42 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 ...
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
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 ...
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
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
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
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 ...
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
Lancelot ou le Chevalier de la charrette (Lancelot, the knight of the cart) is the third Arthurian novel written by Chrétien de Troyes (circa 1135−circa 1181). It was composed between 1176 and 1181 at the request of Marie de Champagne. This novel in octosyllabic verses is part of the Holy Grail cycle, the four volumes of which are kept at the Bibliothèque nationale de France under shelf-marks FR 113 to FR 116. This copy of the novel was commissioned by book lover Jacques d’Armagnac, duke of Nemours and ...
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
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
Diamond Prajna Paramita Sutra
This complete scroll from the first year of the Yifeng era (676) of the Tang dynasty was unearthed in Dunhuang, China. The scroll contains the Diamond Prajna pāramitā sutra, a work that is an important sacred text in the prajñā line of Mahayana Buddhism as well as a foundational text in Chinese Chan (Japanese Zen) Buddhism. The text was transmitted to China in the Period of Southern and Northern Courts in many translations, but the translation by Kumārajīva is the most respected. For generations, it was felt that reciting the ...
Contributed by National Library of China
Johnson Papyrus
Herbals are directories of plants, their properties, and their medicinal uses. Herbals most likely were at first not illustrated, but in late antiquity they acquired illustrations. This fragment of a leaf from an illustrated herbal from Hellenistic Egypt shows a plant that is possibly Symphytum officinale, or comfrey. The herbal is made of papyrus, a plant that flourished in the valley of the Nile, and the text is in Greek, the language of science throughout the eastern Mediterranean at this time. The fragment is probably from a copy of the ...
Contributed by Wellcome Library
Shirin and Khusraw
Shirin va Khusraw (Shirin and Khusraw) is a story written in the 12th century by Shaykh Niẓāmī Ganjavi (circa 1140-1202), based on a tale found in Shahnamah (Book of kings), the epic-historical work of Persian literature composed at the end of the tenth century by the poet Firdawsi (circa 940–1020). The legend was well known before Firdawsi and further romanticized by later Persian poets. The story chosen by Niẓāmī was commissioned by and dedicated to the Seljuk Sultan Tughrul and to the sultan’s brother, Qizil Arsalan. This copy ...
The Life of the Prophet
Maghāzī al-Nabī (The life of the Prophet) depicts the life of the Prophet Muhammad in poetical form. The original work was composed by a famous Arabic and Persian scholar of Kashmir, Ya‘qub Ṣarfī (1521–95). The unique poetic and biographical work, transcribed in two columns on each page of manuscript, includes some supplications and eulogies for the Prophet of Islam. Each column is bordered in lines inlaid with gold. The writing of the manuscript is clear and vivid.
Parzival
Wolfram von Eschenbach composed his medieval German epic poem Parzival, which consists of more than 24,000 lines, in the first decade of the 13th century. It tells the story of the juvenile fool Parzival who, having grown up in the seclusion of the forest, is ignorant of the world and causes much grief as he ventures out to become a knight. He arrives at the Castle of the Grail, but fails to pose the question to the sick King Fisher Anfortas about the source of his suffering—a question ...
Contributed by Bavarian State Library
Parzival
Wolfram von Eschenbach composed his medieval German epic poem Parzival, which consists of more than 24,000 lines, in the first decade of the 13th century. It tells the story of the juvenile fool Parzival who, having grown up in the seclusion of the forest, is ignorant of the world and causes much grief as he ventures out to become a knight. He arrives at the Castle of the Grail, but fails to pose the question to the sick King Fisher Anfortas about the source of his suffering—a question ...
Contributed by Bavarian State Library
Books 1–5 of the Histories
Under the influence of Italian humanism and of his book-collector tutor János Vitéz, the Archbishop of Esztergom, Matthias Corvinus of Hungary (1443–1490) developed a passion for books and learning. Elected king of Hungary in 1458 at the age of 14, Matthias won great acclaim for his battles against the Ottoman Turks and his patronage of learning and science. He created the Bibliotheca Corvinian, in its day one of Europe’s finest libraries. After his death, and especially after the conquest of Buda by the Turks in 1541, the library ...
