January 10, 2018

The Medicine of the Imams

Ṭib al-aʼimmah (The medicine of the imams) is a collection of reports on medicine attributed to such Shiite spiritual authorities as Imam Ali, his twin sons al-Hassan and al-Husayn, and their imam descendants. The reports prescribe the medicinal use of many foods and herbs, warn against the harmful substances in some others, and recommend Qur’anic verses and prayers for healing and spiritual wellbeing. The work follows Greek and Muslim traditions of the time that take a holistic approach to healing by caring for both the body and the spirit. The work’s co-authors were the brothers Husayn and Abdallah ibna Bistam of Nishapur, two Shiite hadith narrators who were active in the ninth‒tenth centuries. The original work probably was comprised of more than 400 reports, complete with their full isnad (chain of narration up to the imam to whom the statement is attributed). This copy, however, might be incomplete, as the last page seems to suggest the reports continue further. It also lacks an end colophon, which typically is in the form of an upturned triangle indicating the completion of the composition. The text is in clear, black nastaʻliq script. The end of a report and the beginning of another are indicated by a gap in the otherwise unbroken text. No completion date or scribe name is given. The Twelver Shiite character of the work and the nastaʻliq script might suggest a Persian provenance. The work is also known to have influenced such later Twelver Shiite scholars as al-Majlisi (died circa 1699) in his Bihar al-anwar (Seas of lights), and al-Hurr al-ʻAmili (died 1693) in his Wasa'il al-Shi'ah (Shiite methods).

The Science of Divine Alchemy

This treatise, ʻIlm al-ṣināʻah al-ilāhiyah (The science of divine alchemy), is a compilation of several alchemical works. The author is unknown, but the treatise quotes heavily from the works of 15th-century alchemist Ali Bek al-Izniqi, nicknamed al-mu'allif al-jadid (the new author), and also known as Ali Chelebi. Other authors quoted include Persian alchemist Aydamar ibn ʻAbd Allah al-Jaldaki (active 1349–61), and Arab-Persian polymath Jabir ibn Hayyan (also known by his Latinized name Geber, circa 721–815). The treatise’s overarching view of alchemy is that it is a spiritual science. Alchemy is defined as a “divine secret” that is inherited from “our father Adam, who passed it on to his sons the wizards and the philosophers of Islam, through the honorable awliya' (saints) and the great prophets.” The work goes on to divide alchemy into two sciences: the elixir, which deals with the “fixing of the corrupted,” and al-mizan (the balance), which deals with the alchemical theory of the balance. The subject of study by both Geber and al-Jaldaki, the theory of the balance maintains that chemical substances cannot react to each other unless they are “balanced” in their composition, a notion that later developed in modern chemistry into Proust's law (the law of definite proportions). Although alchemy is the main focus of the treatise, the work is an amalgamation of several disciplines, including cosmology, numerology, and astrology. The text is in black nastaʻliq, with rubrication indicating attribution, key words, and text sections. The subject of divine alchemy has been historically associated with the theosophy of Twelver Shiism. Given the heavy focus on al-Izniqi, al-Jaldaki, and Geber, it is plausible to assume a Shiite-Persian provenance for this treatise and its unknown author. With al-Izniqi established as a terminus post quem (the earliest possible date), the composition date of the treatise must have been after the 15th century. The date of completion of this copy and the name of the scribe are not given.

Critical Examination of the Summary of al-Qazwini

Al-Miftāḥ al-ʿulūm (The key to the sciences) by Persian polymath Yusuf ibn Abi Bakr al-Sakkaki (1160−circa 1228) is a monumental work covering 12 sciences of the Arabic language. Generally divided into three areas (morphology, syntax, and rhetoric), al-Miftaḥ (The key), as the work is known, became the subject of numerous commentaries. One of the main commentators was Jalal al-Din Muhammad al-Qazwini (1267 or 1268−1338), better known as al-Khatib al-Qazwini (the Preacher al-Qazwini) and sometimes as Khatib Dimashq (the Preacher of Damascus). As is the case with many pioneering works in the Arabic language, al-Qazwini’s commentary itself became the subject of a new commentary (or supercommentary), which is preserved in this manuscript by Hasan Kafi al-Aqhisari (1544−1616). A scholar and judge of Balkan origins, al-Aqhisari later moved to Istanbul, where he studied Islamic jurisprudence and Qur’anic exegesis and mastered Turkish and Persian. He mostly wrote in Arabic. In this brief commentary, he highly commends al-Qazwini on his summary of The Key but states that the summary “is not without objections that distract students.” Like the two works it is based on, this commentary covers grammatical topics, such as subject-predicate agreement, and stylistic matters, such as brevity, prolixity, and proper balance. It is written in a simpler language than the parent works, with examples from better-known sources of Arabic literature to facilitate learning. The text is in black, un-rubricated naskh. No completion date or scribe name is given. A partially legible ownership stamp in two places gives the name “al-Sayyid … Muhammad Saʻid” as a possible former owner.

