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Catalogue: Alchemy

Blue arrow pointing to the right Kitāb al-Sirr al-Maknūn     (MS A 70, item 25)
(The Book of the Hidden Secret)
كتاب السر المكنون
attributed to Jābir ibn ayyān (8th-9th century)
جابر ابن حيان

A group of 144 alchemical tracts known collectively as Kutub al-Mawazin (The Books of Balances) probably dates from the beginning of the 10th century. The National Library of Medicine has several treatises that appear to relate to this Jābirian collection.

Among these there is a treatise titled Kitāb al-Sirr al-Maknūn (The Book of the Hidden Secret). The treatise is composed of three parts (juz'): on the classification of metals, on spirits (al-arwah), and a further explication of the subject of the second section.

The treatise opens with opinions of Socrates on the preservation of solutions extracted from stones. In the second part, a number of ancient sources are also cited, including Socrates and Pythagoras. In the third section Socrates and Balīnās are the major authorities.

One manuscript at NLM (MS A 33) has a treatise (item 6) with selections (called muntakhab) from Kitab al-Sirr al-maknun, while another manuscript (MS A 70) has two items (nos. 20 and 25) that are extracts from the first and second sections of Kitāb al-Sirr al-Maknūn.

For other copies, see Kraus, Jabir, p. 93-4 nos. 389-391; and Sezgin, GAS IV, p. 255 no. 18. A number of other copies are recorded.

The first part (juz') of the text was edited in P. Kraus, Jabir ibn Hayyan (Essai sur l'histoire des idées scientifiques dans l'Islam). Vol. 1: Textes choisis (Cairo: Libraries El-Khandji and Paris: G.P. Maisonneuve, 1935), pp. 333-340; the NLM copy was not used in the edition.

Kitāb al-Sirr al-Maknūn [extracts from]   (MS A 70, item 25)

Physical Description

Arabic. 1 leaf (Fol. 64a, line 10-fol. 64b, line 8). Dimensions 21.3 x 16.8 (text area 15 x 10) cm; 20 lines per page. In the title given on fol. 64a, line 10, the title is given as Kitāb al-Sirr al-Maktūm, but it is given correctly at the end (fol. 64b, line 8) where it is said to be an extract from the second juz', or part, of Kitāb al-Sirr al-Maknūn.

All twenty-seven items in the volume have been transcribed by the same unnamed copyist. Dimensions 21.3 x 16.8 (text area 15 x 10) cm; 20 lines per page.

The copy is undated and unsigned. The appearance of the paper, ink, and script suggests a date of the 17th or 18th century.

The text is written in a small, compact naskh script using black ink with headings and overlinings in red. There are catchwords. On some leaves there are instructions written vertically in the margins to the person who later inserted the rubricated headings; most have been cut off as the edges were trimmed, but on some folios (e.g., 37a, 38a) traces can still be seen.

There are copious marginalia throughout in several hands, with some interlinear notes. A later hand has written the titles of various individual items in the volume in the upper left corners of the recto of some folios. One person adding marginalia to the volume frequently cites the alchemical authority al-Jaldakī.

Fols. 1-40 are composed of a biscuit, fibrous paper having a nearly matte finish, with neither laid lines nor chain lines. Fols. 41-67 are composed of paper dyed a light gray, of structure and finish similar to the first group. The edges have been trimmed from their original size. The volume is damp-stained and soiled through thumbing.

