Virgin Mary, 414b-420b (Graf 249-251)
Maximus & Dometius, sons of Emperor Valentinus, 52a-67a (Graf 536)

Nicholas, also known as Zakhe, 511a-513a (Graf 511)

Onesima & other women, 669a-672a (Graf 529)
Another on Onesima (the same martyr as above), 672a-675a (Graf 529)

Pantaleon, 604a-609b (Graf 521)
Pappus, 638b-642a (Graf 529)
Paul of Alexandria, 1b-4b (Graf 512)
Paul (the Apostle), see under Peter & Paul
Paul of Cnidus & John of Edessa, 506a-511a (Graf 529)
Pelagia, 703a-709b (Graf 529)
Peter, 443b-446b (Graf 309)
Peter & Paul, Dionysius’ Letter on the Apostles, 420b-422b (Graf 270)
Pethion, 657a-662a (Graf 529ff)
Petra, 311b-313a (Graf 530)
Pistis, Elpis, Agape, & Sophia, see under Faith et alii
Placidus, also known as Eustathius, 566b-570b (Graf 502)
Plotinus, 498a-506a (Graf 530)

Rechab, the sons of, (Rechabites) 282b-286b (Graf 214)
Reuben (Rubil), 162b-166a (Graf 530)
Risha, 146a-150b (in two parts) (Graf 498)
Romanus, 609b-612b (Graf 530)
Rufina, see under Mamas et alii

Saba of Alexandria, 278a-280a (Graf 530)
Seleucus, see under Stratonike
Serapion, 114a-132b (Graf 530)
Sergius & Bacchus, 585b-590a (Graf 512)
The Seven Martyrs of Samosata, 599a-604a
The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, 574a-578b (Graf 512ff.)
Severus (Letter), 524b-526b (Graf 419)
Shenoute, 98a-110b (Graf 463)
Shmona & Gurya, 631b-635b (Graf 530)
Simeon of Kfar ʿĀbdīn, 159a-162b (Graf 530)
Simeon Stylites, 196a-226a (Graf 513)
Simeon the Fool (Salos), 294a-308a (Graf 409)
Stratonike and her fiance Seleucus, 737a-750a (Graf 530)
Susanna, 695b-698a (Graf 530)

Thecla & other female martyrs, 709b-714a (Graf 514)
Theodore, martyred in Euchaita, 662a-669a (Graf 514)
Theodotus, father of Mamas, see under Mamas et alii
Theodotus of Amida, 547a-564b

A Certain Virgin, 694a-695b
Another Virgin, 698a-698b

Xenophon & his sons, John & Arcadius, 132b-137b (Graf 515)

Yareth, 356b-362a (Graf 531)

Zakhe, see under Nicholas

Example of the mise en page. SMMJ 199A, f. 52r.

Example of the mise en page. SMMJ 199A, f. 52r.

Scribal note on Mar Malkē. SMMJ 199A, f. 349v.

Scribal note on Mar Malkē. SMMJ 199A, f. 349v.

SMMJ 199A, f. 290v, John of the Well

SMMJ 199A, f. 290v, John of the Well

SMMJ 199B, f. 698v, Mary the Egyptian

SMMJ 199B, f. 698v, Mary the Egyptian

SMMJ 199B, f. 703r, Pelagia

SMMJ 199B, f. 703r, Pelagia


Two Arabic and Garšūnī verses in Saint Mark’s, Jerusalem, № 183   Leave a comment

At the end of one of the texts in SMMJ 183, which contains theological and hagiographic writings in Garšūnī, some later reader (or readers?) — the handwriting does not seem to be the same as the scribe’s — has recorded some intended wisdom. The two four-line sayings are in Arabic, but written in both Syriac and Arabic script.

SMMJ 183, f. 98v

SMMJ 183, f. 98v

This is not the prettiest handwriting, and the spelling might not be what is expected, but the meaning of both is relatively clear. (For the long vowels at line-end, cf. Wright, Grammar, vol. 2, § 224.) The sideways text in the center has its Arabic-script version is on the bottom.

O seeker of knowledge! Apply yourself to piety,
Forgo sleep and subdue satiety,
Continue studying and don’t leave it,
For knowledge consists and grows in study.

On the right we have four more lines in Garšūnī, with its Arabic-script version immediately below.

O child of Adam! You are ignorant!
There is no more awaiting the reckoning:
Look! Your life and your time have vanished.
Now you shall return to dust.

In line 2, al-ḥisābi (written –ī) must be genitive with the foregoing V maṣdar, tanaẓẓur; the latter word is written within the Arabic text, but a derivative of “to blossom” doesn’t make much sense, and the Garšūnī writing of , even without a dot, is known well for . In the last word of these lines, the Garšūnī version lacks the preposition l-, but it’s present in the Arabic version and is needed for the sense in any case.

