Samarqandi's Bustan al-'arifin, purchased in Damascus by Johann Ludwig Burckhardt

Abu al-Layth al-Samarqandi. Kitab bustan al-'arifin [The Garden of Sages].

[Syria?, 1673/74 CE =] 1084 H.

4to (150 x 210 mm). 209 ff. Arabic manuscript on paper. Black ink with important words and phrases picked out in red. Early 19th century blue cloth, spine labeled in gilt. Marbled endpapers. All edges gilt.


An important religious and ethical treatise by the famous Hanafi jurist and Qu'ran commentator Abu al-Layth al-Samarqandi (944-983) with historically significant provenance and an interesting appendix of recipes for scribes on the verso of the final leaf, including a formula for a type of white-out, allowing the scribe to correct errors, and a recipe for black ink.

While the first known owner, a Hajji named Ahmad al-Rabab ibn Hasan, is not otherwise documented, he left an interesting triangular inscription on the first blank leaf: "This came into the possession of the despicable servant who confesses guilt and negligence, al-Hajj Ahmad al-Rabab ibn Hasan, for the price of 17" (transl.). At this point, the manuscript was probably already in Damascus, where the famous Swiss traveller, geographer, and scholar Johann Ludwig Burckhardt (1784-1817) acquired it in 1811/12 for the collection of the fellow traveller, Egyptologist, and astronomer John Lee (1783-1866). Lee was travelling in the Mediterranean and the Middle East between 1810 and 1815, when he also laid the foundation for his celebrated private collection of antiquities, books, and manuscripts. Lee probably met Burckhardt in Syria, charging him with acquisitions. Another scholar whose hands touched this manuscript was George Cecil Renouard (1780-1867), British chaplain at Smyrna from 1810 to 1814 and Lord Almoner's professor of Arabic at Cambridge until 1821. Renouard co-authored the 1830 catalogue of the Burckhardt manuscripts for Lee's library at Hartwell House, Buckinghamshire. He also left a reference to the catalogue and a brief description of the manuscript, both with his initials, on the endpapers of the Hartwell House binding. Lee's collection was sold by his heirs at Sotheby's in 1888, and the Bustan al-'arifin was acquired by the American lawyer, banker, and scholar Samuel Parsons Scott (1846-1929), who left his bookplate on the marbled pastedown of the lower cover.

Both boards separated; loss to spine. A continuous waterstain throughout.


J. Lee & G. C. Renouard, Oriental Mss. in the Library of Hartwell House, Buckinghamshire (London, 1830), no. 93.