Contributed by Bavarian State Library
The Song of the Nibelungs (Codex A)
The Nibelungenlied (The Song of the Nibelungs) is the most famous heroic poem in Middle High German. It tells the story of the dragon-slayer Siegfried from his childhood and his marriage to Kriemhild to his murder by the evil Hagen and Kriemhild's subsequent revenge, culminating in the annihilation of the Burgundians or Nibelungs at the court of the Huns. Originally based upon an older oral tradition, the poem was written down about or shortly after the year 1200, probably at the court of Wolfger von Erla, Bishop of Passau ...
Contributed by Bavarian State Library
Commentary on Song of Songs; Letter on the Soul; Letter on Ascesis and the Monastic Life
This 14th-century manuscript is a collection of translations into Arabic. At the beginning is the Commentary on the Song of Songs, originally in Greek, by Gregory of Nyssa (died 394), brother of Basil the Great and, with him and Gregory of Nazianzus, one of the three so-called Cappadocian Fathers. Next comes one of the many pieces of philosophy in Arabic attributed to Hermes the Sage, A Letter on the Soul. The manuscript concludes with a letter of Isaac of Nineveh (active, end of the seventh century) on asceticism and monasticism ...
The Rubrics of the First Book of Lactantius Firmianus's On the Divine Institutes Against the Pagans Begin …
This very rare work by Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius is one of the first books printed in Italy and the first dated Italian imprint. It was produced by the German typographers Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz, who established a printing press in 1465 at the Benedictine abbey of Subiaco, near Rome. According to the colophon, the book was completed “In the year of Our Lord 1465, in the second year of the papacy of Paul II, the thirteenth indiction and the last day but two of the month of October ...
Commentary on the Comprehensive Book on the Management of Horses
The legal scholar ‘Umar ibn Raslān al-Bulqīnī  was from a renowned family of Egyptian scholars of Palestinian origin. In his Muqaddima (Introduction), the great Arab historian and historiographer Ibn Khaldūn (1332–1406) praised al-Bulqīnī as the most celebrated jurist of his era, even though Al-Bulqīnī did not gain the prestigious title of Šayh al-Islām until later in life. Al-Bulqīnī's erudition and deep knowledge of Islamic tradition are reflected in this work, Qaṭr al-Sayl fi Amr al-Hayl (Commentary on the comprehensive book on the management of horses), which is an ...
Contributed by Library of Congress
Throne of Dagobert
This cast and chiseled bronze and partially gilded throne from the art collections of the National Library of France belonged to Dagobert I (circa 603–39), king of the Franks 629–34, considered the last powerful Merovingian king. Four protomes of panthers form the feet and legs; the armrests consist of two carved and perforated panels, decorated with rosettes (bottom) and plant motifs (upper register). The back, triangular in shape, is decorated with three rings and foliage. The seat, originally folding, is a work of the seventh century, or a ...
The Key to Success, Also Known As the Medium to All Parties and Attainment of Prosperity
This illuminated manuscript is of a wird (prayer) called "Miftāḥ al-najāḥ al-mukanná bi-al-wasīlah ilá kull ḥizb wa-falāḥ", attributed to ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib, the fourth caliph of Islam. According to the colophon, this work was completed by Shaykh Kamāl ibn ‘Abd al-Ḥaqq al-Sabzawārī, the calligrapher and illuminator, in Astarabad (present-day Gorgan, Iran) in 941 AH (1534 AD). The text, divided into five compartments, is in calligraphic vocalized Naskh script in black ink and vocalized Thuluth in gold ink outlined in black. Illuminated rosettes with colored dots serve as verse markers ...
Contributed by Walters Art Museum
Ladder of Divine Ascent
This 18th-century manuscript contains an Arabic translation of The Ladder of Divine Ascent, a famous work by Yūhannā Ra’īs Dayr Tūr Sīnā (John, abbot of the monastery at Mount Sinai), generally known in the West as Saint John Climacus (circa 579–649). This treatise on the ascetic life was popular in both the original Greek and in Arabic and Latin translations. A number of Arabic manuscripts contain the work, and an Arabic epitome exists as well. The title in Arabic translates as The Ladder of Higher Virtues that Characterize ...