Finally, the three Garšūnī lines on the far left read, “Our trust is in God, the quickener of our souls. To him be glory forever.”

A taʿlīq Arabic colophon in a Garšūnī manuscript   2 comments

Colophons do not necessarily match in language the texts that they conclude, so that we sometimes have a Garšūnī colophon at the end of a Syriac text, or vice versa (as in an earlier place in the manuscript mentioned below). Garšūnī and Arabic are not, of course, distinct languages, but given that the medium in view here is graphic, the clearly distinct writing systems employed for them may matter in a way approaching that which exists between different languages properly speaking. In addition, at least some scribes that used Garšūnī were careful to note the difference, as I pointed out recently.

Here, mainly for the handwriting, is an Arabic colophon at the end of a Garšūnī manuscript: Saint Mark’s Monastery, Jerusalem, № 169, which mostly contains homilies in Garšūnī. (At the beginning there is an excerpt, in Syriac, from the Chronicle of Michael the Great, book 11 of chapter 20, on the Council of Manazkert convened in 726 by Catholicos Yovhannēs Ōjnec’i the Philosopher with Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Athanasios III. Neither Michael nor the title Chronicle are specifically mentioned here, however.)

The kind of Arabic script most often found in the collections I have cataloged is naskh. Less commonly we see ruqʿa, and rarer still is the slanted taʿlīq or one of its derivations, so the handwriting here is of some interest merely for that reason. The script here is characterized by each word being written on a down-slanting line (sometimes with the last letter written above the preceding parts of the word), loosely placed diacritical marks, and some horizontal and rounded lines being notably extended. Perhaps others would like to try their hand at reading it. My transcription (save for one part in the first line that has proven undecipherable to me so far) follows below. By the way, the year is given as 1092 AG, but this must be a mistake for 2092 AG (= 1780/1 CE), so the full date as given below would be May 1, 1781; a purchase note at the end of the manuscript is dated 2102 AG (= 1790/1 CE). The scribe, also named earlier in this manuscript in a Syriac colophon, is called Anīs, who is from Gargar, but this manuscript was written outside Diyarbakır/Āmid.

SMMJ 169, f. 145r

SMMJ 169, f. 145r

كتب بداخل مدينة آمد في قلاية البطريركية الايغناطيوسية ادام الله سعادتها ؟ ؟ الينا المعظم المغبوط المكرم مار ايغناطيوس

بطريرك انطاكية بيد احقر عبيد الله واحوجهم الراهب الهارب وانيس باسم قسيس في سنة اثنان تسعين والف للاسكندر اليوناني

في يوم عيد القديس مار ميخايل

اول يوم شهر ايار

رحم الله من ترحم على الكاتب الحقير

وعلى والديه واخوته


Two scribal notes (Garšūnī & Arabic) of a certain Rabbān Īsḥāq   Leave a comment

Marginal notes of any kind, whether by the original scribe or by a later owner or reader, are among the unique parts of a particular manuscript, no matter how many other copies of the main text may exist. Here, as a simple example of such notes, and for those that might like some easy practice reading Garšūnī and Arabic, are two images from SMMJ 168, a collection of homilies attributed to Ephrem, Jacob of Serugh, John Chrysostom, and others in Garšūnī. They are both written by a reader and secondary scribe named Isaac (here spelled Īsḥāq). The first one is in Arabic script:

SMMJ 168, f. 240r, margin

SMMJ 168, f. 240r, margin

iġfirū* li-rabbān Īsḥāq

Forgive Rabbān Īsḥāq!

*Missing the alif otiosum.

The second one, several folios later, is written around the outer and lower margin, all in Syriac script (but Arabic language) except for the last three words, which are in Arabic.

SMMJ 168, f. 270r

SMMJ 168, f. 270r

hāḏihi ‘l-waǧh katībat  al-ʕabd al-ḫāṭiʔ rabbān Īsḥāq bi-sm qass wa-rāhib. taraḥḥam ʕalay-hi wa-ʕalá wāliday-hi ayyuhā ‘l-qānī wa-‘l-qāriʔ. raḥimaka ‘llāhu āmīn.

This side [of the folio] is the writing of the sinful slave Rabbān Īsḥāq, [who is] in name a priest and monk. O owner and reader, plead for mercy for him and his parents! May God be merciful to you! Amen!

