Ibadi Lithographs at McGill University’s Rare Books Library | مطبوعات حجرية إباضية في مكتبة جامعة مكيل في كندا

IIS McGill.jpg

Figure 1: This sticker from the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University in Montreal comes from the interior cover of a copy of Amuḥammad Aṭfayyish’s Risāla shāfiyya fī baʿḍ al-tawārīkh (Algiers, 1881). Call number C831.A864r (number 297 in the catalog). From the PDF of the entire book, available here.

The Rare Books Library at McGill University in Montreal, Canada has a small collection of Ibadi lithographs from Algeria and Egypt [1].

And (at least) one of them has a very unexpected story.

The four Ibadi titles there include three from the first Ibadi print house in Cairo, the al-Maṭbaʿa al-Bārūniyya. Founded around 1870 by Muḥammad al-Bārūnī, it printed editions of classical and new (that is, new in the 19th century) works by Ibadi authors [2]. The library holds copies of three key works of medieval Ibadi thought: Abū Yaʿqūb Yūsuf al-Warjalānī’s Kitāb al-dalīl wa-‘l-burhān (printed 1887-8); Abū Sākin ʿĀmir al-Shammākhī’s Kitāb al-īḍāḥ, with commentary by Abū ʿAbdallāh Muḥammad b. ʿUmar al-Qaṣabī, known as ‘al-Muḥashshī’ (printed 1892); Abū al-ʿAbbās Aḥmad al-Shammākhī’s Kitāb al-siyar (printed 1883-4). The only information I have on these three is what is available in the printed catalog [3].


Figure 2: The ownership (and presumably printer’s) stamp of Bakīr b. al-Ḥājj Qāsim al-Qarārī from the printed folio of the Risāla shāfiyya. From the PDF of the entire book, available here.

But the fourth text, a copy of Amuḥammad Aṭfayyish’s Risāla shāfiyya offers a bit more. Unlike the other texts, this book was commissioned for print in Algiers by an Ibadi merchant and judge named Bakīr b. Qāsim al-Qarārī (d.1940) in 1881 (see Figures 2 & 3) [4]. al-Ḥājj Bakīr came to Algiers to work in the Ibadi court there, after serving in the Ibadi court of Constantine. Fortunately, the book has been digitized and made available on the McGill Library’s website as part of an excellent online exhibition: http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/islamic_lithographs/ .


Figure 3: This statement appears above the ownership stamp on the final printed folio of the lithograph copy of the Risāla shāfiyya. It notes that the book was printed by “al-Ḥājj Bakīr b. al-Ḥājj Qāsim b. al-Shaykh Bilḥājj al-Qarārī by residence, merchant on Rue de la Lyre, Algiers.” From the PDF of the entire book, available here.

It turns out that this particular copy had a very special previous owner: French orientalist Émile Masqueray (d.1894) [5]. An ownership statement at the beginning of this copy of the Risala notes that it was a gift from al-Ḥājj Bakīr himself to “Misyū Maskray, diriktūr fi-‘l-kulīj al-kabīr fī-‘l-jazāʾir.” The two were apparently friends, since al-Ḥājj Bakīr refers to himself as “ḥabībihi” in reference to Masqueray, who had been appointed director of l’Ecole supérieure des lettres d’Alger three years earlier in 1878 [6]. Based on the statement, we also know al-Qarrārī had a shop at 37 Rue de la Lyre in Algiers (see Figures 4 & 5).


Figure 4: The ownership statement from the copy of the Risāla shāfiyya at McGill’s Rare Books Library. From the PDF of the entire book, available here.

This is even more remarkable because a similar text on the history of the Mzab valley is supposed to have been written at the request of Masqueray during his trip to the Mzab. Masqueray’s private library would have held a number of interesting lithographs and manuscripts, acquired during his time in the Mzab spent looking for Ibadi texts in 1870s [7]. These included a copy of the Kitāb al-sīra by Abū Zakariyāʾ al-Warjalānī, which he published in French translation in 1878 as the Chronique d’Abou Zakaria [8].

This is an exciting discovery and I am going to work on finding out how this text arrived at McGill and whether or not any of Masqueray’s other books might have been acquired at the same time. If they did, there could be several more parts to this story!


