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Catalogue: Alchemy

Blue arrow pointing to the rightKitāb al-Tadābīr   (MS A 91.1, item 3)
(The Book of Procedures)
كتاب التدابير
attributed to Jābir ibn ayyā (8th-9th century)
جابر ابن حيان

A group of three treatises having the comprehensive title Kitāb al-Tadābīr (The Book of Procedures) formed numbers 16 through 18 of the The 112 Books of Jabir, probably composed at the end of the 9th century. The relationships between the few preserved Jabirian alchemical treatises whose titles incorporate the term tadabir has not yet been established (see Kraus, Jabir, pp. 19-20 nos. 22-24).

The National Library of Medicine has two copies of a treatise whose title is given as Kitab al-Tadābīr (The Book of Procedures), Kitāb al-Tadābīr al-saghir (The Small Book of Procedures) and Kitāb al-Tadābīr al-thānī al-jawani (The Second Book of Internal Procedures). The text in the two NLM copies is identical.

It is possible that this treatise is identical to that in a Hyderabad manuscript (Asaf. III, kimiya MS 57, item 8 or item 10). It is, however, very different from the anonymous manuscript in the Chester Beatty (Arabic MS 4121, fols. 162a-163a) cited by Sezgin (see Sezgin, GAS IV, p. 234 nos. 13 and 14; and Kraus, Jabir, p. 19-20 nos. 22-24). No other copies are recorded.

Physical Description

Arabic. 8 pages (pp. 149-156). Dimensions 19.5 x 12.2 (text area 16.5 x 9) cm; 18 lines per page. The title is given as Kitāb al-Tadābīr on page 149, line 3, and as Kitāb al-Tadābīr al-thānī al-jawani in the margin of page 156.

This particular item is undated and unsigned. Another item in the volume transcribed by a similar hand (item 11) was copied in 1304 (= 1886-7), and there is an owner's stamp dated 1886 embossed in the volume. It is likely that all the items in the volume were copied about this time, probably in India.

The text is written in a small, personal, nasta‘liq script using black ink. There are catchwords, but no marginalia.

A mix of papers makes up the volume. Pages 1-96 are a light-gray, stiff paper with vertical laid lines, single chain lines, and very large watermarks (crown at top of an oval within which there is a woman wearing a crown and holding a sceptre; the letters 'WKing'). Pages 97-116 are a light-brown paper with no laid or chain lines. Pages 119-134 and 149-166 are composed of very thin transparent paper having prominent horizontal laid lines, every eighth of which is a darker, more prominent line. Pages 117-8, 135-147, 167-246, 261-276 are a thin biscuit paper with no laid or chain lines. Pages 247-260 are a light-brown paper with vertical laid lines and single chain lines (no watermarks observed). The edges of the paper have been trimmed so that some labels and numbering at the top have been cut off. There are ink smudges, and the paper is yellowed and damp-stained near the edges.

The volume consists of 276 pages. Pages 1,4, 115-117, 144-148, 255-260, 273-275 are blank. Pages 118 and 276 are blank except for later casual notes and recipes. Between 148 and 149 there is a small slip of paper with just the beginning phrases of an unidentified treatise. The first item is written in a larger script than the other items and on slightly different paper. The remaining items appear to have been copied by several different but closely related hands.

Pages 2-114 (item 1) contain an untitled Urdu treatise on alchemy and astrology, anonymous (MS A 91.1, item 1); pp. 119-143 (item 2) Kitāb al-Uūl by Jābir ibn ayyān (MS A 91.1, item 2); pp. 149-156 (item 3) Kitāb al-Tadābīr here catalogued; pp. 157-158 (item 4) an untitled Persian alchemical essay, anonymous (MS A 91.1, item 4); pp. 159-184 (item 5) al-Jami‘ al-mas’ūl wa-al-bulūgh al-ma’mūl fī izhār mā khafiya min al-sirr al-majhūl, attributed to Jābir ibn ayyān (MS A 91.1, item 5); pp. 184-185 (item 6) Mas'alah min Kitāb al-ukamā', anonymous (MS A 91.1, item 6); pp. 186-197 (item 7) Fī bayān al-khamā’ir attributed to Jābir ibn ayyān (MS A 91.1, item 7); pp. 197-215 (item 8) Kitāb al-Malāghim al-aghar [al-thānī] by Jābir ibn ayyān (MS A 91.1, item 8); pp. 215-225 (item 9) Kitāb al-Malāghim al-thālith by Jābir ibn ayyān (MS A 91.1, item 9); pp. 226-238 (item 10) Tafsīr al-malāghim by Jābir ibn ayyān (MS A 91.1, item 10); pp. 238-254 (item 11) al-ajar al-mubārak, anonymous (MS A 91.1, item 11); pp. 261-264 (item 12) an untitled Persian alchemical tract, anonymous (MS A 91.1, item 12); and pp. 265-272 (item 13) an untitled essay on magical medicine and talismanic designs (MS A 91.1, item 13).


The volume is bound in a modern library binding of pasteboards covered by green cloth with a red leather spine. The are modern endpapers and pastedowns.


Pages 118, 246, and 247 have been embossed with an oval stamp having a border of flowers and the date '1886' in the center.

No information is available on provenance or when it came into the collection of NLM. It was in the Armed Forces Medical Library by 1955.



NLM Microfilm Reel: FILM 56-40 no. 3

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