The Exquisite in Every Pleasing Art


Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Mansur Bahaʼ al-Din Abu al-Fath al-Ibshihi was an Egyptian man of letters who was born in 1388 in the Egyptian village of Abshawayh, from which he took his nisba (in Arabic, the part of a name that indicates provenance). His fame rests on the high reputation of the book shown here, al-Mustaṭraf fī kull fann mustaẓraf (The exquisite in every pleasing art). Al-Ibshihi studied jurisprudence and grammar and memorized the Qur'an when he was ten. He frequented Cairo where he attended lessons by al-Bulqini. After the death of his father he became a preacher and dedicated himself to literature, which he loved. Al-Sakhawi notes that al-Ibshihi wrote another book on literature, Aṭwāq al-azhār ʻalá ṣudūr al-anhār (Necklaces of flowers on the chests of rivers), and began a book on the art of correspondence entitled Fī ṣanat al-tarassul wa-al-kitābah (On the trade of correspondence and writing). He also might have been the author of a manuscript entitled Tadhkirat al-ʻārifīn wa tabṣirat al-mustabṣirīn (The reminder for the aware and the guidance for the shrewd). Al-Ibshihi writes at the beginning of al-Mustaṭraf that he compiled in his book every art in which "striving scholars write volumes." These arts include aphorisms, literature, histories, anecdotes, information, stories, witticisms, and fine poetry. He notes that he took as examples verses from the Qur'an and the authenticated hadith. He wove in fine stories about saints, borrowing material from other books, such as Rabīʻ al-abrār (The spring of the devotees) by al-Zamakhshari, and al-ʿIqd al-farīd (The pecular necklace) by Ibn ʿAbd Rabbih. The manuscript is divided into 84 chapters discussing various topics in religion, morality, nature, poetry, and human life in all its aspects.

Last updated: November 3, 2015