The group of 144 alchemical tracts known collectively to medieval bibliographers as Kutub al-Mawazin (The Books of Balances) apparently date from the beginning of the tenth century. One of these treatises was usually titled Kitāb al-Uṣūl (The Book of Principles or The Book of Roots), though occasionally it has related titles such as Kitāb al-Uṣūl al-thalith (The Third Book of Principles).
NLM has two copies of a treatise having the title Kitāb al-Uṣūl. In one copy a later hand has given it the additional title (written using poor grammatical structure) of Uṣūl fī al-sīnā‘at al-iksir (Principles for the Art of the Elixir). In neither copy is the title given as Kitāb al-Uṣūl al-thalith, as was incorrectly stated by Sezgin (Sezgin, GAS IV, p. 256 no. 53).
The text of both copies at NLM is identical to that in Dublin, Chester Beatty Library, Arabic MS 4929, fols. 5b-56a, where the treatise is also titled simply Kitāb al-Uṣūl (M. Ullmann, Katalog der arabischen alchemistischen Handschriften der Chester Beatty Library. Teil I, Beschreibung der Handschriften, Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1974, p. 156). The beginning is also equivalent to a manuscript in Hyderabad, Asaf. Kimiyah MS. 22 (see Kraus, Jabir, p. 125 no. 988).
For other copies see Sezgin, GAS IV, p. 256 no. 23; and Kraus, Jabir, p. 125-6, no. 988.
Kitāb al-Uṣūl (MS A 91.1, item 2)
The opening of a treatise called The Book of Principles (Kitāb al-Uṣūl) which was one of 144 alchemical tracts known collectively to medieval bibliographers as Kutub al-Mawazin (The Books of Balances) and attributed to Jābir ibn Ḥayyān. The treatise was apparently composed at the beginning of the tenth century, and this copy (one of two at NLM) was probably made in the 19th century (before 1886) in India.
Arabic. 25 pages (pp. 119-143). Dimensions 19.5 x 12.2 (text area 14.5 x 8) cm; 15-17 lines per page. The title Kitāb al-Uṣūl fī al-sīnā‘at al-iksir [sic] is written in the margin of p. 119, along with the author's name: Jābir ibn Ḥayyān.
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 here catalogued; 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 (MS A 91.1, item 7); 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