Academic journal article The Seventeenth Century

A Descriptive Catalogue of Oriental Manuscripts at St John's College, Oxford

Academic journal article The Seventeenth Century

A Descriptive Catalogue of Oriental Manuscripts at St John's College, Oxford

Article excerpt

Emilie Savage-Smith, with contributions by Geert Jan Van Gelder, Peter E. Pormann, Samkira Sheikh, Tim Stanley and Edward Ullendorff, A Descriptive Catalogue of Oriental Manuscripts at St John's College, Oxford, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005, pp. 186, 21 colour & 16 b/w plates, hb. £66.00, ISBN: 978-0-19-920195-2

The term study, rather than catalogue, would perhaps be more adequate in the context of this work, which provides an in-depth analysis of the twenty-six 'Oriental' (i.e. non-Latin, Greek or European language) manuscripts at St John's College, Oxford. These are chiefly Arabic and Persian (twenty-one in total), with the remaining five containing items in Syriac, Hebrew, Turkish, Ethiopic, and Gujarati.

Accordingly, the bulk of the work is taken up by the section on Arabic and Persian manuscripts. This section adopts the customary arrangement of classifying the individual items from a given codex by subject, and consists of eight subject divisions. The items are then collated in a concordance of manuscripts at the end of the work (Appendix I). However, the decision of the author (Savage-Smith) to adopt a very detailed level of codicological description for each entry, combined with this arrangement, results in frequent repetition in a number of descriptive sections for items from the same codex (such as, most notably, the sections on script and paper which are often identical for several entries). On the other hand, this does mean that the researcher is made aware of these physical features of the manuscript for each individual item - something usually lacking in larger catalogues which do not contain this level of description. Due to the very small number of works in languages other than Arabic and Persian, the issue of repetition is not as evident in the sections which follow, as these mostly describe a single item and, in one case only, a two-item codex. …

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