TALES OF THE ARABIAN NIGHTS

MS 1776/04
MS Short Title ONE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS
Text 1.HOMILIARY, INCLUDING PART OF ST. GREGORY: HOMILIAE IN EVANGELIA, LIB. II, HOM. 31, AND READING FROM MATTHEW 9:9 
2.THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS: THE FIRST AND SECOND FROM THE READING ACCORDING TO THE WAZIR FROM THE BAGHARI
Description MS in Latin and Arabic (text 2) on vellum, Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, ca. 1150-1187, 2 partial ff., 19x14 cm, single column, (17x10 cm remaining), 16 lines remaining in Romanesque book script of medium quality; text 2: Palestine/Damascus, 13th c., 5 lines in Arabic naskhi.
Context The script is extremely close to that of the Psalter of Queen Melisande (B.L. Egerton MS.1139), written in Jerusalem by a European scribe probably in 1131-43. Only 5 other MSS of 12th c. crusader books have hitherto been identified: Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum McClean MS.49 (fragment), B.N. mss.lat.9396 and 12056, and Vatican cod.Vat.lat. 5974. All are luxury books, and rescued to the West in the face of the advancing armies of the Mameluks before 2nd October 1187.
Provenance 1. Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (ca. 1150-1187); 2. Saracens, Palestine/Damascus (1187-); 3. Private owner, Damascus, Syria (-1993); 4. Sotheby's 6.12.1993:3d.
Commentary The importance of the Crusades in the history of medieval Europe can hardly be over-estimated. The liberation of the Holy places was looked upon as God's own work. Antioch fell to the Franks in 1098, Jerusalem in July 1099. In 1100, Baldwin, count of Edessa, was crowned king of Jerusalem. By about 1131 Jerusalem stood supreme as the Christian capital on the very edge of the world, principally a French and Genoese kingdom. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was its cathedral, and followed from 1114, the western Latin liturgy according to the rule of St. Augustine. The Church must have been the leading scriptorium during this period. Jerusalem fell to Saladin on 2nd October 1187, the sacristy of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was looted and destroyed, and its libraries were destroyed. The leaves in MS 1776 more or less double our knowledge of crusader MSS, and were perhaps the first Latin books ever seen by the Saracens, who, instead of destroying them all, kept some for their vellum. They used the vellum for that most quintessential of Middle Eastern romances and fairy tales, Thousand and One Nights, also known as the Tales of the Arabian nights. They origin from India, Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey, and the tales of Aladdin, Ali Baba and Sindbad the Sailor have almost become part of Western folklore. The earliest known reference to the Thousand and One Nights is a 9th c. fragment, while the present MS is from the 12th c. collection where Egyptian fairy tales were included for the first time.
Exhibited Comité International de Palaéographie Latin (CIPL) at Senate House, University of London , 3 September 2008.
Place of origin Jerusalem
Dates ca. 1150-1187

Location