89 results in English
Holy Qur'an
According to Islamic belief, the Holy Qur'an was revealed by God to the Prophet Mohammad (570–632) by the Angel Gabriel over a period of 22 years. The Qur'an speaks in powerful, moving language about the reality and attributes of God, the spiritual world, God's purposes with mankind, man's relationship and responsibility to God, the coming of the Day of Judgment, and the life hereafter. It also contains rules for living, stories of earlier prophets and their communities, and vital insights and understandings concerning the meaning ...
Beato of Liébana: The Codex of Fernando I and Doña Sancha
Around the year 776, a monk by the name of Beato or Beatus, possibly the abbot of the monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana, wrote a work entitled Comentarios al Apocalipsis (Commentary on the apocalypse), which had an extraordinary success in the following five centuries. Thanks to his great erudition, Beato combined in this text, as a summa, many commentaries on the topic of the apocalypse by such authors as Saint Irenaeus of Lyon, Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Isidore of Seville, and the 4th-century scholar Ticonius. The genre of ...
Contributed by National Library of Spain
Etymology
Etymologiae (Etymology) is the best known work by Saint Isidore of Seville (circa 560–636), a scholar and theologian considered the last of the great Latin Church Fathers. It takes its name from a method of teaching that proceeds by explaining the origins and meaning of each word related to a topic. Saint Isidore drew on many different sources in his attempt to summarize all ancient knowledge and save it for posterity. The fame of the work led to it being widely copied and disseminated, and its popularity lasted even ...
Contributed by National Library of Spain
Al-Bukhāri's Abridged Collection of Authentic Hadith
This work is the earliest Arabic manuscript in the National Library of Bulgaria. Incomplete and fragmentary, it is a 1017 copy of Volume 3 of Sahīh al-Bukhārī (Al-Bukhārī’s authentic hadiths). Muhammad ibn Ismā‘īl al-Bukhārī (810–70) was born in Bukhara, in present-day Uzbekistan, and died in Khartank, near Samarkand. He is considered by Sunni Muslims to be the most authoritative collector of hadiths—reports of statements or deeds attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. This work, completed in 846, is al-Bukhārī’s best-known collection. It was the first work ...
Book of Taxation
Kitāb al-kharāj (Book of taxation) is a classic text on fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), written by Abū Yusūf Yaʿqūb Ibrāhīm al-Anṣārī al-Kūfī (died 798; 182 A.H.) at the request of the Abbasid caliph Hārūn al-Rashīd (763 or 766-809). Abū Yusūf was the most famous student of Abū Ḥanīfa and along with his illustrious teacher is considered one of the founders of the Ḥanafī school of law. In the introduction to the book, Abū Yusūf describes how the caliph asked him to write a work treating the collection of al-kharāj (the ...
Contributed by Library of Congress
Supplication Attributed to Caliph Ali
Caliph ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (circa 601−61) is one of the most revered religious and holy figures of Islam. His honorary name, Amīr al-Mu‘minīn, translates from Persian as the “prince of the believers.” Written works by ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib and sayings attributed to him are sacred to the Shiite faithful, particularly among Persian speakers. Shown here is an illuminated 18th-century manuscript copy of the Munājāt (Supplication) of ʻAli ibn Abī Ṭālib. Included are both the original Arabic and a translation into Persian. The text is written on ...
Contributed by Library of Congress
The Crown Jewel
This manuscript of Durrat al-tāj (The crown jewel) is a Shiite prayer book, consisting of prayers to be said when making a visitation to the tomb of Caliph ʻAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib (circa 601−61). ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib is one of the most revered religious and holy figures of Islam. His honorary name, Amīr al-Mu‘minīn, translates from Persian as the “prince of the believers.” Written works by ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib and sayings attributed to him are sacred to the Shiite faithful, particularly among Persian speakers. The ...
Contributed by Library of Congress
Titus Andronicus
This 1594 copy of Titus Andronicus is the only known copy of this quarto in existence, and, along with a version of Henry VI, Part 2 from the same year, is the earliest extant printed Shakespeare play. Quartos printed after about 1598 often display the name William Shakespeare; as this is an earlier quarto, the name of the acting company is shown instead. Quarto editions of the plays, which began to appear in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, were inexpensive and were sold unbound, sometimes in small numbers ...
City of God
Saint Augustine of Hippo (354–430) is generally considered one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time. He was born in Thagaste (present-day Souq Ahras, Algeria) in Roman-ruled Africa, the son of a pagan father and a Christian mother (Saint Monica). After studying in Carthage and teaching rhetoric in his native city, he moved to Rome in 383 and to Milan in 384. Under the influence of his mother and Ambrose, bishop of Milan, he converted to Christianity in 387. He was ordained a priest in 391 and rose ...
