Undocumented work on chemistry

Jabir ibn Hayyan (Geber). Al-Durrah al-Yatimah [The Orphan Pearl on the Precious Art of Chemistry].

No place (Syria?), [20 Jan. 1756 CE =] 17 Rabi II 1169 H.

4to (169 x 238 mm). Arabic manuscript on paper. 25 pp. on 13 numbered ff. 17 lines of black naskh, occasional words picked out in red, on French laid paper, watermarked PB with three crescents, polished in the oriental style. Title set within rough double rules. Bound in contemporary full dark morocco.


Undocumented work on chemistry and alchemy, highly important for being expressly attributed to Jabir ibn Hayyan, the elusive father of Arabic chemistry.

The manuscript's title reads, in full, "The orphan pearl in knowing the craft of precious chemistry, composed by the virtuous sage and complete teacher, the master of the men of this craft, Jabir ibn Hayyan al-Sufi, upon whom God may have mercy". The author states that he has written this book as a "brief and quick treatise" on the beneficial science of chemistry, divided into two Maqalahs (essays or treatises) of 12 chapters each. The first Maqalah is on the chemical "character" that combines the pillars of this science: making the "Great Red Water" (apparently an alchemical term); the recipe for making the special patina; managing the Large Door and its Crocus Martis (anhydrous ferrous sulphate, FeSO4); on burning with a "strong" fire; rotting and fermentation; washing and cleaning; soaking and cooking; filtration; distillation; escalation; solidification; and preservation. The second Maqalah discusses "shortened processes": the distillation of water and the "spirit" (here referring to the so-called "body" between oil and water or the air between fire and water); the extraction of liquid; the extraction of the spirit of absinthe; the extraction of the spirit of the so-called "qurd"; the extraction of the spirit from a tartaric drink; the extraction of the spirit from seeds and their water; the extraction of the water from the "aqawiyah" (as referenced in Ibn Sina's Qanun); the extraction of the spirit of Elderberry gum; the extraction of the spirit of the stag's horn; the extraction of the water and spirit of honey; the extraction of the spirit of minerals; and the weight of gems and precious stones.

Margins ruled in blind diagonally for glosses. The polished paper is of contemporary Western, almost certainly French origin, bearing the three crescent moons that the French paper ordinance of 1739 required for paper destined for export to the Levant, as well as the initials of the paper-maker's name, as legally required in France since 1688 (cf. Churchill, Watermarks in Paper [Amsterdam, 1935], pp. 57f.). A short edge tear to most leaves and occasional light brownstaining to margins; upper cover slightly scuffed and marked, otherwise in excellent condition.

For Jabir cf. GAL I, 241 (278).

Art.-Nr.: BN#60810 Schlagwörter: , , , , ,