The ‘Mingana Palimpsest’ – A Manuscript Containing The Qur'ān From 1st Century Hijra

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First Composed: 3rd August 2008

Last Updated: 14th August 2008

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Assalamu ʿalaykum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:

(a)

(b)

The ‘Mingana Palimpsest’ showing the scriptio inferior Qur'anic text. (a) Folios 58b (top half), 55a (bottom half) and (b) Folios 151a (top half) and 150b (bottom half).

Date

1st century hijra.

Mrs. Agnes Smith Lewis was the first scholar to publish this unique palimpsest that has scriptio superior which is a Christian material (Arabic Christian homilies) and the scriptio inferior consisting of the Qur'anic verses.[1] Basing her argument on "mistakes in spelling" of certain words, she dated the Qur'anic material from the time before caliph ʿUthmān.[2] On the othe hand, Dr. Alphonse Mingana was more circumspect and suggested a date of early 8th century CE for some portion of the Qur'an in the scriptio inferior.[3]

Inventory No.

Or. 1287.

Size & Folios

Approximately 20 cm x 12 cm. The Arabic quires (a quire was originally an unfolded stack of 4 sheets of vellum or parchment, which, depending on the method used, would form an 8- or 16-page booklet when stitched and folded) containing the Qur'an in the scriptio inferior are given below.[4] The Qur'an was written in three principal kinds of script: Qur'an A, Qur'an B and Qur'an C.

Quire IV: It consists of folios 13-20. The scriptio superior consists of Arabic writing. The scriptio inferior was identified by Mingana as Qur'an B. It contains the portion of the Qur'anic text 13:18–13:43; 14:1–14:8; 15:85–15:99; 16:1–16:41.

Quire IX: It consists of folios 53-60. The scriptio superior consists of Arabic writing. The scriptio inferior was identified as Qur'an C containing the portion of the Qur'anic text 9:35–9:59; 7:139–7:158 and Qur'an B containing 16:80–16:117.

Quire XIV: It consists of folios 95-102. The scriptio superior consists of Arabic writing. The scriptio inferior was identified as Qur'an B. It contains the portion of the Qur'anic text 16:117–16:128; 17:1–17:57.

One odd Feuillet: Folio 103, between the quires XIV and XV. The scriptio inferior was identified as Qur'an C. It contains 7:158–7:168.

Quire XV: It consists of folios 104-109. The scriptio superior consists of Arabic writing. The scriptio inferior was identified as Qur'an C containing the portion of the Qur'anic text 9:18–9:35; 9:59–9:79 and Qur'an B containing 11:20–11:39.

Part of Quire XXI: Two middle bifueillets (folios 149-152) of the quaternion (folios 147-154). The scriptio inferior was identified as Qur'an A. It contains the portion of the Qur'anic text 40:78–40:85; 41:1–41:20 and 44:38–44:59; 45:1–45:20.

Part of Quire XXII: Three middle bifueillets (folios 156-161) of the quaternion (folios 155-162). The scriptio inferior was identified as Qur'an A. It contains the portion of the Qur'anic text 24:17–24:29; 28:41–28:51; 29:17–29:30.

History Of The Manuscript

Mrs. Agnes Smith Lewis bought the folios at Suez from a commercial antiquary during her third journey to Egypt in 1895. The manuscript contained 162 folios, bound in 22 quires, in the first of them (the binion 1, 2 - 114, 115), were inserted the following 15 quires. In the scriptio superior, there are a few homilies of the early Christian Fathers, written in Arabic, while the material recycled by the scribe came from different manuscripts. Mrs. Lewis realized that the scriptio inferior was hiding various texts. So, she reluctantly, took the old manuscript to pieces by cutting the cord which held the quires together and smoothed out the folios and unbound the codex. Mrs. Lewis brought the scriptio inferior text up by treating the folio with a reagent, hydrogen sulphide of ammonia. In the scriptio inferior she recognized the text of the Protevangelium Jacobi and Transitus Mariae in two columns of Estrangelo Syriac and fragments of the Qur'anic text. Her preliminary findings were published in Studia Sinaitica No. XI in 1902.[5] A few years later, Mrs. Lewis and Dr. Alphonse Mingana published a detailed study of the Qur'anic material in scriptio inferior.[6]