Letters, Essays, and Sermons by Saint Gregory Nazianzus
This 18th-century manuscript is a collection of letters, essays, and sermons by Saint Gregory Nazianzus (died circa 389). The manuscript is thought to be the first Arabic translation from the original Greek and has not yet been edited or published. It is the second volume of a two-volume work. Gregory of Nazianzus, also known as Gregory the Theologian, is recognized as a Father of the Church in both the Eastern and Western traditions. He was born in Cappadocia (eastern Anatolia), where he spent much of his life. He was a ...
Letters, Pedagogical Teachings, and Sayings of Saint Anthony of Egypt
This manuscript opens with the 20 letters “to the sons who follow his [Anthony’s] gentle path…and prayers to keep us from Satan’s example.” The letters are for the most part short, many not exceeding five folios. According to an introductory note, they are addressed to both men and women. The work is in a bold but relaxed hand. Each letter or other significant section is set off in red. There are no contemporary marginal glosses, but comments and corrections (some in English) in pencil were made by ...
The Story of the Jade Box, with Li Zhuowu‘s Critical Comments
This work is by Mei Dingzuo (1549–1615), who based it on a Tang-dynasty romantic work entitled Liu shi zhuan (The story about the woman Liu) by Xu Yaozuo, and another work, Ben shi shi (Stories in verse), by Meng Qi. Mei had a large circle of literary friends, among them literary scholars Wang Shizhen and Wang Daokun and playwright Tang Xianzu. After repeatedly failing to pass the civil examinations, Mei devoted himself to writing poetry, novels, and dramas, and eventually became a prolific author. Among his best-known works are ...
Contributed by National Central Library
The Great Tang Dynasty Treatise on Astrology of the Kaiyuan Era
Da Tang kai yuan zhan jing is a Chinese astrology encyclopedia, compiled by imperial order by numerous scholars around 718-724, during the Kaiyuan era of the Tang dynasty. The work was led by Gautama Siddha (flourished in the 8th century), the Tang-dynasty astronomer and astrologer of Indian descent, who was born in Chang’an. The book, also known as the Kaiyuan Star Observations, contained approximately 600,000 words in 120 juan. The compilation was based on many astronomical, astrological, and divination materials from prior to the Tang dynasty. In particular ...
Contributed by National Central Library
City of God
This codex of Saint Augustine’s De civitate dei (City of God) is from the Plutei Collection of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence. The volume is bound in red morocco leather with the Medici coat of arms at the center and on each corner of the front cover. It has an illuminated page (recto of folio 11) and a number of illuminated initial capital letters (e.g., recto of folio 31). Saint Augustine of Hippo (354–430) wrote more than 100 works, of which his Confessiones (Confessions) and De ...
Concerning Virgins and Other Works
This codex of De virginibus seu potius opera varia (Concerning virgins and other works) by Saint Ambrose (circa 340−97) is from the Plutei Collection of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence. The book has the distinctive Medici red leather binding and a beautifully illuminated first page (recto of folio 1) executed by Matteo da Milano (active circa 1492−circa 1523). On the last page, the colophon gives the name of the copyist as “Martinus Antonius” and the date of completion as “Ides of October 1489.” Ambrose was born in ...
Five Books of the Sentences
This codex from the Plutei Collection of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence is a compilation of texts related to the Christian Church in Visigothic Spain. As stated on the colophon, the volume was originally made for King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary (1443–90). It includes Sententiarum libri V (Five books of the sentences) by Taio Samuel (died 683), followed by a collection of writings by the Church Fathers chosen by Isidore of Seville, and a letter by Quiricus, bishop first of Barcelona and then of Toledo, to Taio Samuel ...
Seven Books of the Saturnalia
This codex from the Plutei Collection of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence contains the complete text of Saturnalia by the fourth−fifth century Latin author Macrobius. The work takes the form of a series of dialogues among learned men at a fictional banquet at which they discuss antiquities, history, literature, mythology, and other topics. The manuscript may have been copied by a scribe belonging to Bernardo Nuzzi’s circle of copyists in Florence. It organizes the seven original books of Macrobius into five books. The inscription on the recto ...
