Muḥammad ibn Mūsá al-Damīrī completed his enormously popular encyclopedia of animal lore in 1372/773 in Cairo, where he spent most of his life. The treatise was arranged alphabetically by the name of the animal, with 1069 entries in total (though some animals are discussed several times under different names). Each entry would include a linguistic discussion of the origin and meaning of the name, a description of the animal and its habits, any accounts of the animal given in the literature concerned with the Prophet (hadith), a statement as to its appropriateness as food, proverbs relating to the animal, its medicinal and occult magical properties, and its significance when it appears in a dream. There were three versions that eventually circulated: a long one, a short one, and one of intermediate size.
The National Library of Medicine has a very important copy of this popular compendium, for the copy (MS A 19) was transcribed before the author's death in 1405. The colophon of the copy states that the writing of the text was finished in the month of Rajab 773 [= January 1372] and that this copy was finished in the month of Sha'ban 805 [= February-March 1403].
A partial (and rather inadequate) English translation was published as Ad-Damīrī's Hayat al-hayawan: A Zoological Lexicon, translated by A.S.G. Jayakar, 2 vols. (London and Bombay, 1906-8). A recent Arabic edition has been published: al-Damīrī, Hayat al-hayawan al-kubrá, ed. Ahmad Hasan Basaj (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyah, 1994); the NLM copy was not used in this edition.
A sample page from the Kitāb Ḥayāt al-ḥayawān (The Life of Animals) by al-Damīrī (d. 1405/808). This is an important copy, transcribed before the author's death. The copy was completed in the month of Sha‘ban 805 (= February-March 1403). The copyist is not named.
Arabic. 234 leaves (fols. 1b-234a). Dimensions 25.5 x 18 (text area 21 x 18.5) cm; 27 lines per page. The title is given on fol. 1b line 18 near the beginning of the text. The author is not named in this copy; however, a comparison with the numerous copies in other collections makes it evident that this is the popular treatise on zoology written by al-Damīrī.
This is an important copy transcribed before the author's death in 1405. The colophon, which has been recopied onto recent paper (fol. 234), states that the writing of the text was finished in the month of Rajab 773 [= January 1372] and that this copy was finished in Sha‘ban 805 [= February-March 1403]. The copyist is not named. Both the first and last folios (fol. 1 and 234) were apparently badly worn and replaced at a later date; the rest of the volume is consistent with it being a copy of the very early fifteenth century.
It appears to be a complete copy of the long version.
There are marginalia in several hands, some giving emendations.
The volume consists of 234 leaves. Fols. 1a and 234b are blank except for the Arabic title written in a recent hand in red pencil.
The volume is bound in a brown leather binding with block-stamped medallions on the front and back covers which have tooled borders. The envelope flap has a gold tooled medallion. The spine is a more recent replacement with gold tooled author and title in Arabic and former owner's shelving no. 805. There are modern paper pastedowns and endpapers. The leather has some worm holes.
The volume was purchased in 1941 by the Army Medical Library from A. S. Yahuda (ELS 1641, M.62). No further information is available on its provenance.
Schullian/Sommer Cat. of incun. & MSS., 1950, A19. p. 303
NLM Microfilm Reel: FILM 48-116 no. 1