“The Garšūnī language”   4 comments

My involvement in cataloging Syriac and Arabic manuscripts over the last few years has impressed upon me how often and actively Syriac Orthodox and Chaldean scribes (and presumably, readers) used Garšūnī: it is anything but an isolated occurrence in these collections. This brings to the fore questions of how these scribes and readers thought about Garšūnī. Did they consider it simply a writing system, a certain kind of Arabic, or something else? At least a few specific references to “Garšūnī” in colophons may help us answer them. Scribes sometimes make reference to their transcriptions from Arabic script into Syriac script, and elsewhere a scribe mentions translation “from Garšūnī into Syriac” (CFMM 256, p. 344; after another text in the same manuscript, p. 349, we have in Arabic script “…who transcribed and copied [naqala wa-kataba] from Arabic into Garšūnī”). Such statements show that scribes certainly considered Arabic and Garšūnī distinctly.

While cataloging Saint Mark’s Monastery, Jerusalem, (SMMJ) № 167 recently, I found in the colophon a reference to Garšūnī unlike any that I’d seen before, in which the scribe refers, not to the Garšūnī “text” or “copy” (nusḫa, as in SMMJ 140, f. 132v), but rather to “the Garšūnī language” (lisān al-garšūnī). Here is an English translation of the relevant part of the colophon, with the images from the manuscript below.

SMMJ 167, ff. 322r-322v

…[God], in whose help this blessed book is finished and completed, the book of Mar Ephrem the Syrian. The means for copying it were not available with us at the monastery, so we found it with a Greek [rūmī] priest from Beit Jala, a friend of ours, and we took it on loan, so that we could read in it. We observed that it was a priceless jewel. It was written in Arabic, so we, the wretched, with his holiness, our revered lord, the honored Muṭrān, Ǧirǧis Mār Grigorios, were interested in transcribing it into the Garšūnī language, so that reading it might be easy for the novice monks, that they might obtain the salvation of their souls.

This was in the year 1882 AD, the 11th of the blessed month of June…

SMMJ 167, f. 322r (bottom)

SMMJ 167, f. 322r (bottom)

SMMJ 167, f. 322v (top)

SMMJ 167, f. 322v (top)

This is the second explicit reference I have found where a Garšūnī text is considered more readable to at least some section of the literate population. In this case, the audience in view is a group of beginning monks, and in the aforementioned manuscript SMMJ 140 the transcription from Arabic into Garšūnī was made “to facilitate the understanding of its contents for every reader.”

UPDATE (June 17, 2014): Thanks to Salam Rassi for help on the phrase ʕalá sabīl al-ʕīra.

“Satan” upside down in an Arabic manuscript   Leave a comment

I’ve mentioned here before the writing upside down of names as a means of cursing, dissociation, or the like (here, here, and cf. here). Today, while cataloging an Arabic manuscript from Mardin — CCM 17, 18th century, which contains accounts of miracles of Mary and other saints — I found another example, this time with “Satan”, and notably, in Arabic script, not Syriac, as was the case with the other examples I’ve pointed out. In this image, you can see al-šayṭān upside down in lines 2, 5, and 7.

CCM 17, f. 47r.

CCM 17, f. 47r.

An 18th-cent. trip to Jerusalem, and a colophon, in East Syriac Garšūnī by ʕabd-al-aḥad of ʕayn tannūr   Leave a comment

The cataloging of the CCM collection (about which see the end of this post) continues to reveal interesting items. Hardly all of the manuscripts currently in the collection were known to Scher, and Macomber only gives very bare mention of the contents of those he saw. There is a lot of East Syriac Garšūnī, which may be of interest to students of Arabic and graphemics, and as for the texts themselves, I hope to share some of my findings here. For today, I mention from CCM 12 a short narrative of a trip to Jerusalem from the the village of ʕayn tannūr (?) beginning in 1707 (in East Syriac Garšūnī); the trip was made by a certain ʕabd-al-aḥad the Priest and Mūsá b. Ibrāhīm the Deacon, and the narrative was written by the former (Rawāḥunā li-l-quds al-šarīf, anā l-ḥaqīr qissīs ʕabdalaḥad wa-šammās mūsá ibn brāhīm [sic]). There are other texts in the codex, and this ʕabd-al-aḥad was the scribe. We thus have the (or at least an) autograph of that work. Here is a colophon, complete with stock colophonic elements and language, at the end of one text (141r), which was apparently penned before the aforementioned journey to Jerusalem:

CCM 12, f. 141r

CCM 12, f. 141r

The finishing of it [the book] occurred on Tuesday, on the 22nd of the blessed month of Ayyār [May], in the year 1705 AD, and this was by the pen of the most wretched of God’s servants, and the most depraved of them, ʕabd-al-aḥad, in name a priest. He has demanded pardon and forgiveness from every brother who is an understanding reader!

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