PRAYER BOOK / ARABIAN NIGHTS

MS 1776/05
MS Short Title PRAYER BOOK / ARABIAN NIGHTS
Text
  1. ZAMAGIRK, PART OF THE ARMENIAN ORTHODOX PRAYERBOOK, WITH TEXTS FROM JOHN AND MATTHEW
  2. THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS: THE FIFTH PART OF THE TWISTINGS/TURNINGS?
Description MS in Armenian and Arabic (text 2) on vellum, Armenia, 12th c., 1 partial f., 18x27 cm, 2 columns, (13x23 cm remaining, column width 10 cm), 10 lines remaining in a large sloping Armenian uncial (Erkat'agir); text 2: Palestine/Damascus, 13th c., 4 lines in Arabic naskhi script.
Context Only 6 MSS of 12th c. crusader books have hitherto been identified: B.L. Egerton MS.1139, 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 (until 1187); 2. Saracens, Palestine/Damascus (1187-); 3. Private owner, Damascus, Syria (20th c.); 4. Sotheby's 6.12.1993:3e.
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 of 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 Armenia
Dates 12c AD

Location