JIRJIS IBN AL-QASS ABI AL-MUFADDAL
Son of the priest Abu al-Mufaddal ibn Amin al-Mulk Lutfallah and a famous copyist as well as a fine artist of the middle of the fourteenth century. His full name is mentioned in a manuscript in the National Library, Paris (Arabe 12, fol. 290b; cf. Rhode, p. 120).
His father, Abu al-Mufaddal, was priest of the Church of the Virgin in Damascus in 1355 in the time of Bishop Butrus II of Jerusalem. His grandfather Amin al-Mulk must have occupied an important position in the Mamluk administration as his title shows. Jirjis lived in Cairo and worked for the eighty-fourth patriarch, MARK IV (1348-1363), whose seat was at the Church of the Virgin in Harit Zuwaylah in Cairo.
Two of his Arabic manuscripts of the Bible are famous. They are dated 1353 and 1355. The first (National Library, Paris Arabe 12) is a large quarto (38.5 26.5 cm) of 290 pages containing the text of the Pentateuch. This Arabic translation was made from the Greek version of the Septuagint, but revised according to Hebrew, Coptic, and ancient Arabic versions, as confirmed repeatedly.
This first revision was probably made by Jirjis himself. He finished the revision of Genesis on 16 September 1355 (fol. 71b), but the whole manuscript had been entirely transcribed by 1353 (fol. 290a). One can find in Rhode (1921, pp. 6, 18, 35) the text of the Arabic chapters 1-6, 18, and 50 of that translation, as well as a plate reproducing folios 47b-48a and containing the text of Genesis 35:23 to 36:15. It shows how well Jirjis executed his work, both scientifically and aesthetically.
The manuscript is also beautifully decorated. In folios 1b-2a are found illuminations of geometric designs. At the beginning of each of the five books of the Pentateuch as well as at the end of the manuscript, titles appear in two pages in kufic letters in golden ornamentation on blue background. Those titles are retranscribed in Slane; verses are separated by colored florets and in the margins numerous commentaries containing critical notes of the text are written in Nasta‘liq script. For all proper names an interlinear equivalent in Coptic characters is given. The whole manuscript was worked out from that of the priest and encyclopedist Shams al Ri’asah Abu al-Barakat IBN KABAR (d. 1324).
- Graf, G. Catalogue de manuscrits arabes chrétiens conservés au Caire, pp. 98-99, 101. Vatican City, 1934.
- Rieu, C. Supplement to the Catalogue of the Arabic Manuscripts in the British Museum, pp. 1-4. London, 1894.
- Slane, W. McGuckin baron de. Catalogue des manuscrits arabes de la Bibliothèque nationale. Paris, 1883-1885.
- Troupeau, G. Catalogue des manuscrits arabes de la Bibliothèque nationale, Vol. 1, pt. 1: Manuscrits chrétiens. Paris, 1972. Vol. 2. Paris, 1974.
KHALIL SAMIR, S.J.