On the Cultivation of Gold

Jildaki, 'Izz al-Din Aydamir al-. Nihayat al-talab fi sharkh al-muktasab [On the Cultivation of Gold].

Egypt, [1880-1882 CE =] 1298-1299 H

Small 4to (166 x 230 mm). 3 volumes. Arabic manuscript on paper. 345 pp. 412 pp. 319 pp. Written in fine naskh script in black ink with occasional words in red, 19 lines to a page, paginated in a Western hand, ca. 1920s, in purple ink. Modern smooth full leather with gilt-stamped ornaments to both covers.


An extensive alchemical treatise by the Egyptian alchemist and philosopher Aydamir ibn 'Abd Allah al-Jildaki (or al-Jaldaki, d. 1342 CE in Cairo), forming a long commentary (sharkh) on the "Kitab al-Muktasab fi zira'at al-dhahab" ("The book of knowledge acquired concerning the cultivation of gold") by the little-known alchemist Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-'Iraqi al-Simawi, who was active in the 12th to 13th century CE. An edition of the Arabic text of the "Kitab al-Muktasab" was first published in Paris in 1923, with a translation and introduction, by the English historian of science Eric John Holmyard. Al-Jildaki's commentary has been the subject of a Ph.D. thesis submitted at the University of London in 1954 (see below).

The importance of al-Jildaki's "Nihayat" lies especially in its lengthy quotations from earlier authors whose works are no longer extant. It is valuable also because it provides a clear account of the more important alchemical theories and tenets prevalent among the Muslim writers of the Middle Ages. The National Library of Medicine owns a manuscript Persian translation (MS P 27) dating from AH 1133 (1721 CE).

Sources differ about al-Jildaki's name and descent: his nisbah appears to refer to the village of Jaldak in Khurasan, Iran, though he may also be of Mamluk Turkic descent. In his writings he reveals that he spent 17 years traveling through Iraq, Anatolia, Yemen, North Africa, and Syria, finally settling in Egypt where he composed many of his treatises. A great admirer or Jabir ibn Hayyan, al-Jildaki is remembered as one of the last and one of the greatest of medieval Islamic alchemists.


A fine, almost meticulously clean, and wide-margined manuscript, copied by Suwayfi bin Ahmad al-Adawi in the early years of the reign of Khedive Mohamed Tewfik Pasha.


GAL I, 139 (174), no. 12. M. Ullmann, Die Natur- und Geheimwissenschaften im Islam (Hdb. der Orientalistik I.VI.2, 1972), p. 239 note 3. Manuchehr Taslimi, An examination of the Nihayat Al-Talab and the determination of its place and value in the history of Islamic chemistry (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of London, 1954).