The volume consists of 67 leaves and one loose leaf. Fol. 1a is blank except for some later Turkish poetry and an owner's stamp. The loose leaf is smaller (ca. 18 x 11 cm) and of different paper from the rest of the volume; on it are miscellaneous and very casually written notes. Fols. 1b-12a (item 1) contain Kitāb al-Sirr al-sārr wa-sirr al-asrār by Jābir ibn ayyān (MS A 70, item 1); fols. 12a-13b (item 2) Kitāb Jannāt al-khuld by Jābir ibn ayyān (MS A 70, item 2 ); fols. 13b-20b (item 3) Kitāb al-Ramah al-kabīr by Jābir ibn ayyān (MS A 70, item 3); fols. 20b-22a (item 4) Kitāb al-Iqāq min sab‘īn [extracts] by al-Rāzī (MS A 70, item 4); fols. 22a-24a (item 5) an untitled treatise attributed to Hirmīs [Hermes Trismegistus] (MS A 70, item 5); fols. 24a-27b (item 6) Kitāb al-Tadābīr by al-Rāzī (MS A 70, item 6); fols. 28a-29a (item 7) Kitāb al-Rāhib by Jābir ibn ayyān (MS A 70, item 7); fols 29a-30b (item 8) Kitāb al-Āthar al-‘ulwīyah by Aristotle (MS A 70, item 8); fols. 30b-31b (item 9) Risālah al-Fahm al-thāqib ilá al-fahm al-murāqib attributed to Plato (MS A 70, item 9); fols. 31b-33b (item 10) Risālah Mufākharat al-ajār attributed to Jābir ibn ayyān (MS A 70, item 10); fols. 33b-37b (item 11) extracts from writings of al-ughrā’ī (MS A 70, item 11); fols. 38a-38b (item 12) untitled treatise attributed to Agathodaimon (MS A 70, item 12); fols. 39a-41a (item 13) Risālah fī inā‘at al-iksīr by Amad ibn ‘Imād al-Dīn (MS A 70, item 13); fols. 41a-45a (item 14) Risālah fī bayān tafrīq al-adyān wa-tafarru‘ al-‘ibādāt wa-al-diyānāt wa-al-i‘tiqādāt by Zosimos (MS A 70, item 14); fols. 45a-47b (item 15) Kitāb al-Fuūl attributed to Jābir ibn ayyān (MS A 70, item 15); fols. 47b-48b (item 16) extracts from writings of al-ughrā’ī (MS A 70, item 16); fols. 49a-52b (item 17) untitled risālah attributed to Khālid ibn Yazīd (MS A 70, item 17); fols. 52b-53b (item 18) Kitāb al-Mujarradāt [extracts] attributed to Jābir ibn ayyān (MS A 70, item 18); fols. 53b-57b (item 19) Masā’il attributed to Khālid ibn Yazīd (MS A 70, item 19); fols. 57b-60a (item 20) Kitāb al-Sirr al-Maknūn by Jābir ibn ayyān (MS A 70, item 20); fols. 60a-63a (item 21) extract (nubdhah) from the writings of al-ughrā’ī (MS A 70, item 21); fols. 63a-63b (item 22) Aqwāl al-mutaffariqāt, anonymous (MS A 70, item 22); fols. 63b, lines 6-13 (item 23), alchemical note, anonymous (MS A 70, item 23); fols. 63b-64a (item 24) Kitāb al-Mawāzīn [extracts] by Jābir ibn ayyān (MS A 70, item 24); fols. 64a-64b (item 25) Kitāb al-Sirr al-Maknūn [extract] by Jābir ibn ayyān here catalogued; fols 64b-67a (item 26) Kitāb al-Ajār ‘alá ra’y Balīnās by Jābir ibn ayyān (MS A 70, item 26); and fols. 67a-67b (item 27) untitled treatise attributed to Agathodaimon (MS A 70, item 27).


The volume is bound in a soft brown-leather binding. On each cover there is a blind-tooled design formed of straight lines. There are no pastedowns or endpapers.


On fol. 1b there is an impression of an owner's stamp whose date might be 1123 (= 1711), though the middle numerals are not clear, and the name might be Abū Nūr Muammad al-usaynī. On fol. 1a there is an unidentified library stamp.

The volume was purchased in 1941 by the Army Medical Library from A.S. Yahuda (ELS 1701 Med 120).


Schullian/Sommer, Cat. of incun. & MSS., entry A 70, p. 320, where says it a collection of 32 alchemical treatises.

NLM Microfilm Reel: FILM 48-126 no. 3

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