Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Scanned Multi-Alphabet Arabic Manuscript Online

The Princeton Digital Library of Islamic Manuscripts has put a large number of Arabic, Persian, and Turkish scanned manuscripts online. Plenty of interesting stuff there, but one that particularly stood out for me was the untitled Treatise on ancient, alchemical and magical alphabets. Behold the Omniglot of its day! (Well, it's apparently only from the 1700s, but probably a copy of an older work.) It gives tables for the supposed alphabets of each prophet, with the letter names on one page and the letter forms on the next. I'll just point you to a few of the highlights:

Knowing my readers, I suspect I'll have identifications of several of the alphabets I didn't recognise coming soon - although many, perhaps most, of them are certainly made up. Extra points for anyone who can come up with a picture of a magic bowl or something actually using one of the made-up alphabets.

Two other Arabic manuscripts there of potential interest: The conquest of Africa, from Qayrawan to Zab; Book of the Roman months.

4 comments:

lethargic-man said...

Hmmm... possibly the person who wrote the original had actually seen and understood some of the alphabets he was transcribing...

Lameen Souag said...

Yes - this is a bit like a written version of Chinese whispers.

David Marjanović said...

What does "book of the Roman months" mean?

Kiwehtin said...

The "letters of India" are simply Arabic numerals — themselves originally derived from Indian numerals, and arranged according to the early 'abjad' alphabetic order that corresponds to Hebrew, where the Arabic letters in that order were used as numbers (' b j d h w z H T y k l m n s " f S th kh dh D Dh gh). Most of the numerals are identical to the modern forms as used in Arabic; a very few are obviously related to the forms used in Persian and Urdu. The Wikipedia article on Arabic numerals has a nice table of the evolution of the sumbols.