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Editing the Fihrist of Ibn al-Nadīm

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Arabic and Islamic studies, whether of the Abbasid or later periods, suffer from the lack of reliable editions of fundamental resources such as al-Ṭabarī’s Tārīkh al-rusul wa-l-mulūk, al-Masʿūdī’s Murūj al-dhahab wa-maʿādin al-jawhar, Abū l-Faraj al-Iṣbahānī’s Kitāb al-Aghānī, and others, despite a long history of scholarly interest in, and intensive use of these particular texts. The appearance in 2009 of the new edition of the Fihrist of Ibn al-Nadīm (d. 380/990) by Ayman Fuʾād Sayyid (hereafter afs) provides an opportunity to reflect on this general problem by considering the historical progress made in the editing and contextualization of this text that is central to the understanding of Abbasid history and letters and to nearly all the intellectual traditions that had arisen in the Islamic world by the fourth/tenth century. As will become clear, the complex history of scholarship on the Fihrist is an object lesson on the problem of failing adequately to take into account the work of earlier editors and scholars, made particularly difficult in this case by linguistic barriers and limited access to widely scattered publications. The following remarks attempt to review afs’s edition of the Fihrist, to compare the views of afs, the Russian scholar Valeriy V. Polosin, and others regarding the context and background of the Fihrist, and to give an overview of the current state of knowledge about Ibn al-Nadīm and the Fihrist. It will be argued that, beyond reliably publishing the contents of the earliest extant manuscript of the Fihrist, substantial emendations to the text are required to produce a reliable edition of the work. An evaluation of afs’s emendations to the text is followed by a number of additional proposed emendations.

Affiliations: 1: Emory UniversityAtlanta,


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