207 results in English
The Defeat of Montaperti
This manuscript is an illustrated account of the events relating to the famous Battle of Montaperti of September 4, 1260, which is mentioned by Dante in The Divine Comedy. The battle resulted in the victory of the armed faction of the Ghibellines, supporting the Holy Roman Emperor and led by Siena, over the Guelphs, supporting the pope and led by Florence. The manuscript was written and illustrated throughout by Niccolò di Giovanni di Francesco di Ventura da Siena, who signed it and stated that he completed the text on December ...
The Spiritual Couplets
The most significant contribution of Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (popularly known in Persian as Mawlānā, and in English as Rumi, 1207–73), the renowned poet and mystic of Iran, to Persian literature may be his poetry, and especially his famous Masnavi (The spiritual couplets). This work, which is said to be the most extensive verse exposition of mysticism in any language, discusses and offers solutions to many complicated problems in metaphysics, religion, ethics, mysticism, and other fields. Masnavi highlights the various hidden aspects of Sufism and their relationship to the ...
The Treasure of Khvarazm’Shah
Ismā‘īl ibn Ḥasan Jurjānī (circa 1042–circa 1136, also seen as Jorjānī and Gurjānī), known popularly as Hakim Jurjānī, was among the most famous physicians of 12th-century Iran. In the period between the Islamic conquest and the time of Jurjānī, almost all scientific books by Iranians were written in Arabic, including such famous works as al-Qānūn fī al-tibb (The canon of medicine) by Ibn Sina (Avicenna). Jurjānī's medical encyclopedia, Zakhīrah-i Khvārazm’Shāhī (The treasure of Khvarazm’Shah) was the first major medical book in post-Islamic Iran written in ...
History of Byzantium
This Greek manuscript on parchment dating from the 12th to the 13th centuries is one of the most valuable codices in the National Library of Spain, treasured for the richness of its illumination. The work, by Ioannes Scylitza (flourished 1081), is a history of the Byzantine emperors from 811 to 1057, covering events from the proclamation of Michael I Rangabe in 811 to the reign of Michael VI in 1056–57. The manuscript contains 577 miniatures by different artists. Most of the scenes are accompanied by a caption that explains ...
Contributed by National Library of Spain
Psalter of Frederick II
This remarkable illuminated psalter decorated in the Byzantine style was commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II of Sicily (1194–1250) for his third wife, Isabella of England (1214–41). Frederick married Isabella in 1235. By design and execution, the manuscript illuminations combine the color palette of Byzantium with the stylistic rendering of the plasticity of the human body common to the Italian school of the period. Probably executed at the scriptorium in Acri, a hill town in Calabria, the manuscript is decorated with a full-page initial letter encompassing ...
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 ...
Dobreisho Gospel
This parchment manuscript, of which only a part has survived, is from the first quarter of the 13th century. The year 1221 was written on the manuscript at a significantly later date and may have been copied from an original colophon by a later owner. Known as the Dobreisho Gospel, the manuscript is an important witness to the history and early development of the Bulgarian language. Of particular interest is the rich illumination, including two full-page miniatures of the evangelists Luke and John. The portrait of the latter is accompanied ...
Jerusalem Delivered
La Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem delivered) is a verse epic by the late-Renaissance Italian poet Torquato Tasso (1544–95). Written in the eight-line stanzas common to Italian Renaissance poetry, Tasso’s masterpiece is known for the beauty of its language, profound expressions of emotion, and concern for historical accuracy. The subject of the poem is the First Crusade of 1096–99 and the quest by the Frankish knight Godfrey of Bouillon to liberate the sepulcher of Jesus Christ. Tasso was born in Sorrento, in the Kingdom of Naples, and his interest ...
The Recension of Euclid's "Elements"
This work is a printed edition of Kitāb taḥrīr uṣūl li-Uqlīdus (The recension of Euclid's Elements) by one of the intellectual luminaries of the Islamic world, the Persian polymath Naṣīr al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Ṭūsī (1201–74). After his death al-Ṭūsī was referred to as al-muʿallim al-thālith (the third teacher, with Aristotle and Fārābī referred to as the first and second teachers, respectively). An extraordinarily prolific author, al-Ṭūsī made notable contributions to most of the intellectual fields of his era, writing on theology, mysticism, logic ...