Sermons
This manuscript, dated 1871, contains a selection of 87 homilies of John Chrysostom (circa 347–407), a church father and archbishop of Constantinople. Chrysostom originally wrote in Greek, but he was commonly read in Arabic translations, especially by Coptic and Melkite readers. This particular collection of 87 sermons remains extant in several manuscripts. This copy, however, lacks sermon 15, although the copyist indicates its subject: the casting out of Satan from the man dwelling among the tombs (see Mark 5:1-20). The Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches honor John Chrysostom ...
Life of Barsawma
This undated manuscript of Ktāba d-ḥayyāw(y) d-qaddišā mār(y) Barṣawmā (Life of Barsawma) contains a narrative of the miraculous life of Barsawma (died about 492). The manuscript is in Syriac, but this text also is known in Ge'ez, the classical language of Ethiopia. Barsawma is said to have performed about 100 miracles, detailed here, and he was involved in the Christological controversies of the fifth century. A famous monastery near Melitene in present-day Turkey is named after him. The folios of the manuscript are unnumbered, but ...
Qur’an
This large-format illuminated Timurid copy of the Qur’an is believed to have been produced in northern India in the 15th century. The manuscript opens with a series of illuminated frontispieces. The main text is written in a large, vocalized polychrome muhaqqaq script. Marginal explanations of the readings of particular words and phrases are in thuluth and naskh scripts, and there is interlinear Persian translation in red naskh script. The fore-edge flap of the gold-tooled brown leather binding is inscribed with verses 77 through 80 from surah 56 (Sūrat al-wāqi ...
Contributed by Walters Art Museum
Javanese Manuscript of the Adventures of Hamza
The adventures of the early Islamic hero Hamza, the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad, are a favorite subject of Javanese literature in which the deeds of the hero, here called Ménak, are retold. The Javanese legends are written in poetic form and relate the stories as occurring during the lifetime of the Prophet. This manuscript, written in the Javanese and Pégon (Arabic–Javanese) alphabets, contains a number of the main episodes in the tales of Hamza. The codex offers a prime example of the art of book illumination that flourished ...
Contributed by Bavarian State Library
Qur’an
This outstanding early 14th-century manuscript is the first part of a Qur’an originally comprising 12 volumes, which, according to the colophon, was produced for the Moroccan ruler Abū Ya‘qūb Yūsuf. This text and a companion manuscript, also in the Bavarian State Library (Cod.arab 3), contain, respectively, the first and last five sixtieths of the Qur’an. The text is written in Maghrebi script on parchment, with only seven lines to a page. The well-proportioned balancing of the text area with the wide margins gives the Qur’an ...
Contributed by Bavarian State Library
Qur’an of Père Lachaise
This 14th-century Mameluke Qur’an, which belonged to Père Lachaise, confessor of Louis XIV, was obtained by the Jesuit order of Paris in 1693. The manuscript was confiscated when the order was dissolved in France in 1763. Gerhoh Steigenberger (1741–87), canon regular of the Upper Bavarian monastery of Polling, subsequently bought it, along with large parts of the dissolved Jesuit library. Steigenberger had been sent to Paris to acquire books and manuscripts for the monastic library. After the dissolution of the monastery in 1803, the manuscript was transferred to ...
Contributed by Bavarian State Library
Mirror and Example for the Worshippers of Christ: the Life of the Blessed Father Benedict, Most Holy Patriarch of Monks
Speculum & exemplar Christicolarum: vita beatissimi patris Benedicti monachorum patriarchae sanctissimi (Mirror and example for the worshippers of Christ: the life of the blessed Father Benedict, most holy patriarch of monks) is an illustrated life of Saint Benedict of Nursia (circa 480–547), with a poetic text by Dom Angelus Fagius Sangrinus (1500–93), abbot of Monte Cassino. The abbey was established by Benedict in about 529. This version of the life of Benedict, the patriarch of Western monasticism, is based on Book II of the Dialogues traditionally ascribed to Saint ...
Conferences of the Fathers
Collationes partum (Conferences of the fathers) is the first printed edition of this work by John Cassian (circa 360–circa 435), an important early Latin monastic author who greatly influenced Saint Benedict of Nursia (circa 480–547) and Saint Gregory the Great (pope 590–604). Known as one of the “Desert Fathers,” Cassian in this work presents the teaching of monks he encountered in Egypt in his youth, adapted to the conditions of monastic life in southern Gaul (present-day France) decades later. The Conferences offer an early model of the ...