The Historical Theater in the Year 400 AD, in Which Both Romans and Barbarians Resided Side by Side in the Eastern Part of the Roman Empire
This map in Latin by the great French mapmaker Guillaume de L’Isle (1675–1726) shows the eastern parts of the Roman Empire circa 400 AD and the territory of adjacent tribes and kingdoms not under Rome’s control. The latter include the Sarmatians and the Scythians, peoples that the Romans regarded as barbarians. Arabia is shown divided into its three traditional divisions, Arabia Petrea, Arabia Felix, and Arabia Deserta. Qatar is indicated as “Catarei.” The eastern part of the map shows the empire of Alexander the Great, including Persia ...
Contributed by Library of Congress
Taishokan
Taishokan is a story loosely based on the life of Fujiwara no Kamatari (614−69), who was a famous court official. In the story, the daughter of Kamatari is married to the emperor of China. When she hears that her father is going to build the main hall of the Kōfuku-ji Temple in Nara, she sends him Mugehōju, a precious crystal with divine powers, as a gift. While a military escort is sailing to Japan with the crystal, dragons attack the ship and the treasure is carried down to the ...
Contributed by National Diet Library
Geographical Description of Tiantai Mountain
Tendaisan ki (Tiantaishanji in Chinese) is a geographical description of the Chinese holy mountain, Tendaisan (Tiantaishan in Chinese), located in Zheijiang Province. The author, Xu Lingfu, was a Taoist who lived in seclusion in order to discipline his mind and body. Xu lived on Tendaisan from 815 to 825, where he wrote this book. A Japanese monk studying in China may have copied the original in China or he may have brought a copy back to Japan, after which it was lost. This manuscript, held in the National ...
Contributed by National Diet Library
Buddhist Sutra “Jū-issai-fukutoku-zanmai-kyō”
The hand copying of Buddhist sutras was believed to confer great merit and spiritual benefit, so that from the introduction of Buddhism to Japan in the sixth century, numerous manuscripts were reproduced throughout the country. Shown here is a volume from the hand-copied Issai-kyō (a Buddhist corpus) commissioned by the Empress Kōmyō (701−60), wife of the Emperor Shōmu, to pray for the repose of her parents, Fujiwara no Fuhito and Tachibana no Michiyo. The work commissioned by the empress amounts to about 7,000 volumes, which include almost all ...
Contributed by National Diet Library
Explaining al-Khansa’ in Delightful Stanzas
This book is a printed collection of the verse of Tumāḍir bint ʿAmr ibn al-Ḥarth ibn al-Sharīd al-Sulamīyah entitled Anis al-Julasāʼ fī Sharḥ Dīwān al-Khansāʼ (Explaining al-Khansa’ in delightful stanzas). Known to history as al-Khansā’ (she of the snub-nose or of resemblance to a gazelle), the author is regarded as one of the leading poets of late pre-Islamic Arabia. After meeting the Prophet Muhammad, who is said to have admired her poetry, she became a Muslim. Contemporary and subsequent appreciation of her poetry owed much to the power of her ...
Contributed by Qatar National Library
Prayer of Wessobrunn
This manuscript, dating from the early ninth century, contains the Wessobrunner Gebet (Prayer of Wessobrunn) and many other short works. The prayer itself, in prose, which gives the text as a whole its name, is preceded by a short creation poem, which, in nine lines of alliterative verse, seeks to explain the creation of the world out of chaos. This small literary monument is among the earliest written examples of poetry in Old High German. It has come down to us in a composite (mainly Latin) manuscript written before 814 ...
Contributed by Bavarian State Library
Collection of Texts on Mathematical Astronomy and the Natural Sciences
This manuscript is a collection of texts on mathematical astronomy and the natural sciences dating from early in the ninth century. The illuminations are mainly of astronomical content and are based on models from late antiquity. They include the occupations of the 12 months, the earliest surviving medieval illuminations of this type (folio 91 verso); an astronomical map (folio 113 verso); the constellations (folios 115 verso−121 recto); and the 12 winds (folio 139 recto). The manuscript was copied in Salzburg, apparently from a northern French exemplar, and was presumably ...
Contributed by Bavarian State Library
Gospels
This Gospel book from the Carolingian period is a product of the Mainz school of calligraphy and illumination, which was a successor to the palace (or court) school of Charlemagne. In its canon tables and portraits of the evangelists, it blends the Ottonian style from the tenth century with the traditions of the earlier Carolingian Ada group (late eighth century). The manuscript received its fine binding in the Ottonian period. Its most valuable parts are the two outstanding ivories. The baptism of Christ is represented on the front cover; on ...
