Adam Gacek, formerly Librarian at the Institute, devotes the first volume of his catalogue exclusively to works belonging to the Ismaili literary tradition. The contents of the book include preface, acknowledgements, transliteration table, introduction, references, 167 entries and indices.
The introduction is subdivided into the following sections: binding, paper, gathering and folios, text, handwriting and apparatus criticus. It serves as a guide for the understanding of technical terms used in the body of the catalogue but, more importantly, summarises the results of ground–breaking research on specific aspects of Islamic codicology, elucidating in particular the meaning and uses of ‘punctuation’ employed by scribes as well as the use of cipher (al–kitaba al–sirriyya) and other abbreviations in place of laudatory formulae. In the section dealing with the apparatus criticus, Gacek provides the reader with a systematic analysis of abbreviations and devices used by the copyist to indicate omissions, glossae, corrections, transposition of words, variant readings and reference marks, highlighting in this way the scribes' awareness of the need for a thorough method in adopting and developing conventions and rules when constructing a critical apparatus.
The entries are arranged alphabetically by title, given in transliteration. This is followed by the full name of the author; the incipit, that is, the first line of the text, given in Arabic script; the library call mark with the physical description of the codex and details relating to the copyist and the date of the manuscript and, when known, the circumstances of its writing. Each entry ends with the mention of bibliographical works of reference on Ismaili material, as a way of providing further guidance in establishing the subject of a given text or in assessing the existence of other manuscripts of the same work in other libraries and collections worldwide.
A large portion of the works listed in this catalogue belongs to, or is based upon, the outstanding literary tradition which developed in North Africa and Egypt during the Fatimid period (10th–12th century CE) in the history of Ismailism. This literature was particularly preserved and studied by scholars within the Yemeni Tayyibi branch of Ismailism and, through their channel, it eventually filtered to India. By and large the subjects covered in this literary tradition include jurisprudence, history, theology, cosmology, eschatology, philosophy, poetry, refutations and devotion. The majority of the manuscripts were copied in Western India and are ‘late’ copies dating, as they generally do, between the first half of the 19th century and the second half of the 20th century.
The oldest copy listed in this catalogue is the fourth volume from the Majalis or the ‘sessions of wisdom’ (cat. no. 77, H) by the famous 11th century CE Ismaili da‘i and scholar al–Mu’ayyad fi al–Din al–Shirazi, dated Rabi‘ al–akhir 997 AH (corresponding to June 1589 CE). The latest codex is dated Rabi‘ al–akhir 1390 AH (corresponding to June 1970 CE) and it is a copy of the Diwan (cat. no. 14, E), also by al–Mu'ayyad fi al–Din. The manuscripts listed in this catalogue are all written on paper, mostly of western manufacture, and are mainly bound in European fashion. Some bindings are covered with colourful tailor–made cloth dust jackets for greater protection.
The catalogue is enriched throughout by numerous black and white full–page, half–page and quarter–page illustrations as well as five full–page coloured plates in the appendix. The book is supported by a comprehensive set of indices, mainly in Arabic font, arranged by titles; authors; copyists, former owners and others; ‘incipits’; subjects; concordances of shelf and catalogue numbers, concordances of dates and catalogue numbers; watermarks and place names. The two–volume set is available both in hard–back cloth binding and paperback.