Contributed by Qatar National Library
“The Scientific Essay on the Need for Compound Remedies” from the "Canon of Medicine"
Abū Alī al-Ḥusayn Ibn Sīnā (980–1037) was one of the intellectual luminaries of the medieval world. Known in the Latin West as Avicenna, this Persian polymath was often referred to by Muslim authors as al-Shaykh al-Ra'īs, in acknowledgement of his role as one of the foremost savants of the Islamic world. A prolific author, Ibn Sīnā wrote on topics as varied as metaphysics, theology, medicine, psychology, earth sciences, physics, astronomy, astrology, and chemistry. His fame in Europe rests principally on his Canon of Medicine, which was translated into ...
Contributed by Qatar National Library
Damascus Pentateuch
The Damascus Pentateuch, from around the year 1000, is one of the oldest extant Hebrew biblical manuscripts. It includes full vocalization, accentuation, and Masoretic annotation. The manuscript is defective in its beginning, as it starts with Genesis 9:26; Exodus 18:1–23 is also missing. Written on parchment in oriental square script, the text is in three columns per page, 20 lines per column. The manuscript belonged to the Jewish community of Damascus (hence its name) until 1915, when it was acquired by the collector and bibliophile D.S ...
History of the Five Dynasties
Wu dai shi ji (History of the Five Dynasties) was the original title of this work by Ouyang Xiu (1007–72), statesman, historian, essayist, calligrapher, and poet of the Song dynasty. It traditionally has been called Xin Wu dai shi (The new history of the Five Dynasties) to distinguish it from another work entitled Jiu Wu dai shi (The old history of the Five Dynasties), by Xue Juzheng (912–81). This was the only authorized history compiled privately after the Tang dynasty and before the publication of Xin Yuan shi ...
Contributed by National Central Library
The Veritable Records of the Song Emperor Taizong
Chinese court officials often recorded a reigning emperor’s daily activities and words spoken in court, especially those that affected the country. These records, such as Qi ju zhu (Diaries of activity and repose) and Ri li (Daily records), were sources for the compilation of shi lu (veritable records) by a committee. Other sources consisted of materials collected from provinces, ministerial papers, and other documents. The official histories were written based on these veritable records. Such records no longer exist from before the Tang dynasty (618–907). The only ...
Contributed by National Central Library
The Newly Compiled Overall Geographical Survey
The original work on which this compilation is based was completed in 1239, as indicated in its two prefaces, one by Lü Wu (1179–1255), and another at the end by the author Zhu Mu (died 1255). It was reprinted in 1267 by Zhu Mu’s son Zhu Zhu (jin shi 1256). The original work had two parts, part one in 43 juan and part two in seven juan, along with a 20-juan supplement and a one-juan appendix. This reprinted edition has 70 juan. According to Zhu Zhu’s postscript ...
Contributed by National Central Library
Supplement to the Local Gazetteer of Wu Prefecture
Wujun (Wu Prefecture) is an ancient name used during the Qin and Han (221 BCE–220 CE) for the seat of Guiji (situated in present-day Suzhou). The words tu jing in the title denote an older type of local gazetteer, which first appeared during the Eastern Han (25–220 CE). It was not until the Southern Song that such works were replaced by more formal gazetteers. This printed work is a very rare Song edition. The work goes back to 1099, the second year of Yuanfu era during the reign ...
Contributed by National Central Library
Collected Songs and Verses of Li He
Li He (790–816), courtesy name Changji, was a Chinese poet of the late-Tang dynasty, known for his unconventional and imaginative style. A native of Changgu, Henan Province, Li was unsuccessful in the imperial examination. He died at age 27, having worked, despite his distant royal ancestry, as a poor minor official. About 240 of his poems survive. Although his works were admired by the late-Tang poets, none of his poems made their way into the popular anthologies, such as Tang shi san bai shou (300 Tang poems). As indicated ...
Contributed by National Central Library
The Story of the Secluded Chamber, with Li Zhuowu’s Critical Comments
You gui ji (Story of the secluded chamber), also entitled Bai yue ting ji (Story of the Moon-Worshipping Pavilion), is one of the five greatest Ming-dynasty long poetic dramas, called chuan qi. Attributed by some to Guan Hanqing (1220–1300), the Yuan playwright, and by others to Shi Hui (born 1295 or 1296), a native of Hangzhou and a Southern-style playwright at the end of the Yuan and the beginning of the Ming dynasty, the play has 40 scenes in two juan. The story takes place at the end of ...