Mikhail Alekseevich Pavlov on an Expedition in the Urals

This photograph is part of a collection from the family archive of prominent geologist Mikhail Alekseevich Pavlov (1884–1938). Pavlov was born near Ekaterinburg and completed his schooling at the Nikolai Gymnasium in Tsarskoe Selo (present-day Pushkin) in 1905. He went on to study geology at Saint Petersburg University and participated in many field expeditions. While still a student, Pavlov took part in the attempted expedition to the North Pole in 1912‒14, which was led by the Arctic explorer Georgii Iakovlevich Sedov (1877–1914). Along with his school and university friend Vladimir Iul’evich Vize (1886–1954), who served as the expedition’s geographer, Pavlov collected a large body of scientific data on the northern archipelago of Novaya Zemlya. After finishing his education, Pavlov worked as a geologist and teacher of geology. He devoted most of his career to the geology of the Far East, working as an employee of the Far East Geological Committee (Dal’geolkom) in 1919–31. Pavlov was arrested in 1931 and in 1938 was executed after exhaustion prevented him from reporting for work in the labor camp where he was a prisoner. Such a fate was typical for representatives of the Russian intelligentsia in Stalinist Russia. Many photographs in this collection were taken by Pavlov himself, while others are unattributed. The photographs date from approximately 1875–1929. They depict Pavlov’s geological expeditions in Siberia and the Far East, expedition participants, views of nature, Pavlov during his school and university years, and his family members in various years. The collection is preserved in the V.K. Arseniev Primorsky State Associated Museum in Vladivostok, Russia and was digitized for the Meeting of Frontiers digital library project in the early 2000s.

Mikhail Alekseevich Pavlov with a Guide on an Expedition in the Urals

This photograph is part of a collection from the family archive of prominent geologist Mikhail Alekseevich Pavlov (1884–1938). Pavlov was born near Ekaterinburg and completed his schooling at the Nikolai Gymnasium in Tsarskoe Selo (present-day Pushkin) in 1905. He went on to study geology at Saint Petersburg University and participated in many field expeditions. While still a student, Pavlov took part in the attempted expedition to the North Pole in 1912‒14, which was led by the Arctic explorer Georgii Iakovlevich Sedov (1877–1914). Along with his school and university friend Vladimir Iul’evich Vize (1886–1954), who served as the expedition’s geographer, Pavlov collected a large body of scientific data on the northern archipelago of Novaya Zemlya. After finishing his education, Pavlov worked as a geologist and teacher of geology. He devoted most of his career to the geology of the Far East, working as an employee of the Far East Geological Committee (Dal’geolkom) in 1919–31. Pavlov was arrested in 1931 and in 1938 was executed after exhaustion prevented him from reporting for work in the labor camp where he was a prisoner. Such a fate was typical for representatives of the Russian intelligentsia in Stalinist Russia. Many photographs in this collection were taken by Pavlov himself, while others are unattributed. The photographs date from approximately 1875–1929. They depict Pavlov’s geological expeditions in Siberia and the Far East, expedition participants, views of nature, Pavlov during his school and university years, and his family members in various years. The collection is preserved in the V.K. Arseniev Primorsky State Associated Museum in Vladivostok, Russia and was digitized for the Meeting of Frontiers digital library project in the early 2000s.

Mikhail Alekseevich Pavlov's Guides in the Urals

This photograph is part of a collection from the family archive of prominent geologist Mikhail Alekseevich Pavlov (1884–1938). Pavlov was born near Ekaterinburg and completed his schooling at the Nikolai Gymnasium in Tsarskoe Selo (present-day Pushkin) in 1905. He went on to study geology at Saint Petersburg University and participated in many field expeditions. While still a student, Pavlov took part in the attempted expedition to the North Pole in 1912‒14, which was led by the Arctic explorer Georgii Iakovlevich Sedov (1877–1914). Along with his school and university friend Vladimir Iul’evich Vize (1886–1954), who served as the expedition’s geographer, Pavlov collected a large body of scientific data on the northern archipelago of Novaya Zemlya. After finishing his education, Pavlov worked as a geologist and teacher of geology. He devoted most of his career to the geology of the Far East, working as an employee of the Far East Geological Committee (Dal’geolkom) in 1919–31. Pavlov was arrested in 1931 and in 1938 was executed after exhaustion prevented him from reporting for work in the labor camp where he was a prisoner. Such a fate was typical for representatives of the Russian intelligentsia in Stalinist Russia. Many photographs in this collection were taken by Pavlov himself, while others are unattributed. The photographs date from approximately 1875–1929. They depict Pavlov’s geological expeditions in Siberia and the Far East, expedition participants, views of nature, Pavlov during his school and university years, and his family members in various years. The collection is preserved in the V.K. Arseniev Primorsky State Associated Museum in Vladivostok, Russia and was digitized for the Meeting of Frontiers digital library project in the early 2000s.