Mingana presented a full transcription of the Qur'anic text of the scriptio inferior of the manuscript, with the parallel text from the present day Qur'an, together with three pictures of the manuscript. He reported a list of various readings and omissions too.[7] This manuscript was again studied by Alba Fedeli recently, who confirmed some of the readings of Mingana, but sometimes found Mingana's transcription unfounded and manuscript unreadable. Her "inevitable and easy conclusion" is that all of Mingana's transcription can be suspected to be wrong.[8]

This palimpsest manuscript did not the attention it deserved primarily because of Reverend Mingana's character. He was suspected of involving in forgeries at least twice.[9] Consequently, no scholar believed in the words that Mingana wrote in his introduction to Leaves From Three Ancient Qur'âns Possibly Pre-‘Othmânic With A List Of Their Variants. The suspicion of his textual manipulation for his list of variants, omissions and interpolations was severe and, therefore, nobody believed in the manuscript or in the Qur'anic text of the scriptio inferior. Thus it was not surprising that for nearly 100 years Mingana's work was forgotten.

Soon afterwards in 1914, the manuscript was restored and sent to an international exhibition in Leipzig, but on the outbreak of World War I, it disappeared. Its whereabouts were traced by Dr. Oman of Westminister College, Cambridge, with the help of Professor Huene, of Tübingen, and the manuscript was finally returned to University Library at Cambridge University in 1936 where it remained unknown to most people.[10] It is known as the ‘Mingana Palimpsest’ even though it did not originate from the "Mingana Collection".

The palimpsest manuscripts of the Qur'an are rare. The only other known palimpsest is Codex Ṣanʿāʾ DAM 01-27.1.

Script & Ornamentation

Ḥijāzī script. Noseda lists this manuscript among the early ḥijāzī manuscripts.[11]

Diacritical points in Qur'an C are absent but can be seen in Qur'an A and Qur'an B. The verse endings are represented by dashes. The ending of one surah and beginning of another are represented by no markings, and in some cases by row of circles or by a combination of straight and wiggly strokes.

The leaves of the Qur'anic text, which has been erased and reused, were rewritten perpendicular to the scriptio superior. The former leaves were assembled in new quires of a smaller size, i.e., they were folded in half and some of them were cut out (bifeuillet 149-150).

Contents

The Qur'anic leaves had not been used in the Arabic Christian homilies in the same order as the original. So, the folio numbers appear in a haphazard fashion as seen below. The table below is constructed from the content of the various folios of this codex published.[12] A facsimile edition of this manuscript would also appear in the series Sources De La Transmission Manuscrite Du Texte Coranique.

