The Fihrist of al-Nadīm, A Tenth-century survey of Muslim culture
by W. T. H. Jackson
When Bayard Dodge told me that some years ago the Records of Civilization had asked him to translate Al-Fihrist of al-Nadīm I was immediately enthusiastic. Here, surely, was a work which fitted the purpose of the series as few others could do, for it provided a link of a unique kind between several civilizations. In this tenth-century work is a compendium of the knowledge possessed by a learned Arab of Baghdād, knowledge in great part derived from earlier cultures, particularly Hellenic and Roman. Not only is the work extremely valuable for a knowledge of the culture of medieval Islam and of the literary personalities of the period but it gives important information about the classical material available for transmission through Muslim culture to the Western world. Al-Fihrist is thus a true “record of civilization.”
To provide a translation of a work such as this requires not only a scholar but an enthusiast. Bayard Dodge is both. He has provided us with an excellent translation, but before doing so he had to set up a text to be translated, since earlier editions had taken no account of manuscripts which are now available. In this work, which has occupied many years of his life, Professor Dodge has earned the gratitude of scholars in many fields of endeavor, for he has made available to them knowledge which has heretofore been confined to the very few who could read Arabic and had access to a rare work.
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