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Arabic Manuscripts in the Libraries of McGill University.

The Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish and Urdu manuscripts preserved in various libraries of McGill University, Montreal, number about 650 volumes and belong to the Osler, Blacker Wood, Islamic Studies and Rare Books collections. Some specimens in the Osler deposit were donated by Dr. M. Sa id of Hamadan (Iran) in 1913, but the bulk was originally collected by W. Ivanow (1886-1970) and M. Meyerhof (1874-1945). The Blacker Wood collection includes 238 volumes, most of them collected by W. Ivanow in 1926-27 (and tabulated in his handwritten list with separate pages of annotation). A roughly equal number of mainly Persian manuscripts, obtained from a wide variety of sources, constitutes the Islamic Studies and Rare Books collections.

Almost half of the manuscripts (280 codices representing 275 individual compositions which correspond to 265 entries) are Arabic manuscripts covering the whole spectrum of Islamic disciplines. For the first time Adam Gacek offers an excellent inventory of these Arabic codices in the present scholarly handlist. The most numerous and valuable specimens of the collection are the medical codices of the Osler collection. Among the manuscripts dealing with hadith, law and theology the proportion of Shi ite texts is relatively high. About fifty entries are commentaries, glosses and super-glosses. The earliest dated codices are late 12th and early 13th century C.E., while the vast majority of all volumes dates from the 17th to 19th centuries. A few of these Arabic manuscripts contain miniatures or were written by expert calligraphers.

Gacek's handlist includes 79 illustrations of manuscripts; separate Arabic indexes of titles, incipits, authors, copyists and owners; English indices of subject matter and watermarks; and concordances of catalogue numbers and available manuscript dates. McGill also preserves over 200 Arabic calligraphs and fragments, and lists of signed calligraphs and Qur anic fragments have been published by the author (cf. Fontanus 2 |1989~: 37-53; 3 |1990~: 45-64). Unfortunately the Qur anic codices in these collections have been excluded from the 265 entries of the present handlist, although they will be surveyed in a forthcoming issue of Fontanus.

With this scholarly handlist, Adam Gacek, known for his catalogues of Arabic manuscripts preserved at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London (1981) and the Institute of Ismaili Studies, London (1984-85), provides the scholar with a valuable research tool that presents the basic data about individual manuscripts in a clear and handy way. The necessary foundation has thus been laid by the author for future scholarly study of individual manuscripts and their contents.
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Author:Bowering, Gerhard
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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