Contributed by National Central Library
Collected Prescriptions for Divine Relief from Suffering, Reissued in the Dade Reign
The Sheng ji zong lu was originally a 200-juan encyclopedic compilation of more than 20,000 medical prescriptions, collected from both officially verified sources and common practices during and before the Song dynasty (960–1279) and published around 1111–17. Shortly after its completion, it was removed to the north due to the Jingkang Incident, which took place in 1127, when invading Jurchen soldiers besieged and sacked the Song capital Bianjing and abducted Emperor Qinzong. As a consequence, this work did not become well known in the south. Two early ...
Contributed by National Central Library
Augmented Materia Medica
This work was compiled in 1116 by Kou Zongshi (flourished 1111–17), an official in charge of purveying and examining medicinal materials. According to a later preface by Lu Xinyuan, dated 1877, Kou also served as an official responsible for military provisions and supplies in various places and became a revenue manager. Kou Zongshi found mistakes and gaps in the works by Liu Yuxi, the author of Jiayou bu zhu ben cao (Supplementary comments to materia medica printed in the Jiayou reign), and Tang Shenwei, author of Jing shi zheng ...
Contributed by National Central Library
Qian Yi’s Key to Therapeutics of Children's Diseases
This work, which was issued in either three or eight juan, was written by Qian Yi (circa 1032–1113), a physician of the Song dynasty, compiled by Yan Xiaozhong, a Song pediatrician, and issued in the first year of Song emperor Xuanhe, who reigned in 1119–25. This three-juan copy was reprinted at the workshop of Qixiutang during the Ming dynasty. Qian Yi’s father was also a physician who enjoyed drinking and travel. One day he went to the sea and never returned. Qian Yi searched repeatedly for his ...
Contributed by National Central Library
The Newly Illustrated Manual of Acupuncture Points on a Bronze Figure, with Supplemental Annotations
This work was compiled by imperial order by Wang Weiyi (987–1067), the Hanlin Academy physician, in 1026 in Bianjing (present-day Kaifeng, Henan Province). Two large stone steles containing the text were also erected so that copies of it could be made. In his preface, Xia Li (985–1051), a high Song official, states that Wang Weiyi made steadfast efforts in compiling the work and consulted both ancient and contemporary sources. To demonstrate his manual visually and not just in words, in 1027 Wang Weiyi had two human-sized bronze figures ...
Contributed by National Central Library
The Great Song Baoyou Calendar Produced in 1256
This work is a rare Qing copy of the 1256 Southern Song manuscript calendar, copied by painter Cheng Xugu in 1815. The first page records the location of the god of the year 1256, the nine constellations, the seven-color spectrum, and the size of the moon. Following this page is the report, dated the tenth month of the third year of the Baoyou reign of the Southern Song (1255) and submitted by the Astrological Service Bureau, responding to the imperial order to print the calendar. The report was signed by ...
Contributed by National Central Library
Newly Compiled Stories on the History of the Five Dynasties with Commentaries (Incomplete Copy)
One of the popular entertainments among the common people during the Northern Song dynasty (960–1127) was storytelling. Historical events were particularly popular subjects. Stories often were told with the commentaries of the storytellers and thus were called ping hua (stories with commentaries). Some ping hua were published after being polished by the literati, but not many are still in existence. The author of this work is unknown. It is a collection of popular literature containing stories from the Five Dynasties (907–60), prior to the Song dynasty. It begins ...
Contributed by National Central Library
Greek Codex from the Abbey of Grottaferrata
Saint Nilus the Younger (circa 910–1005) was born in Rossano (Calabria, southern Italy) into a notable and wealthy family. Calabria was at that time a district of the Byzantine Empire and members of Nilus’s family held important offices under the Byzantine emperors. He distinguished himself from a young age by his voracious reading and learning. Later in life he founded libraries devoted to the production of manuscripts and the teaching of calligraphy. He became a monk at about age 30 and, as a follower of the teachings of ...
Mirror of the Saxons
More than 400 manuscripts of the Sachsenspiegel (Mirror of the Saxons) survive, attesting to the wide dissemination and influence on the whole of Europe of this first law book in German. The most beautiful copies are the four illuminated manuscripts, all produced between 1295 and 1371, and now held in Heidelberg, Oldenburg, Dresden, and Wolfenbüttel. The most artistically valuable of these documents is the Dresden manuscript, preserved in the Saxon State and University Library. Its 924 image sequences on 92 pages are the most extensive of those in the four ...
