January 10, 2018

Weather Station in Tiksi

This drawing is from a collection of travel sketches created in the Yakut Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic during the 1920s–1930s. The Yakut ASSR—informally referred to as Yakutiya and known today as the Sakha Republic—covered a large region in eastern Siberia. It is the historical home of the Yakut (Sakha) people, a Turkic ethnic group who arrived in the region around the 13th century and who still make up almost half of its population. This collection of travel sketches was created by Leningrad artist Nikolai Dmitrievich Travin (1882‒circa 1950) during an expedition to study the forces of production in Yakutiya. Travin graduated from the Department of Ethnography at Leningrad State University in 1925 and received his artistic training at the school of the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts. During the 1930s, he worked as an artist on several expeditions to the Russian Far North. Beginning in 1932 Travin was employed at the Museum of the Arctic in Leningrad. He also worked during the 1930s as an illustrator for the state children’s publishing house Detgiz. This collection of Travin’s drawings depicts tundra landscapes (locally known as sendukha), northern villages, and Yakut dwellings. The drawings are housed in the Yakutsk State Museum of the History and Culture of Northern Peoples. The collection was digitized for the Meeting of Frontiers digital library project in the early 2000s.

Tract on the Methods of Enquiry

This short tract on dialectics is attributed to Shams al-Din Muhammad ibn Ashraf al-Husayni al-Samarqandi, a 13th-century logician, mathematician, and astronomer, whose biography is not well known. His name, however, suggests he was from Samarqand in present-day Uzbekistan. It was largely this tract—his major work on logic and the subject of several commentaries—that established him as a logician. The tract is comprised of three parts. The first is dedicated to the definition of a number of concepts, including munazarah (comparison), dalil (evidence), taʻlil (reasoning), and muʻaradah (rebuttal). In the second part, the author employs these concepts to lay out a theoretical framework for reasoning. The third part includes three masaʼil (propositions) pertaining to the concept of necessary and possible kinds of existence; issues that engaged earlier kalam (literally, the science of debate) theologians as well. The tract, overall, is a discussion of the methods of intellectual investigation and reasoning used by earlier Muslim and Greek philosophers, especially Aristotle and Ibn Sina (Avicenna). Al-Samarqandi also wrote works on astronomy, theology, and mathematics. His Kitāb ashkāl al-ta’sīs (Book on the fundamental theorems), a summary of 35 fundamental propositions of Euclid's geometry, is also well regarded among mathematicians.

Introduction to the Science of Cosmography

Al-tabṣira fī ʻilm al-hayʻa (Introduction to the science of cosmography) is a treatise attributed to Shams al-Din al-Khiraqi (also seen as al-Kharaqi), a mathematician, geographer, and leading Seljuk-era astronomer who died in 1138 or 1139. He was born in Khiraq (or Kharaq) near Merv, in present-day Turkmenistan. He probably was a court astronomer for Sultan Sanjar, who ruled the Seljuk Empire in 1118–57, and his vizier Abu al-Husayn Ali ibn Nasir al-Din, to whom al-Khiraqi dedicates this treatise. The work is an abridgment of al-Khiraqi’s own, longer treatise Muntahá al-idrāk fī taqāsīm al-aflāk (The ultimate in comprehending the divisions of the celestial spheres). In both works, al-Khiraqi builds on alternative theories developed by earlier Muslim astronomers—especially al-Hassan ibn al-Haytham (called Alhazen in the Latin West)—in which the planets are seen as supported by solid spheres rather than the imaginary circles suggested by Ptolemy in the Almagest. The treatise presented here is divided into two sections. The first, containing 22 chapters, discusses the physical structure of the universe and the locations of the various celestial bodies. It includes chapters on the sphericity of those bodies and explanations of such natural phenomena as the solar and lunar eclipses. The second section, comprised of 12 chapters, examines Earth, especially the seasons as they relate to the zodiacal signs and constellations. This copy of Al-tabṣira is incomplete, containing only the first 18 chapters of the first section. The second section, on Earth, is missing. Both this abridgment and the longer version of the work are sometimes incorrectly attributed to Abd al-Jabbar ibn Abd al-Jabbar al-Kharaqi, a near contemporary (died 1158), who also was from Kharaq.

