The Fihrist of al-Nadīm, A Tenth-century survey of Muslim culture

Bayard Dodge




In 1871 Gustav Flügel accomplished a masterly piece of work by publishing the Arabic text of Kitāb al-Fihrist, but unfortunately he lacked reliable copies of the principal manuscripts. I am, therefore, very grateful to the authorities of the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, as well as to friends at Robert College, Istanbūl, and to Muḥammad Rashād ‘Abd al-Muṭṭalib of the League of Arab States for helping me to examine and to obtain photostat copies of the most important manuscripts of the book.


Because Al-Fihrist deals with almost every phase of medieval culture, it would require a staff of experts to do justice to the translation. However, with the help of generous friends I have done my best to make the work as accurate as possible.


I am grateful to Constantine K. Zurayk, Jibrail M. Jabbur, Anis K. Frayha, and other members of the faculty of the American University of Beirut for their aid. I also wish to thank Philip K. Hitti, Farhat J. Ziadeh, and Samuel D. Atkins of Princeton University for helping me to understand some difficult passages. Elias Shoufani corrected the translation of a number of poems, as well as the transliteration in some of the especially difficult sections of the book.


Johann W. Fück very kindly sent me publications and notes, and Edward S. Kennedy and David Pingree helped me with the passages on mathematics and astronomy. Harald Ingholt of Yale University joined me in studying the Ṣābians. Mustafa Ziade of Cairo University and Mojtaba Minovi of Tihran have also been generous in giving me their help. I am also grateful to Reza Tajaded of Tihran and Mahdi Nakosteen of the University of Colorado for sending me their books, which provide valuable material for an understanding





of the Arabic text of Al-Fihrist. Thanks arc due, furthermore, to A. F. P. Hulsewé of Leiden, Louis Hambis of the Institut des Hautes Études Chinoise de l’Université de Paris, Herbert Franke of Munich, and E. H. Schafer of the University of California for suggestions about the passage on China.


This difficult and complicated book has been copyedited by Linnac Coss. Shc not only prepared every detail for the typesetter but she also discovered numerous errors, simplified the footnotes, corrected the Bibliography, and helped to give consistency to the translation of the book titles. I am most grateful for her perseverence, skill, and encouragement.


Because Al-Fihrist is a reference book, I have made the translation a literal one, seeking accuracy rather than literary style. I have also provided a number of aids for study, which are explained in the Introduction that follows this Preface.


The book is a unique specimen of literature, coming to us from medieval Baghdād. We know very little about the author and the sources from which he derived his vast amount of information. But all honor is due al-Nadīm, who compiled this encyclopedic volume, for as the Prophet Muḥammad said, “The ink of the learned is as precious as the blood of the martyrs.”



Princeton, New Jersey

July 1969




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