Cambridge University Library Or. 1287
Folio Number Qur'anic Sūrah / Ayah Script Image Publication Comments
Folio 59a 7:139 - 7:144 Qur'an C
Folio 54b 7:144 - 7:150 Qur'an C
Folio 59b 7:150 - 7:155 Qur'an C Mingana & Lewis, 1914
Folio 54a 7:155 - 7:158 Qur'an C Mingana & Lewis, 1914 Part of 7:155 is fragmented
Folio 103a 7:158 - 7:160 Qur'an C Parts of 7:158, 7:159 and 7:160 are fragmented
Folio 103b 7:165, 7:168 Qur'an C Fragmented
Folio 104a 9:18 - 9:24 Qur'an C Part of 9:24 is fragmented
Folio 109b 9:24 - 9:28 Qur'an C
Folio 104b 9:28 - 9:31 Qur'an C
Folio 109a 9:31 - 9:35 Qur'an C Part of 9:31 is fragmented
Folio 60a 9:35 - 9:39 Qur'an C Parts of 9:37 and 9:39 are fragmented
Folio 53b
9:40 - 9:45 Qur'an C Part of 9:40 is fragmented
Folio 60b 9:45 - 9:52 Qur'an C Part of 9:52 is fragmented
Folio 53a 9:53 - 9:59 Qur'an C
Folio 105a 9:59 - 9:65 Qur'an C Parts of 9:65 and 9:66 are fragmented
Folio 108b 9:66 - 9:70 Qur'an C
Folio 105b 9:70 - 9:74 Qur'an C Parts of 9:73 and 9:74 are fragmented
Folio 108a 9:74 - 9:79 Qur'an C
Folio 106a 11:20 - 11:22 Qur'an B Part of 11:22 is fragmented
Folio 107b 11:23 - 11:29 Qur'an B
Folio 106b 11:29 - 11:33 Qur'an B
Folio 107a 11:33 - 11:39 Qur'an B
Folio 17a 13:18 - 13:22 Qur'an B
Folio 16b 13:22 - 13:27 Qur'an B
Folio 17b 13:27 - 13:30 Qur'an B
Folio 16a 13:30 - 13:34 Qur'an B
Folio 19a 13:34 - 13:38 Qur'an B
Folio 14b 13:38 - 13:43 Qur'an B
Folio 19b 14:1 - 14:4 Qur'an B
Folio 14a 14:4 - 14:8 Qur'an B
Folio 18a 15:85 - 15:97 Qur'an B
Folio 15b 15:97 - 15:99; 16:1 - 16:4 Qur'an B
Folio 18b 16:4 - 16:11 Qur'an B
Folio 15a 16:11 - 16:18 Qur'an B
Folio 20a 16:18 - 16:28 Qur'an B
Folio 13b 16:28 - 16:32 Qur'an B Part of 16:28 is fragmented
Folio 20b 16:32 - 16:37 Qur'an B A. S. Lewis, 1902
Folio 13a 16:37 - 16:41 Qur'an B A. S. Lewis, 1902 Part of 16:37 is fragmented
Folio 58b 16:80 - 16:84 Qur'an B Mingana & Lewis, 1914
Folio 55a 16:84 - 16:90 Qur'an B Mingana & Lewis, 1914
Folio 58a 16:91 - 16:94 Qur'an B
Folio 55b 16:94 - 16:98 Qur'an B
Folio 56b 16:98 - 16:104 Qur'an B
Folio 57a 16:104 - 16:108 Qur'an B
Folio 56a 16:108 - 16:113 Qur'an B  
Folio 57b 16:113 - 16:117 Qur'an B Part of 16:117 is fragmented
Folio 101a 16:117 - 16:124 Qur'an B Parts of 16:124 and 16:125 are fragmented
Folio 96b 16:125 - 16:128 Qur'an B
Folio 101b 17:1 - 17:5 Qur'an B Parts of 17:4 and 17:5 are fragmented
Folio 96a 17:5 - 17:10 Qur'an B
Folio 97a 17:10 - 17:16 Qur'an B
Folio 100b 17:16 - 17:20 Qur'an B
Folio 97b 17:20 - 17:25 Qur'an B Part of 17:25 is fragmented
Folio 100a 17:26 - 17:32 Qur'an B Part of 17:26 is fragmented
Folio 98a 17:32 - 17:37 Qur'an B Part of 17:37 is fragmented
Folio 99b 17:38 - 17:42 Qur'an B Part of 17:38 is fragmented
Folio 98b 17:42 - 17:48 Qur'an B Part of 17:48 is fragmented
Folio 99a 17:49 - 17:53 Qur'an B
Folio 102b 17:53 - 17:57 Qur'an B Parts of 17:56 and 17:57 are fragmented
Folio 158b 24:17 - 24:23 Qur'an A Left and right hand sides of the folio are fragmented
Folio 159a 24:24 - 24:29 Qur'an A Left and right hand sides of the folio are fragmented
Folio 161b 28:41 - 28:46 Qur'an A Left and right hand sides of the folio are fragmented
Folio 156a 28:47 - 28:51 Qur'an A Left and right hand sides of the folio are fragmented
Folio 160a 29:17 - 29:24 Qur'an A The left hand side of the folio is fragmented
Folio 157b 29:24 - 29:30 Qur'an A The left hand side of the folio is fragmented
Folio 152a 40:78 - 40:85 Qur'an A Mingana & Lewis, 1914 Parts of 40:78 and 40:79 are fragmented
Folio 149b 40:85; 41:1 - 41:6 Qur'an A Mingana & Lewis, 1914
Folio 152b 41:9 - 41:14 Qur'an A Part of 41:9 is fragmented
Folio 149a 41:14 - 41:20 Qur'an A Part of 41:14 is fragmented
Folio 151a 44:38 - 44:46; 44:53 - 44:56 Qur'an A Lewis, 1902 Parts of 44:46 to 44:52 are fragmented
Folio 150b 44:57 - 44:59; 45:1 - 45:5 Qur'an A Lewis, 1902 Part of 45:5 is fragmented
Folio 151b 45:9 - 45:15 Qur'an A
Folio 150a 45:15 - 45:20 Qur'an A