Philosophy Institutions (Second Volume)

This manuscript contains the Arabic translation of the second volume of Institutiones philosophiae (Philosophy institutions), a treatise on ethics and natural theology by Joseph Luis Dmovski (also known as Josephus Aloysius Dmowski and Giuseppe Luigi Dmowski, 1799–1879). The author was a Polish Jesuit and professor of logic and theology at the Jesuit College (also called Roman College and Gregorian University) in Rome. The original work was first published in Latin around 1840. It appears to have been part of Dmowski’s response to a dispute on the definition of moral law between him and Roman Catholic theologian Antonio Rosmini-Serbati (1797–1855). The book leads with an introduction on the history of ethics, noting contributions to the field by both ancient Greek philosophers and Christian theologians. The rest of the content is largely organized into qadaya (singular qadiyah, or issue), with each issue tackling broader questions related to moral philosophy, such as the purpose of a good and righteous life, and natural moral law. The overall focus of the work is a critical examination of Greek morality. Rather than rejecting it outright, the author’s goal is to embrace elements in the philosophy that are found to be “true” and to “conform to our faith.” The Arabic translation presented here was done in 1857 by Yusuf ibn Ilyas al-Dibs (1833–1907), a Maronite clergyman, historian, and the archbishop of Beirut at that time. Al-Dibs was known for his interest in philosophy. As archbishop, in 1875 he opened the Maronite madrasat al-hikma (School of Philosophy) in Beirut and was closely involved in maintaining the Maronite union with the Holy See. The Maronite Church traces its origin to Saint Maron, a late-fourth century Syrian hermit.

Gloss on al-Lari’s Commentary on Philosophy

Muslih al-Din al-Lari (died 1571 or 1572) was a philosopher and scientist who hailed from Shiraz, in present-day Iran. He was initially active in India but later lived in Istanbul, where he enjoyed the patronage of the Ottoman court. A prolific author who wrote in many fields, al-Lari is best known for his interest in “rational sciences.” Some of his works became textbooks in the Ottoman curriculum. The manuscript presented here is a gloss on a commentary by al-Lari on logic and dialectics. The author of the gloss is Muhammad al-Kaffawi, also known as al-Aqkirmani, an 18th-century theologian and linguist who was a judge in Mecca. Al-Lari’s commentary concerns a work entitled Hidāyat al-ḥikmah (Guidance through philosophy) by 13th-century logician, mathematician, and astronomer Athir al-Din al-Abhari (died circa 1265). Like its parent works, this gloss deals with issues pertaining to nature, philosophy, and logic. It begins with a definition of the notion of hikmah, often translated as philosophy or wisdom. Further issues discussed include al-wujud al-dhihni (conceptual existence), mutlaq al-faḍaʼil (ultimate virtues), and al-kulliyat (The principles). The text, framed in brown and black outlines, is in black, well-executed nastaʻliq script, with 21 lines per page, and numerous commentaries in the margins. The title page displays a panel with flowering vines. This manuscript copy was completed on or around December 22, 1764, only three or four years after the author’s death, suggesting the likelihood that it was based on the original. Some biographies, such as al-Zirikli’s al-Aʻlām (The notables), maintain that al-Lari’s commentary was not based directly on al-Abhari’s work, but rather derives from yet another commentary by 15th-century Persian philosopher Qadi Mir Husayn al-Maybudi.

A Book on Medicinal Seeds

The eight-page manuscript presented here preserves two works: a short treatise on medicinal seeds and a fragment from a “chapter on the subject of chess.” The medical treatise contains 40 entries on various types of seeds, including seeds from fruits, vegetables, and grains. It begins with an entry on citron and ends with an incomplete entry on the Baraka (Nigella Sativa or Black Seed). Some of the seeds—such as those of watermelon, pumpkin, pomegranate, and cotton—are well known in the New World. Others, such as the alkekengi (Physalis alkekengi, or Chinese Lantern), a type of cherry native to Central and South Asia, are generally less common. Each entry gives the seed name, written in red, green, or blue, and a brief description about that seed and its medicinal uses. Later entries are followed by a sanʻatuhu (how it is made) prescription specifying the proportions to be used and, sometimes, the best variety of the seed in question. The text is written in an un-voweled black naskh script and is dated on or around December 10, 1513. The author and provenance are unknown. The text of the treatise is preceded by a two-page fragment from what appears to be a treatise on chess. The short chapter displays a rubricated numerology grid showing “the winner” and “the loser” in each grid cell. Accompanying the grid are an explanatory text and an incomplete poem on how to play chess by the notable 11th-century poet Ibn al-Habbariyah (died circa 1115), who was also known for his lewd satire. The two pieces appear to have been parts of separate works.