Jābir referred in two of his treatises to a work by him titled Kitāb al-Khamā’ir (The Book of Fermentation). Amongst the collection of alchemical tracts called The 112 Books composed at the end of the 9th century, medieval bio-bibliographers numbered as the 13th treatise one titled Kitāb al-Khamā'ir al-kabir (The Large Book of Fermentation), and as the14th and 15th one titled Kitāb al-Khamā'ir al-saghir (The Small Book of Fermentation). Since the latter occupies two places on the medieval numbered list of 112 books, it is assumed that it consisted of two parts. There are, however, very few treatises preserved today with similar titles (only the ones at NLM and one in Cairo and one in Tehran, discussed below), and what few there are have not been studied and compared in any detail.
The National Library of Medicine has a copy of a tract titled Kitāb al-Khamā'ir (MS A 33, item 16) whose text is identical to a copy with the same title now in Cairo (Dar al-Kutub, tabi‘iyat MS 731, fols. 139a-143a) copied in 1670/1081. A treatise of the same title is preserved in Tehran, Khaniqah-i Ni‘matallah MS 145, fols. 56b-62a, copied in 1834/1250. See Kraus, Jabir, p. 19 nos. 20-21; Sezgin, GAS IV, p. 234 no. 12. No other copies are recorded.
The same manuscript (NLM MS A 33) also has a treatise (item 13) titled Kitāb al-Khamā’ir al-thālith (The Third Book of Fermentation) which it states is from (min) Kitab al-A‘rad (The Book of Accidents). The latter is number sixty of collection called The 70 Books (al-Kutub al-sab‘un), also composed at the end of the 9th century (see Kraus, Jabir, p.58 no. 182; and Sezgin, GAS IV, p. 245 no. 60). However, the relationship between this Third Book on Fermentation and The Book of Accidents has not been established. It is possible that it represents the second part of The Small Book of Fermentation listed by the bio-bibliographers as occupying nos. 14 and 15 in the list of '112 Books'. No other copy has been identified.
Yet a third tract in the same manuscript (MS A 33, item 14) also concerns fermentation. It is titled Kitāb Tafsīr al-khamā'ir al-thālith (Explication of the Third Fermentation or Explication of the Third [Book on] Fermentation). In the manuscript copy it states that the tract is attributed to (al-mansubah ilá) Jābir. It would appear that it is intended as a commentary on the preceeding treatise. Only one other copy is recorded: Tehran, Khaniqah-i Ni‘matallah MS 145, fols. 84a-87b, copied in 1834/1250.
Yet another manuscript at NLM (MS A 91.1) has a tract (item 7) titled Risalah Fī bayān al-khamā’ir (Essay on the Explanation of Fermentation). The text does not correspond to the other treatises on the subject, and no other copies have been identified.
This tract titled Risālah Fī bayān al-khamā’ir (Essay on the Explanation of Fermentation) does not correspond to the other treatises on the subject, and no other copies have been identified.
Arabic. 12 pages (p. 186-p.197, line 9). Dimensions 19.5 x 12.2 (text area 17 x 8) cm; 17-19 lines per page. The title is given at the end, page 197, line 9. Though no author's name is supplied, is seems reasonable to consider this also a Jābirian treatise.
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.
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-Uṣūl by Jābir ibn Ḥayyān (MS A 91.1, item 2); pp. 149-156 (item 3) Kitāb al-Tadābīr by Jābir ibn Ḥayyān (MS A 91.1, item 3); 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 Ḥayyān (MS A 91.1, item 5); pp. 184-185 (item 6) Mas'alah min Kitāb al-Ḥukamā', anonymous (MS A 91.1, item 6); pp. 186-197 (item 7) Fī bayān al-khamā’ir attributed to Jābir ibn Ḥayyān here catalogued; pp. 197-215 (item 8) Kitāb al-Malāghim al-aṣghar [al-thānī] by Jābir ibn Ḥayyān (MS A 91.1, item 8); pp. 215-225 (item 9) Kitāb al-Malāghim al-thālith by Jābir ibn Ḥayyān (MS A 91.1, item 9); pp. 226-238 (item 10) Tafsīr al-malāghim by Jābir ibn Ḥayyān (MS A 91.1, item 10); pp. 238-254 (item 11) al-Ḥajar 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).
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