Location

University Library, University of Cambridge (United Kingdom).

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References

[1] A. S. Lewis (Editor and Translator), Apocrypha Syriaca: The Protevangelium Jacobi And Transitus Mariae With Texts From The Septuagint, The Corân, The Peshitta, And From A Syriac Hymn In A Syro-Arabic Palimpsest Of The Fifth And Other Centuries, 1902, Studia Sinaitica No. XI, C. J. Clay and Sons: London, pp. xvii-xxi, Plates IV and V.

[2] Rev. A. Mingana & A. S. Lewis (Eds.), Leaves From Three Ancient Qur'âns Possibly Pre-‘Othmânic With A List Of Their Variants, 1914, Cambridge: At The University Press, p. vii. A good criticism of such a position was made by R. A. Nicholson in his review of this book. See R. A. Nicholson, "Review Of Leaves From Three Ancient Qur'ans Possibly Pre-‘Othmanic", Journal Of Theological Studies, 1915, Volume XVI, pp. 437-440.

[3] ibid., p. xli.

[4] A. Fedeli, "Mingana And The Manuscript Of Mrs. Agnes Smith Lewis, One Century Later", Manuscripta Orientalia, 2005, Volume 11, No. 3, pp. 4-5.

[5] A. S. Lewis (Editor and Translator), Apocrypha Syriaca: The Protevangelium Jacobi And Transitus Mariae With Texts From The Septuagint, The Corân, The Peshitta, And From A Syriac Hymn In A Syro-Arabic Palimpsest Of The Fifth And Other Centuries, 1902, op. cit., pp. xvii-xxi, Plates IV and V.

[6] Rev. A. Mingana & A. S. Lewis (Eds.), Leaves From Three Ancient Qur'âns Possibly Pre-‘Othmânic With A List Of Their Variants, 1914, op. cit., pp. 1-74.

[7] ibid., pp. xxxvii-xli.

[8] A. Fedeli, "Mingana And The Manuscript Of Mrs. Agnes Smith Lewis, One Century Later", Manuscripta Orientalia, 2005, op. cit., pp. 3-7, especially p. 5 and p. 7, refs. 26 and 28.

[9] ibid., p. 4. Fedeli mentions the supposed forgery by Mingana when he published the work of Narsai and a scandal among the scholars when he taught a priest how to make the vellum look older than its actual age.

[10] ibid., p. 5.

[11] S. Noja Noseda, "Note Esterne In Margin Al 1° Volume Dei Materiali Per Un'edizione Critica Del Corano", Rendiconti Classe Di Lettere E Scienze Morali E Storiche, 2000, Vol. 134, pp. 18-28. Efim Rezvan also commented on this manuscript but provides no firm dates. See E. Rezvan, "Mingana Folios: Where And Why", Manuscripta Orientalia, 2005, Volume 11, No. 4, pp. 5-9.

[12] Rev. A. Mingana & A. S. Lewis (Eds.), Leaves From Three Ancient Qur'âns Possibly Pre-‘Othmânic With A List Of Their Variants, 1914, op. cit., pp. 1-74.

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