- Catalogue of the Private Collections of Manuscripts in the Egyptian National Library by Aḥmad ʿAbd al-Bāsiṭ
The Catalogue of the Private Collections of Manuscripts in the Egyptian National Library published by the al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation is an important contribution to Arabic bibliographic literature. This eight-volume catalog is the result of a larger project by the Egyptian National Library to better catalog and digitize their holdings, much of which is being done in cooperation with the al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation. These eight volumes are the second part of the al-Furqān series of catalogs on the National Library, the first part being the Catalogue of Arabic Manuscripts in The Egyptian National Library (Dār al-Kutub alMiṣriyyah): Collections (Majāmīʿ), edited by ʿAbd al-Sattār ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq Ḥalwajī in 2011. Like the first catalog, the present catalog includes only the individual works in volumes of collected works (majāmīʿ), not individual works that are volumes in themselves. It also represents the prolonged efforts of a team of three scholars, Aḥmad ʿAbd al-Sattār ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm, Ikrāmī Muḥammad Abū al-ʿAlā, and Aḥmad al-Sayyid al-Ṣādiq, led by the general editor Aḥmad ʿAbd al-Bāsiṭ.
This catalog covers only a small portion of manuscripts in the private collections in this library. An important aspect of this catalog, which is clear in the Arabic, has gotten lost in the English translation. Majāmīʿ [End Page 253] (sing. majmūʿa) refers to particular Arabic codices that contain a collection of various distinct works. These codical collections, sometimes written intentionally as one volume and sometimes the result of binding together smaller manuscripts and scattered pages, are a particularly important part of Islamic book history. Majmāmīʿ are very common in manuscript and perhaps the most common way to preserve shorter books, letters, pamphlets, and more. Since they contain many different texts, these collections are usually given short shriftin manuscript catalogs and bibliographies. Thankfully, ʿAbd al-Bāsiṭ has overseen the production of a wonderful catalog that does justice to all 6,993 works in these collections. It is a pleasure to see such detailed entries for all of the works covered by this catalog.
The catalog is arranged alphabetically by title of the work. This arrangement makes for easy consultation when searching for a particular text. Each entry is numbered and gives a full description of the larger manuscript in which this work is found. In addition to the title of the work, every entry also contains the name and death date of the author, the copyist, the date of copy, the number and size of pages (in centimeters), a brief physical description of the manuscript, the incipit and explicit, descriptions of ownership marks and other paratextual elements, further references for the work and author, a note on the physical condition of the manuscript, the topic of the work (i.e., grammar, law, prosopography, etc.), and the call number of the physical manuscript and of its microfilm copy. Each entry is meticulously documented. One gets a relatively complete sense of the works in question. In this regard, this catalog will undoubtedly be a useful research aid for those interested in the history of the book. Although it covers only a very limited portion of the library's vast holdings, it is a marked improvement over the earlier catalogs of the Egyptian National Library, such as the catalogs discussed by Noah Gardiner for Dissertation Reviews (http://www.dissertationreviews.org/archives/7355).
In spite of the praise this catalog deserves, there are some shortcomings to this work that are all the more noticeable given how much effort went into compiling this catalog. In particular, it...