Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsSPEAKER 1: I'm joined today by Dr. Richard Todd lecturer in Islamic studies from the theology department. And he will talk to us about a selection of manuscripts that he's made.

Skip to 0 minutes and 18 secondsRICHARD TODD: So I've put together a small but representative selection of manuscripts in order to give an idea of the rich variety of works contained in the Mingana Collection and also to give an indication of the qualities that make this collection such a valuable resource for the researcher. Now, Mingana was clearly a very knowledgeable and discerning collector. And that's reflected in the works that he's chosen.

Skip to 0 minutes and 47 secondsIt seems to me that he was guided in his choice of manuscripts by two basic criteria. Firstly, where possible with those canonical works that circulated widely and that are readily available in most of the manuscript collections around the world, he tried to acquire the oldest possible manuscripts. The other criterion that seems to have guided his choice of manuscripts is to seek out those works that are not only rare but significant for the textual history of the field in question. And I'll show you some examples of those kind of works. So it's those qualities that make the Mingana Collection especially useful from a researcher's point of view. And I'll start with this one.

Skip to 1 minute and 38 secondsThis is a manuscript, which Mingana himself gave special attention. It's one of the oldest existing manuscripts of a collection of hadiths by the famous hadith collector al-Bukhari. So this, it's not the complete work, which runs to several volumes, but as we can see here from the title, this is [NON-ENGLISH].. So it's the second volume of Bukhari's famous collection of authenticated hadiths. Now, Mingana, when he worked on this, reckoned that this was possibly the oldest manuscript of Bukhari's famous collection of hadiths in existence. It seems, in fact, that there's at least one that's older than this. There's a manuscript dated from 1017 that's housed in the National Library in Bulgaria.

Skip to 2 minutes and 39 secondsOtherwise, this is certainly, perhaps, the second oldest, certainly one of the oldest that have come down to us. Now, when you're dealing with a manuscript of a collection of hadiths, remember by hadiths we mean records of the sayings and deeds of the prophet. So from the point of view of the Islamic tradition, this is a fundamental text. From the point of view of Sunni Islam, this is a fundamental text. From the point of view of Islamic law, this is the second major source of Islamic law after the Quran So it's a text that traditionally was used down through the centuries as a teaching text. It's a text that played a fundamental role in the curriculum of the traditional madrasa learning.

Skip to 3 minutes and 26 secondsAnd you can see evidence of that on the title page here. Now, when you're dealing with a hadith manuscript or a manuscript of a collection of hadiths, they're often going to be data, information, on the title page or the colophon of the manuscript that indicates the date, that indicates ownership, that tells you something about the history of the manuscript. Because, as I said, it would have functioned as a teaching text. And we've got examples of that here on this title page-- little certificates, these little notes here, that tend to start with the phrase [NON-ENGLISH],, so and so, listening to this work with me.

Skip to 4 minutes and 13 secondsWhat they actually are, are little certificates whereby a teacher, a qualified teacher of hadith, would testify in the form of this note that the student in question had listened to this work with him and was, therefore, authorised to speak about this work or to transmit this work. And the good thing about these from the researcher's point of view is that they very often will include the date on which the student finished his study of this particular volume. And we've got some examples of that here. And it's on the basis of these that Mingana dated this manuscript.

Skip to 4 minutes and 48 secondsSo the earliest one here, the earliest [NON-ENGLISH],, or certificate of having studied the work, is this one at the bottom of this page, which ends with a date [NON-ENGLISH],, so 464 of the Islamic calendar, which equates to 1070 of the Gregorian calendar. To give you an idea of how these works would be passed down from generation to generation, we've got a later certificate here, 574, which is 1178 of the Gregorian calendar. So it was passed down through the centuries from one generation of students to another. So the next manuscript that I've chosen, again, this is an example of how Mingana would try to get copies of the oldest extant manuscripts of famous and widely circulated works.

Skip to 5 minutes and 46 secondsThis is an extract from the final volume of Ibn Sina's famous work on medicine, Al-Qanun fi't-Tibb, or The Canon Of Medicine. Now, it's a work that proved to be hugely influential, not just in the development of medicine in Islamic civilisation, but following its translation into Latin in the 12th century, it proved to be a core text in the medical curricula of European universities down to the Renaissance. Now, we can see here at the end of the manuscript in the colophon, this is dated as 603, [NON-ENGLISH] of the Islamic era, making it 1206 in the Gregorian calendar.

Skip to 6 minutes and 34 secondsWorth noting, as I said, that although this is an old Arabic manuscript, at the time that this manuscript was actually transcribed, this work had already been translated into Latin in Spain. So what we have here then is the formulary, which features at the end of Ibn Sina's Qanun fi't-Tibb. Now, Ibn Sina, one of the major figures in the intellectual history of Islam, famous not just as a physician, but as a philosopher as well. And his Qanun fi't-Tibb, his great work on medicine, covers all aspects of medicine from diagnosis to prescription. And here, we have a long catalogue of compound remedies, which would have served as the main text to consult in the dispensary of the hospitals of his day.

Skip to 7 minutes and 38 secondsIt starts with an interesting compound remedy on this first page here. This outlines the therapeutic benefits of [NON-ENGLISH],, which is quince jam effectively, preserved quince. And he says that this is good for strengthening the stomach. It's a good cure for indigestion. Now, Mingana's knowledge of the Islamic tradition and his familiarity with the relevant scholarship allowed him to identify those works which would be of particular interest to scholars. And here's an example of a work that, although this manuscript is certainly not one of the oldest in the collection-- this dates from about the 18th century-- it's nonetheless a very rare and significant work. This is a work called the Rutbatu'l Hakim, The Sage's Step.

Skip to 8 minutes and 42 secondsAnd it's the most important work on alchemy to come out of Muslim Spain. It was written by an anonymous author in the 10th or 11th century. And as a manuscript, it's really quite rare. So very few libraries around the world, or certainly in the West, have copies of this. And as I said, this is testimony to Mingana's discerning judgement when it came to choosing manuscripts. Here's another example. Now, Mingana's expertise extends not just across many disciplines but, likewise, across the full span of Islamic history. And that extends down to the Ottoman period. He grew up and was educated after all in Ottoman Iraq and seemed to have been quite familiar with Islam and its Ottoman context.

Skip to 9 minutes and 43 secondsAnd here is a very rare work. Again, it's not the oldest manuscript in the collection. And this particular copy dates from the 19th century. But the work in question is very rare. It's by Anqaravi, who is a famous commentator on the Masnavi, the great epic Sufi poem written by Jalal al-Din Rumi. And this is one of his commentaries on that work called [NON-ENGLISH]. It's a work in Persian.

Skip to 10 minutes and 19 secondsOutside the Mingana collection, it's reckoned that there's only maybe three or four copies of this work in existence, the rest of them being housed in Istanbul. So for the researcher who wants to work hard on the Ottoman period, again, the Mingana Collection is a rich resource.

Dr Richard Todd: Islamic Manuscripts in the Mingana Collection

In this video, Dr Richard Todd, Lecturer in Islamic Studies at the University of Birmingham, demonstrates some of the approaches academics use when researching with manuscripts. He discusses a selection of Islamic manuscripts from the Mingana Collection that interest him.

As you watch this video, think about some of the other possibilities for research with manuscripts. What kinds of features do researchers and academics look for when they examine a manuscript? Make some notes and return to these as you complete the first and second activities this week.

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This video is from the free online course:

The Birmingham Qur'an: Its Journey from the Islamic Heartlands

University of Birmingham