This is the second volume of a two–volume catalogue of part of the collection of Arabic manuscripts preserved in the Library of The Institute of Ismaili Studies in London. In total, the Library currently holds over 1500 manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, Gujarati and Adam Gacek, formerly Librarian at the Institute, devotes the second volume of his catalogue exclusively to non–Ismaili works. The contents of the book include preface, transliteration table, introduction, references, 255 entries and indices.
The introduction is subdivided into the following sections: binding, paper, gathering and folios, text, handwriting, apparatus criticus, abbreviations, select bibliography. 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 diverse terms and abbreviations employed by scribes to indicate the nature of their compositions, its internal structure, the beginning of the colophon and different methods of dating. Particularly useful is a full list of abbreviations commonly used by the scribes and their corresponding meanings and ‘editoria’' purpose.
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.
The scope of this portion of the collection is wide ranging, covering a variety of subjects including Qur’anic sciences, jurisprudence, logic, philosophy, devotional literature, grammar, rhetoric, biography, theology, medicine and alchemy. In addition, a fair number of treatises belong to the literary tradition of the important 19th century Shaykhi school of speculative theology. Gacek also draws attention to the fact that, irrespective of the subject matter, most of the manuscripts listed in his catalogue were composed and copied by people of Shi‘i persuasion.
The majority of the manuscripts were copied in what is now Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. A very small number of manuscripts were copied in Yemen, India and Kashmir. Most codices date between the 18th century and the late 19th early 20th century.
The oldest copy listed in this catalogue is the Shara’i’ ‘al–Islam (cat. no. 187, A) by the famous 13th century CE Shi‘i theologian and scholar Ja’far b. al–Hasan al–Hilli, dated Rabi‘ al–awwal 723 AH (corresponding to 1323 CE). The latest codex is dated 1344 AH (corresponding to 1925–6 CE) and it is a copy of al–Shihab al–nabawi (cat. no. 216), by Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad b. Salama al–Quda'i (d.454/ 1062 ) . The manuscripts listed in this catalogue are all written on paper, about half of them are on oriental paper and the other half on European, mainly Italian, paper. They are bound predominantly in European fashion.
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.