Prof Nikolay Dobronravin, St Petersburg State University, will deliver a lecture on the West African manuscripts in Trinity College Library on Monday 28th January. Prof Dobronravin conducted his research in M&ARL during his term as a Visiting Research Fellow at the Trinity Long Room Hub in 2012. Here he writes on how this collection opens new horizons in his field:
‘The West African manuscripts of Trinity College Library are not just curios; they certainly deserve more attention from those interested in African and Islamic art, history, languages and theology. A few manuscripts are unique in content – for example, the creation story of the ‘ten Adams’ (from ‘Adam of birds’ to the first human being in MS 2689) – or had a dramatic acquisition history (as in the case of MS 2258 which was found on a battlefield in modern Nigeria).
Two manuscripts (MS 2179 and part of MS 2689) represent a standard reference work on Islamic law, ‘Risala’ of Ibn Abī Zayd al-Qayrawānī. But even these texts are of particular interest, as they contain a number of glosses, both in Arabic and in an African language which has been described as ‘Old Mande’ (close to, but different from, modern Mande languages spoken in Mali, Senegal, Mauritania and other West African countries) . Some of the glosses remain enigmatic, such as an Arabic commentary to kanā’is ‘(Christian) churches’, masjid al-h[i]yūd[u]s (literally, ‘mosque of al-Hiyudus’, MS 2179, f.26a). Other marginalia tell us about the history of the Caliphate, Islamic cosmology, and give examples of West African calculation techniques (MS 2179, f. 25a).’
The lecture ‘African and African Diaspora Manuscripts in the Trinity College Library: Authors, Scribes and Collectors’ will take place in the Long Room Hub 19.00 Monday 28th January
Nikolay Dobronravin and Estelle Gittins