Reading journal

The Tadhkira

The tadhkira is etymologically something that sustains memory. In Mamluk Diplomatics, it was a set of instructions given to the emissaries sent on a mission to another state.

As a book title, it can mean handbook, or notebook, “memorandum”. It is thus a set of text excerpts one person thinks of interest, or necessary to be acquainted in a certain field. In this sense, the tadhkira is like a commonplace book, or a reader’s digest.

Al-Ṣafadī’s tadhkira is a kind of notebook. It could actually be understood as a kind of literary anthology, but it was never intended to be published and it was composed randomly, step by step, following his reading and writing activity. It was meant to have a specific role in the frame of his activity as a scholar and as an amateur of belles-lettres: he would write down excerpts of texts he read but also lines that he composed: excerpts of his correspondence, personal or professional. It was for his personal use that he kept it, even if he lent several volumes to friends and colleagues, as attested in friends’ and colleagues’ obituaries.

Gentile Bellini?, Seated Scribe, 1479-1481. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, P15e8


The holograph volume of the al-Ṣafadī's Tadhkira

MS Princeton University Library Garrett 3570Y is the 44th volume of al-Ṣafadī’s Tadhkira. And it is a holograph manuscript, it means that it is entirely in al-Ṣafadī’s own handwriting.

A digital edition of this particular volume is under preparation and will be published on this website, along with the biographies of all persons and authors cited, as well as propositions of identification of the manuscripts cited.

For this purpose, the main on-line catalogues of Arabic manuscripts’ libraries, many of them displaying digital images, will be perused. When it is possible to identify and trace the actual manuscript from which al-Ṣafadī took the information, a careful reading and analysis of the latter is conducted, with special attention for any gloss, commentary or paratext by al-Ṣafadī. If the manuscript did not belong to al-Ṣafadī, the way he got access to it is reconstructed.

Thorough codicological analyses of this holograph manuscript are carried out (study of the layout, quires, script, bookbinding, with a special attention to the papers and the inks). The analysis of the contents are both stylistic, “proportional” (what proportion of literature/such type of literature/contemporary literature in the tadhkira?), and comparative: excerpts of other authors’ found in the tadhkira (for instance, the famous poet Ibn Dānyāl, d. 710/1310) will be collated with the original text (a contemporary manuscript, if available, or the critical edition) and with the passages in al-Ṣafadī’s works treating the same subject.

al-Ṣafadī, al-Tadhkira al-ṣalāḥiyya, vol. 44. MS Princeton University Library Garrett 3570Y