Figure 5: A photo of Rue de la Lyre in Algiers in 1890. This would have been taken just a few years after al-Qarārī, whose shop was located at No.37 on this street, gifted the copy of the Risāla shāfiyya to Émile Masqueray at the Ecole supérieure des lettres d’Alger. Image source here on AbeBooks.

الملّخص بالعربية:ـ

في مكتبة الكتب النادرة بجامعة مكيل في كندا أربع مطبوعات حجرية إباضية  ولأحدها تاريخ غير متوقّع. توجد في المكتبة نسخ من نصوص إباضية مشهورة جدا وهي “كتاب الدليل والبرهان” لأبي يعقوب يوسف الورجلاني و” كتاب الإيضاح” لأبي ساكن عامر الشماخي و”كتاب السير” لأبي العباس أحمد الشماخي. البيانات حول تلك النسخ توجد في فهرس المكتبة

أما النص الرابع، فهو نسخة من “الرسالة الشافية في بعض التواريخ” لأمحمد أطفيش وكان له صاحب فريد: المستشرق الفرنسي إيميل مسكري. ومكتوب على الصفحة الأولى في الكتاب تمليكة تدلّ على أنّ المسوؤل عن الطباعة هو الحاج بكير بن قاسم القراري وهو الذي هدى الكتاب لمسكري. كان الحاج بكير القراري هذا  قاض في المحكمة في القنسطنطينة وفيما بعد انتقل إلى الجزائر ليعمل في المحكمة هنالك. وأنشأ حانوت في نهج “لير” في جزائر العاصمة حيث باع الكتب

تاريخ التملك لهذا الكتاب فعلا مثير للاهتمام لأنّ نص فيه نفس المضمون كان مكتوبا لمسكري من قبل الشيخ أطفيّش. كانت لمسكري كتب ومخطوطات كثيرة ذات علاقة بتاريخ الإباضية وسأحاول أن أفهم إن كانت كتب أخرى من مكتبته الخاصة وصلت إلى جامعة مكيل أم لا. ـ















[1] The reference provided on McGill’s website is: Gacek, Adam. (1996). Arabic lithographed books in the Islamic Studies Library, McGill University: descriptive catalogue. Fontanus Monograph Series VII. (Printed version held at the Islamic Studies Library; Call number: Z3013 M465). The link link leads to an OCR-ed copy of the catalog but it does not contain the introduction.

[2] M. Custers, Ibadi Printing Activities in the East and West, c.1880-1960s (Maastricht, 2016), p.5.

[3] The three texts appear in the catalog under the following references:

C831. W277 (no. 30 in the catalog, p.26)
KCL S526474 (no. 87 in the catalog, p.63)
C9. S5284s (no. 355 in the catalog, p.196)
[4] See no. 297 in Gacek (1996), p.160; On al-Ḥājj Bakīr and Ibadi printing in Algeria, see: M. Custers, Ibadi Printing Activities in the East and West, pp.64-66l; Cf. Custers, al-Ibāḍiyya: A Bibliography, v2 (2016), p.218.
[5] For a short biography of Émile Masqueray, see Pouillon, Dictionnaire des orientalistes de langue française, 256–57
[6] This specific datum comes from his entry on Wikipédia: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89mile_Masqueray
[7] On Masqueray in the Mzab, including his report on the manuscript he received from Amuḥammad Iṭfayyish, see Ould-Braham, “Émile Masqueray au Mzab: à la recherche de livres ibadites,” Etudes et documents berberes 9:2 (1993), 5-35.

[8] E. Masqueray, Chronique d’Abou Zakaria (Algiers, 1878).




2 thoughts on “Ibadi Lithographs at McGill University’s Rare Books Library | مطبوعات حجرية إباضية في مكتبة جامعة مكيل في كندا

  1. I studied at McGill’s Institute of Islamic Studies but never once consulted its rare manuscript collection. I had no idea what I was missing. Thank you for presenting these North African manuscripts.



  2. Pingback: Arabic manuscripts to print (and back again) | من المخطوط إلى المطبوع…والعودة | Ibadi Studies | دراسات إباضية

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