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Coining the Essentials: Arabic Encyclopaedias and Anthologies of the Pre-modern Period

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Chapter Summary

This chapter presents a brief survey of Arabic encyclopaedias and anthologies of the pre-modern period. Encyclopaedic compilation has been a constant companion to other forms of writing since the early days of Arabic literature in the Muslim period. Early surveys of encyclopaedic works in Arabic, such as the one by Charles Pellat, add an additional element of intellectual competition. Though the two works discussed in some detail - al-Damîrî's Hayât al-hayawân and al-Ibshîhî's al-Mustatraf fi kulli fann mustazraf - usually qualify as encyclopaedias, they can also be studied as anthologies. The literary anthology Rabî' al-abrâr (The Springtime of the Pious), compiled by the prolific author al-Zamakhsharî, was abridged in the sixteenth century by a certain Muhammad b. al-Qâsim al-Amâsî in a work titled Raud al-akhyâr (The Garden of Exquisite [or Chosen] Pieces).

Keywords: al-Mustatraf fi kulli fann mustazraf; Arabic encyclopaedias; Arabic literature; Charles Pellat; Hayât al-hayawân; literary anthology; Muslim period; Rabî' al-abrâr; Raud al-akhyâr



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