A Chronicle of Damascus, 1389-1397 - Vol. 1

A Chronicle of Damascus, 1389-1397 - Vol. 1

A Chronicle of Damascus, 1389-1397 - Vol. 1

A Chronicle of Damascus, 1389-1397 - Vol. 1

Excerpt

Seen against the background of the millennia of recorded history in the Eastern Mediterranean, the 260-odd years of Mamlūk rule (1250-1517) seem like a brief phase, and within that limited period, the even more restricted era covered by the work here presented, the years 1389-1397, is no more than a fleeting moment. Yet in the history of Egypt and Syria, which, in the broadest sense of both those geographical terms, constituted the empire of the Mamlūks, the period of their rule was a series of decisive moments determining relations with both Europe and the East, or, as some would say, with dynamism or decay, until recent times. Likewise, the period covered by this manuscript, brief though it was, saw the crucial struggle for the throne, which accompanied the "greatest racial transformation in the history of the Mamlūk kingdom". For this important period the unique, hitherto unpublished, and by and large neglected manuscript of Ibn Sasra al-Durra al-muĭ'a, which comes from Damascus, the center of that crucial struggle, is a primary source of great value.

PRELIMINARY REMARKS

The editor of a text has an obligation to inform those who will read and study it of what has happened to the text between its manuscript form and its appearance in print. This is especially true with Arabic manuscripts, where the tendency to "normalize" the text, that is, to make it conform to some mythical norm of classical Arabic, is very strong. With a text as Ibn Ḥaḥrā's, where "deviation" from the norm is frequent and where, moreover, only one manuscript exists with which to work, it seems especially wrong to force the language, be it the author's or the copyist's, into an artificial mold. The Arabic text will be of use and interest to Arabists alone, and that interest may well be linguistic as well as historical. A statement on a similar, although . . .

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