Contributed by Bavarian State Library
Purple Gospel
This sumptuous manuscript, known as the Purple Gospel, is written almost entirely in gold and silver on purple-stained parchment. It dates from the first quarter of the ninth century. It contains architectural canon tables and decorated initials in gold and silver at the beginning of the texts of the four gospels and of the prologue to Mark. Four whole-page miniatures of scenes from the New Testament, on folios 24 and 197, were formerly thought to be Ottonian copies (early tenth to early 11th centuries) made from models from late antiquity ...
Contributed by Bavarian State Library
Rule of Saint Benedict
Ora et labora (pray and work) is the well-known phrase that reflects the basic idea underlying the rule of monastic life, which was originally formulated by Saint Benedict of Nursia (around 480−547) and initially intended as an internal rule for the monks of Benedict’s own monastery of Montecassino in Italy. The Rule of Saint Benedict spread widely beginning in the seventh century, but in France it became the sole authoritative rule of the order only in the late eighth and early ninth centuries. Adoption of the rule was ...
Contributed by Bavarian State Library
The Stele of Buddha Niches at Yique
Shown here are rubbings of the texts on the famous Yique fo kan bei (The stele of Yique Buddha niches), also known as the Stele of Three Niches or the Stele of Three Niches of Longmen. The tablet was erected in the 11th month of the 15th year of the Zhenguan reign (641) during the Tang dynasty, in the Binyang Cave of the Longmen Grottoes, Luoyang, Henan. The texts were composed by Cen Wenben (595−645) and written by famed calligrapher Chu Suiliang (596−658). The horizontal inscription in seal ...
Contributed by National Library of China
Arcane Medical Essentials from the Imperial Library
The book Wai tai mi yao fang (Arcane medical essentials from the Imperial Library) records 69 medical classics published before the Tang dynasty (618–907) and contains 6,900 entries. Parts of original works that no longer exist thus are preserved in this compilation. It lists many diseases and methods of diagnosis, records methods of compounding medicines, and discusses acupuncture, bathing, medical exercises, artificial emergency aid, and other topics. Compiled by Wang Tao (670−755), the work represents an outstanding contribution to the preservation of traditional medical classics and summarizes ...
Contributed by National Library of China
The Compendium of Faith
Muḥammad ibn Jaʻfar al-Izkiwī was a leading Muslim scholar who lived in about 900. His name, al-Izkiwī, suggests that he came from Izkī, one of the oldest cities and centers of learning in the interior of Oman. Jāmiʻ al-adyān (The compendium of faith), sometimes referred to simply as al-Jāmiʻ (The compendium) or Jāmiʻ Ibn Jaʻfar (Ibn Jaʻfar’s compendium), is his best-known work. Shown here is an 18th-century manuscript containing the first part of Jāmiʻ al-adyān. As the title suggests, the book summarizes a wide range of topics in Islamic ...
Merovingian Bees
The tomb of Childéric, king of the Salian Franks from 457 to 481 and the father of Clovis, was discovered by chance in 1653 by construction workers near the church of Saint-Brice in Tournai, in present-day Belgium. The treasure found was given to Archduke Leopold William of Habsburg (1614−62), governor of the southern Netherlands (at that time under Spanish rule). The archduke asked medical doctor and antique specialist Jean-Jacques Chifflet to write a study of the find, which was published in Antwerp in 1655 under the title Anastasis Childerici ...
Papyrus Graecus Holmiensis
Papyrus Graecus Holmiensis (The Stockholm papyrus) is a codex consisting of 15 leaves containing 154 recipes for the manufacture of dyes and colors used in fashioning artificial stones. Written in Greek around AD 300, it is one of the earliest complete treatises of its kind and an important vehicle for the transmission of practical information from the Alexandrian (Old Egyptian) world to Byzantium and Western Europe. The manuscript appears to have been written by the same scribe as a similar codex in the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden, also containing ...
Qur'anic Verses
This calligraphic fragment includes verses 10-11 of the 48th chapter of the Qur'an, entitled Surat al-Fath (Victory). This surah dates from the Medinan period and contains 29 verses. It describes how triumph comes from courage, faith, and patience if the believer stays true to God: anyone who violates His [God's] oath, does so to the harm of his own soul, and anyone who fulfils what he has convenanted with God, God will soon grant him a reward (48:10). The text is executed in Kufi script with black ...
Contributed by Library of Congress
Qur'anic Verses
This calligraphic fragment includes verses 85-88 of the 6th chapter of the Qur'an entitled Surat al-An'am (The Cattle). This late Meccan surah describes the nature of God and how He reveals Himself. Verses 85-88 in particular describe a number of prophets such as Jesus, Elias, and Jonah as capable of guiding believers to the "straight path" (al-sirat al-mustaqim). The text is executed in Kufi script in black ink, at six lines per page, surrounded by a gold painted frame. Verses on the fragment's recto have worn off ...
