A curse in Arabic against book thieves

(From a copy of Dāʾūd Al-Anṭākī’s Taḏkirat)

 A blog post from Adam Mccallum of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, in HMMLorientalia

Saint Mark’s Monastery, Jerusalem, 235 is a thick tome containing Dāʾūd Al-Anṭākī’s (d. 1599) Taḏkirat ulī ‘l-albāb wa-’l-ǧāmiʿ li-’l-ʿaǧab al-ʿuǧāb (The Reminder for Those with Understanding, and the Collector of Prodigious Wonders), a lengthy and thorough medical work divided into four sections with an introduction and epilogue, in Garšūnī; there are a number of manuscripts of the work known, but as far as I am aware, other than this copy they are all in Arabic script. This Jerusalem manuscript is dated 1757 AD and 1171 AH. In the margin of the next-to-last page someone has written (in Arabic script, unlike the text in the manuscript itself) the following:

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Property of the monastery of the Syrians in honorable Jerusalem. Anyone who steals or removes [it] from its place of donation will be cursed from the mouth of God! God (may he be exalted) will be angry with him! Amen.

This curse against would-be book robbers is hardly unique in Arabic — I have seen a number in the collections at HMML in both Arabic and Garšūnī — and similar warnings are well known in other traditions, too. From Paris Gr 301, for example, Elpidio Mioni (Introduzione alla paleografia greca [Padua, 1973], 85) cites Εἴ τις δὲ βουληθῇ ἆραι τοῦτον κρυφίως ἢ καὶ φανερῶς, ἔχῃ τὰς ἀρὰς τῶν ιβʹ ἀποστόλων καὶ κατάραν εὕρῃ κακίστην πάντων μοναχῶν, “Should anyone wish to take this [book] secretly, or even openly, he will get the curses of the twelve apostles and find the worst anathema of all the monks!” Interested readers will find a wealth of (mostly Latin) examples in Marc Drogin’s delightful work Anathema! Medieval Scribes and the History of Book Curses (Totowa and Montclair, New Jersey, 1983).

Any other such gems, in any language, you’re aware of?



On Dāʾūd Al-Anṭākī see GAL II 364 and GALS II 491-492. Wüstenfeld (Gesch. der Arabischen Aerzte [Göttingen, 1840], 158) calls the Taḏkirat “ein grosses Werk über die gesammte theoretische und practische Medicin” and Leclerc (Hist. de la médecine arabe, vol. 2 [Paris, 1876], 304) says it “embrasse la majeure partie de la science”. Much more recent, there is an entry on Dāʾūd by Raphaela Veit in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, 3d ed. (available online by subscription), with bibliography.

About Sinai

Post-doctoral fellow at the Polonsky academy, Jerusalem. Interested in text mining the language of dedications, prefaces, letters to the reader and other mainly - but not only - Early Modern kinds of paratext, and more generally, in what the digital humanities may hold for the study of paratext.
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