The Dresden Codex
Only four Mayan manuscripts still exist worldwide, of which the oldest and best preserved is the Dresden Codex, held in the collections of the Saxon State and University Library. The manuscript was purchased for the Dresden court library in 1739 in Vienna, as a “Mexican book.” In 1853 it was identified as a Mayan manuscript. Consisting of 39 leaves, inscribed on both sides, and approximately 358 centimeters long, the manuscript originally was folded in an accordion-like manner. The chalk-coated writing material, amatl, is a paper-like matter produced from fig-tree fiber ...
Fragment of the Old Västergötland Law
Äldre Västgötalagen (Old Västergötland law) is the oldest legal text written in Old Swedish in Latin script and the oldest of Sweden’s medieval provincial laws. The law was formulated around 1220 and was used in Västergötland in western Sweden. This manuscript fragment dates to about 1240. It contains the oldest record of the law and, along with another manuscript in the holdings of the National Library of Sweden dating from the early 1290s, is the only source for the law. The two leaves come from the same manuscript and ...
Horologium Olomoucense
Horologium Olomoucense is a collectarium (liturgical book of collects or prayers) that is recited during the Divine Office at horae (specific times) during the day. The manuscript was written for the cathedral chapter in Olomouc in the southern part of the present-day Czech Republic before the year 1150. A famous image depicting Pope Gregory I (circa 540–604) is found at the beginning of the liturgical texts. The pope is on a throne and dictating to his friend and pupil, Petrus Diaconus, who is sitting at his feet. He is ...
The Tales of Ise
Ise monogatari (The tales of Ise) is a collection of some 125 brief episodes, combining elements of prose and poetry, that dates from the early Heian period (9th−10th centuries). The protagonist is believed to be modeled on Ariwarano Narihira (825−80), a handsome aristocrat who had many romantic affairs. The main character’s romances, friendships, heartbroken wandering life, and various other stories are narrated in a style that owes much to waka (literally, Japanese poems). The work had a great influence on later Japanese literature, including Genji monogatari (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 ...
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Military Epic about the Life of Yoshitsune
Gikei ki tells a fictional story based on the life of Minamoto Yoshitsune, a famous military commander of the 12th century. In the book, Yoshitsune’s elder brother Minamoto Yoritomo, the first shogun in the history of Japan, becomes suspicious of his younger brother’s ambition after his glorious victories in a series of battles. By order of Yoritomo, Yoshitsune is expelled from Kyoto, hounded, and finally forced to commit suicide. The tragic story of Yoshitsune has long been popular in Japan and was often described in novels and dramas ...
Contributed by National Diet Library
Buddhist Sutra “Bimashōkyō”
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. In the late Heian period, there arose the Mappō (age of Dharma decline) doctrine, which held that Buddhist teaching, and consequently the protection of Buddha, would decline. At a time of religious pessimism coupled with the very real decline of the aristocracy, many court nobles sought to attain the after-death passage to the Pure Land ...
Contributed by National Diet Library
Collection of Works from Hakim Sanai
Kitāb-i mustaṭāb-i Kullīyāt-i (Collection of works from Hakim Sanai) contains poetic works of Abu al-Majd Majdud ibn Adam Sanai Ghaznwai (died circa 1150). Abu al-Majd, better known as Sanai, was a famous medieval classical Persian scholar, poet, and mystic, thought to have been born and died in Ghazna (a present-day province in southeast Afghanistan) and also to have lived in Khorasan. Sanai is considered to be the first to compose qasida (ode), ghazal (lyric), and masnavi (rhymed couplet) poems in Persian, and he is famous for his homiletic poetry and ...
Contributed by Library of Congress
Spiritual Rhyming Couplets by Rumi
Masnavi-e Manawi (Spiritual rhyming couplets) is the famous poetic collection of the medieval ecstatic mystic scholar and Sufi, Mawlānā Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī (1207−73), known in Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Iran as Mowlana or Mawlānā Jalaluddin Balkhi and in the West as Rumi. This Persian manuscript in nastaliq script is a complete 15th century copy of Masnavi, with all six volumes. Narratives, homilies, and commentaries appear throughout. Many stories have stock characters, such as beggars, prophets, kings, animals. Ethical concerns, traditional wisdom, and stories filled with jokes, including ones about ...
