Dr Bink Hallum (British Library)
Full-day, from 10.00 to 17.00
Maximum: 15 students
Venue: Senate House

This course will provide a hands-on introduction to the study of Arabic scientific manuscripts. Although some general codicological issues pertaining to all Arabic manuscripts will be covered, the main aim is to familiarise students with some of the major features and obstacles specific to scientific manuscripts and to give practical experience in interpreting a variety of Arabic scientific manuscripts representing a wide range of periods, locations and scientific topics.

Subjects to be covered include:

  • Interpreting flyleaves, title pages, tables of contents, and colophons
  • Marginalia and abbreviations
  • Numeral forms and mathematical notations: abjad, hindī, rūmī/Coptic, and ghubbār
  • Tables, figures, and illustrations
  • Major bookhands: Naskh, Nastaʿlīq and Maghribī
  • Resources for the study of Arabic scientific manuscripts

Manuscript examples will be chosen from amongst the following topics:

  • Astronomy/Astrology
  • Geometry/Optics
  • Mechanics
  • Arithmetic
  • Chemistry/Alchemy
  • Medicine
  • Divination
  • Agriculture

No prior experience with manuscripts will be assumed, but students should have at least basic Arabic to benefit from the course.


Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies: An Introduction, ed. by Alessandro Bausi et al. (Hamburg: Tredition, 2015). Available online at http://www1.uni-hamburg.de/COMST/handbookonline.html

François Déroche, et al. Islamic Codicology: An Introduction to the Study of Manuscripts in Arabic Script (London: Al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation, 2006)

Editing Islamic Manuscripts on Science, ed. by Yusuf Ibish (London: Al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation, 1999)

Adam Gacek. Arabic Manuscripts: A Vademecum for Readers (Leiden: Brill, 2009)

A.Z. Iskandar, A Catalogue of Arabic Manuscripts on Medicine and Science in the Wellcome Historical Medical Library (London: The Wellcome Historical Medical Library, 1967)

Islamic Manuscript Studies, Research Guides, University of Michigan Library <http://guides.lib.umich.edu/c.php?g=283218&p=1886652>

Islamic Medical Manuscripts at the National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland <https://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/arabic/arabichome.html>

Islamic Scientific Manuscripts Initiative <https://ismi.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/drupal-ismi/node/36808>

Jan Just Witkam, Islamic Manuscripts website <http://www.islamicmanuscripts.info/>