This book is a descriptive 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's Catalogue of Arabic Manuscripts in the Library of The Institute of Ismaili Studies, published in London in two volumes in 1984–5. It lists Arabic texts belonging to the Ismaili literary tradition together with a small portion of non–Ismaili works.
The contents of the book include preface, acknowledgements, abbreviations, 188 entries and indices. The entries are grouped in two parts. Part one deals with Ismaili manuscripts (nos. 1–178) and is arranged according to three sub–headings, namely, Works by Individual Authors, Anonymous Works and Majmu'at (Collected works). Part two lists works by non–Ismaili authors (nos.179–188).
Unlike Gacek's catalogues, here the entries are arranged alphabetically by author. Each catalogue entry is subdivided as follows: 1) Full name of the author, followed in most instances by a short biographical note. 2) In square brackets, there is the sequence number of this catalogue followed by the manuscript call number. 3) The full title of the work, occasionally followed by variants. 4) A paragraph giving details about the contents and relevant information on the work. 5) The name of the copyist, occasionally followed by details relating to the circumstances of the copying of a given manuscript. 6) The dates, when known, according to the Islamic and Christian calendars. 7) The physical description of the codex. 8) References to other copies or volumes of the same work already listed in Gacek's catalogue or in catalogues of other collections, followed by details of main editions, translations and studies when appropriate.
The bulk of the works listed in this catalogue belong to the tradition of theological, philosophical and historical Ismaili literature of the Fatimid period (10th–12th centuries), transferred to India via the Yemeni Tayyibi literary tradition. However, the strength of this collection rests equally on a relatively small number of manuscripts of rare or hitherto unknown works belonging to the Syrian Nizari branch of Ismailism. By and large the subjects covered by the literature presented here include jurisprudence, history, theology, cosmology, eschatology, philosophy, poetry, refutations and devotion.
The manuscripts were mainly 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 codex listed in this catalogue is an illuminated copy of the Rasa'il (cat. no.44/1040) by the 10th century Ismaili encyclopedists known as Ikhwan al–Safa’, dated 953 AH/ 1546 CE. The latest dated codex is a copy of the first part of al –Risala al–jami'a (cat. no.47/ 1004) also by the Ikhwan, dated 1378 AH / 1958 CE. Among the Ismaili manuscripts of textual or codicological significance described in this catalogue, there is possibly the oldest known copy of Lubb al–lubab wa nur al–albab (cat. no. 95/926) dated 1256 AH/ 1840 CE and therefore copied during the lifetime of its author ‘Abd–i ‘Ali Shajahanpuri (d. 1854). Also included is a copy of Kitab ta'wil al–zakat (cat. no. 54/ 1028) by the famous early Fatimid da‘i Ja‘far b. Mansur al–Yaman, handwritten in 1291 AH/ 1874 CE by the well–known scholar and author Chand Khan Rampuri (d. after 1304/1886). Listed here is also a relatively rare undated copy of the Ajwibat (cat. no. 71/863) by the famous Fatimid jurist al–Qadi al–Nu'man (d.363/974) as well as a very rare undated copy of Risalat al–fa‘il wa ’l–maf‘ul fi ‘l haqiqa (cat. no. 96/939) by Shaykh Ibrahim b. Shaykh ‘Abd al–Qadir (fl. 13th/19th century).
Among the non–Ismaili manuscripts of particular interest is a recent copy, almost certainly made by Vladimir Ivanow (1886–1970), the foremost pioneer in modern Ismaili studies, of part of a rare 12th–century heresiographical work, the Kitab al–tawarikh wa ‘I–milal by Muhammad b. al–Ghazali (cat.no. 181/843). Also noteworthy is a copy of the Sharh al–isharat, dated 728/1327, by the famous 13th–century scholar and astronomer Nasir al–Din al–Tusi.
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 21 coloured and black and white illustrations and is supported by indices of authors and titles. The volume is available in hard–back cloth binding.