Contributed by Library of Congress
Poetry Collection
Born in what is now the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, ‘Ali ibn al-Muqarrab (1176 or 1177−1231 or 1232) had an adventurous life that included political intrigue and involvement with trade as well as literary accomplishment. Writing in the early 13th century, he is said to have been one of the last poets before modern times to have composed in the classical style. His Diwan (Poetry collection) is lauded for its historical as well as literary qualities. It is considered a primary source for geography and history as well ...
Contributed by Qatar National Library
Students' Guide
Zakarīyā ibn Muḥammad al-Anṣārī, a Shafi’i jurist, teacher, and Sufi, was born in Egypt and studied at al-Azhar, the Sunni Islamic center of learning in Cairo. Throughout his long career (he lived about 100 years), al-Anṣārī held many positions as judge and Sufi authority. He is recognized as a major figure in medieval Sunni jurisprudence. He studied under the greatest teachers of the age and influenced later generations, being referred to by the honorific Shaykh al-Islam. Manhaj al-Ṭullāb (Students' guide) is an abridgement of Nawawī’s Minhāj al-Ṭālibīn (Path ...
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Lamp of Kings
Sirāj al-mulūk (Lamp of kings) is by Muḥammad ibn al-Walīd al-Ṭurṭūshī, a Maliki imam also known as Ibn Abū Zandaqa. Al-Ṭarṭūshī was born in Tortosa in Catalonia (in what was then al-Andalus, present-day Spain) in 1059 or 1060. He died in Alexandria, Egypt in 1126 or 1127. The topic of the Sirāj al-mulūk, his most famous work, is political theory. The present edition was published in 1888−89 by Maṭbaʻat al-khayrīyah in Cairo. According to Kitāb iktifā' al-qanūʻ bimā huwa matbuʻ min ashhar al-ta'ālīf al-arabīya fī al-maṭābiʻ ...
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Bible Pictures by William de Brailes
This manuscript comprises 24 leaves of Bible pictures by William de Brailes, an English artist active in Oxford in the middle of the 13th century. Seven leaves from the same set of images are now in the Musée Marmottan in Paris. These 31 leaves are all that remain of an image cycle that once contained at least 98 miniatures, and which was the longest cycle of Bible miniatures surviving from the 13th century in England. In all probability these Bible pictures were actually prefatory matter to a psalter (now Stockholm ...
Contributed by Walters Art Museum
Claricia Psalter
The Claricia Psalter was made for, and most likely by, a group of Benedictine nuns at the abbey of Saints Ulrich and Afra in Augsburg, Germany. Although the psalter itself, along with its calendar, dates to the late-12th or early 13th century, a number of texts and prayers were added in the mid-13th century. Most striking about the manuscript are its illuminations, which include a prefatory cycle, full-page miniatures, and historiated initials. While all are Romanesque in style, they vary greatly in quality and technique, and three or four different ...
Contributed by Walters Art Museum
Melk Missal
This missal, which dates to the late-12th or early 13th century, was made for the Benedictine abbey of Melk (or, possibly, Seitenstetten) in Lower Austria, as indicated by the inclusion of the patron saints of Melk, Peter and Paul, and Cholomannus (folio 212 recto). The surviving volume of a multi-volume missal, the manuscript contains only the ordinary of the mass and the "summer part," with the temporale running from Holy Saturday through the Sunday after Trinity Sunday and the sanctorale beginning with the feast of Primus and Felicianus (June 9 ...
Contributed by Walters Art Museum
Carrow Psalter
This English manuscript was made in East Anglia in the mid-13th century for a patron with special veneration for Saint Olaf, whose life and martyrdom are prominently portrayed in the Beatus initial of Psalm 1. Known as the Carrow Psalter, because of its later use by the nunnery of Carrow near Norwich, it is more accurately described as a psalter-hours, as it contains, among other texts, the Office of the Dead and the Hours of the Virgin. The manuscript is striking for its rich variety of illuminations, including full-page cycles ...
Contributed by Walters Art Museum
"Imperial" Menologion
This manuscript, created in the Byzantine Empire in the second quarter of the 11th century, contains the biographies of saints whom the church commemorates in the month of January. It was originally part of a set containing volumes for each month of the year. A companion volume, with texts for March, now survives in Moscow (State Historical Museum, MS gr. 183). Each chapter in both manuscripts opens with a miniature depicting the death of a respective saint, or less often, another significant event from his or her life. Each text ...
Contributed by Walters Art Museum