Monday 11 February 2019

New ENSIE member: Bink Hallum

Bink Hallum writes:

I am very pleased to join ENSIE. I am Curator of Arabic Scientific Manuscripts at the British Library and Wellcome Trust Research Fellow in the Department of Classics and Ancient History, University of Warwick. I have a background in Classics and Material Culture (BA [Wales] Archaeology/Classical Studies, MA [London] Classics) and a strong interest in the history of science (especially the occult sciences) and the social dynamics of the sciences within and between cultures.

My PhD (Warburg Institute, 2008) research focussed on the Graeco-Arabic translations of the 9th-11th centuries and the Arabic/Islamic reception of writings attributed to the Roman-Egyptian alchemist Zosimus of Panopolis (fl. ca 300 AD). My first post-doctoral position (Warwick) was as a researcher on a project on Islamic medicine and the Arabic tradition of Galen’s commentary on the Hippocratic Epidemics. After this I moved to the British Library, where I spend most of my time cataloguing manuscripts containing Arabic texts on a wide range of sciences in preparation for digitisation for the Qatar Digital Library.

My Wellcome Trust Fellowship project is titled ‘Alchemy, Medicine, and Pharmacology in Medieval Islam: Rāzī's Twelve Books’. I aim to collect all extant manuscript copies of Abū Bakr Muḥammad b. Zakariyā al-Rāzī’s alchemical magnum opus, the Twelve Books, to produce a critical edition and annotated English translation. The project will also explore the Arabic, Persian, Latin and Hebrew reception of Rāzī’s Twelve Books and its influence amongst alchemists, physicians and physicists (!) from the 4th/10th to roughly the 9th/15th century.

Apart from alchemy and medicine, I have a interest in Islamicate number magic – particularly the talismanic use of awfāq (magic squares) – and I am working (with Rosa Comes and Emilia Calvo, Universitat de Barcelona) on a study of literary traditions of the 7 planetary awfāq talismans, for which I will produce an edition and annotated translation of Ibn al-Zarqālluh’s (AKA al-Zarqālī, Abū Isḥāq Ibrāhīm b. Yaḥyā al-Naqqāsh al-Tujībī al-Ṭulayṭilī [d. 493/1100]) treatise on the 7 planetary awfāq talismans along with a historical study of related writings in this genre.

In relation to my research on awfāq, I wonder if any ENSIE members can help me identify a certain Muḥammad al-Shāfiʿī al-Ḥanafī al-Khalwatī, to whom is attributed a short text called al-Sirr al-maẓrūf fī ʿilm basṭ al-ḥurūf, published in 1951 in Cairo by Sharikat Maktabat wa-Maṭbaʿat Muṣṭfā al-Bābī al-Ḥalabī wa-Awlādihi along with a few works by al-Būnī and one attributed to Alī b. Muḥammad al-Ṭandatāʾī, who is said to have finished the work in 1003/1594. İsmail Paşa mentions the al-Sirr al-maẓrūf in his Īḍāḥ al-maknūn, but offers no further information about its author. The Muḥammad al-Khalwatī I’m looking for may or may not be the author of Nūr al-sāṭiʻ wa-al-sirr al-qāṭiʻ fī ʻilm al-awfāq. I’d be grateful for any information leading to a proper identification. At the moment, all I’ve got is an ever increasing list of treatises on awfāq attributed to Muḥammads (and Maḥmūds) al-Khalwatī!