Contributed by Library of Congress
Qur'anic Verses
This eighth century calligraphic fragment from the collections of the Library of Congress is most likely the oldest Islamic text in North America, one that could have been touched by the youngest companions of the Prophet Muhammad. The fragment includes verses 53-54 of the 34th chapter of the Qur'an entitled Surat Saba' (Sheba), as well as the first ten verses of the 35th chapter of the Qur'an entitled Surat al-Fatir (The originator). Surat al-Fatir is an early Meccan surah that deals with the mystery of creation and angels ...
Contributed by Library of Congress
Homiliary on Gospels from Easter to first Sunday of Advent
This 10th-century manuscript from the Bergendal Collection at the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies in Toronto is the oldest extant copy of a book of homilies composed by Heiric (Eric) of Auxerre, France, around 865–870. Heiric, a Benedictine theologian and writer, was a monk at the Abbey of Saint-Germain d’Auxerre. He studied under Lupus of Ferrière, John Scotus Erigena, and Haymo of Auxerre. He was the teacher of Remigius of Auxerre and is an important representative of intellectual life in the Carolingian period. The manuscript was written, by ...
Tortuguero Box
This object, called the Tortuguero box because its inscriptions are comparable to those found in Tortuguero, Mexico, is a diminutive offering box, one of very few surviving Mayan personal objects made of wood. The full-length portrait of a Mayan lord on the cover of the box and the 44 hieroglyphic signs tell a story that yields important insights into the Mayan social system. The narrative begins with the image of the box’s owner, Aj K'ax B'ahlam, the holder of an important position under the patronage of the ...
Contributed by Library of Congress
Monumental Jaguar Sculpture
This painted buff ceramic sculpture was made in southern Veracruz, Mexico, in 600-900 AD, or the Late Classic Period of Mesoamerican civilization. Scholars traditionally have defined Mesoamerica as a cultural region comprising the modern countries of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, western Honduras, and El Salvador. Its history is divided into an Archaic Period (circa 12,000-1500 BC), a Preclassic or Formative Period (circa 1500 BC-200 AD), a Classic Period (circa 200-900 AD), and a Postclassic Period (circa 900-1500 AD). The tropical jaguar was a major sacred creature in much of Mesoamerica ...
Contributed by Library of Congress
The Book on the Properties of Precious Gems
The title page identifies this manuscript as a copy of Kitab khawas al-jawāhir (The book on the properties of precious gems), written by Yaqūb ibn Ishāq al-Kindī in the ninth century. The work has 25 chapters, which are titled “On the knowledge of gems in general,” “On knowledge of rubies,” “On knowledge of emeralds,” “On knowledge of lapis,” and so forth. Each of these chapters gives basic information about these precious stones and their properties, as understood at the time. Information on the pricing of gems and the location of ...
Su Ruolan
The portrait is of Su Hui, a gifted fourth-century female scholar and poet who had the courtesy name of Ruolan (“like an orchid”). She is famous for a palindromic poem that she embroidered in several colors of silk to express her love for her husband, who had been exiled to a distant point on the trade routes to Central Asia. Different versions of the poem exist. One has 112 characters arranged in eight rows of 14 characters. They make no sense unless the reader starts with the character "husband" in ...
Contributed by National Central Library
One Million Small Wooden Pagodas and Dharani Prayers
Hyakumanto Darani (The one million pagodas and Dharani prayers) is the oldest traceable publication in the world whose production date is clearly identified. In 764, the Empress Shōtoku (718-770) ordered the donation of Hyakumanto Darani, each containing a small scroll printed with four Buddhist Dharani sutras, to ten major temples. The National Diet Library holds several of the scrolls that were donated to the Hōryūji Temple in Nara prefecture in western Japan. These three-tiered pagodas were painted with white clay. It is unclear whether the printing blocks were of wood ...
Contributed by National Diet Library
On the Fall of States
This complete scroll of a Tang dynasty manuscript was unearthed in Dunhuang, China. The text is written in ink on yellowish paper in a regular script, in well-spaced columns with beautiful characters. The scroll contains a work entitled On the Fall of States, by Lu Ji (261-303), a writer of the Western Jin dynasty. Modeled on Jia Yi’s On a Visit to Qin, it describes the rise and fall of the Eastern Wu in the Three Kingdoms period, as well as the meritorious contributions of the Lu family. Famous ...
Contributed by National Library of China