A fourteenth-century monk known from two that he copied.

Tuma’s name is given in two colophons of Vatican Arabic 158 with the addition “known as (al-ma‘ruf bi-) al-Mahalli,” which suggests he came from al-Mahallah in the Delta. The same colophons also record that he was a monk at the monastery of Saint Mercurius, known as Dayr Shahran, which is situated near Turah at about 7 miles (11 km) south of Old Cairo. It was there that he copied his manuscript.

The manuscript was copied between November 1356 and November 1357, for his own use (cf. fol. 23a). This explains the rather careless handwriting. He copied it in five stages from five different and rare that were not found in his monastery but in nearby places such as Turah, Misr, or Cairo. These parts are each dated in the Coptic and calendars, giving the day of the week without the slightest error, which is extremely rare.

His manuscript is composed of independent fascicules of ten sheets, assembled as he went along. In this way he constituted five separate small manuscripts, each numbered beginning with 1. The whole was not bound, which explains why the first two sheets containing the table of contents and the last are now lost. Originally, the collection contained at least 210 sheets. What remains is now found in two manuscripts (Vatican Library, Arabic 158, 177 sheets; and Vatican Library, Arabic 159, fols. 1-28, the rest belonging to a manuscript).

The contain ten extremely interesting texts.

  1. Two treatises justifying Coptic usages by MIKHA’IL, bishop of Damietta at the end of the twelfth century, against Abu al-Fakhr Murqus ibn Qanbar, a blind Coptic reformer who became a Melchite and died in 1208. These two texts are found only in this manuscript, where they are now in disorder; the order should be: B (Vatican Arabic 159, fols. 3-9); A (Vatican Arabic 158, fols. 2-3), B, fols. 9-18, and A, fols. 4-13. The second text is in A, fols. 14-22.
  2. 24a-25a contain two pages on the profession of faith of the Good Thief, not mentioned in G. Graf’s Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur.
  3. 25b-98a contain a treatise by Elias, Nestorian bishop of Nisibis (975-1004). Tuma twice calls the Nestorian bishop al-Qiddis Mar Iliyya (the Saint Mar Elia), since the text copied is of a high spiritual tenor.
  4. 99b-111b report the vision of Saint Athanasius. Only one other manuscript is known of this text; it is also Coptic, but much more recent (National Library, Paris, Arabic 153, copied in the seventeenth century).
  5. 112b-27a describe the vision of Samu’il of Qalamun. Here too, only one older manuscript of this text is known (National Library, Paris, Arabic 205, dated 1344).
  6. 128b-47b are notes concerning the twenty-four prophets and twelve apostles. These are missing in Graf’s Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur, which suggests that they are found only in this manuscript.
  7. 148a-57b include a commentary on the Creed of Abu al-Majd ibn Yu’annis, of Minyat Bani Khasib. This is the oldest known manuscript of this text.
  8. 158a-67a include a collection of monastic texts, beginning with a series of brief questions and answers addressed to Saint Basil. No equivalent of this text can be found in Graf’s Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur.
  9. 168a-77b and Vatican Arabic 159, folios 20a-27b and 19a-19b contain the Life of Saint Just (Yustus) and his son Apollo (Abuli). This text was the model for the Ethiopian version mentioned in Bibliotheca Hagiographica Orientalis (no. 554) and edited by M. Esteves Pereira in 1907. Only one witness to this text is known; it is also Coptic, but far more recent (National Library, Paris, Arabic 4775, nineteenth century).

As is evident, Tuma in his personal manuscript collected rare or even unique texts. In order to do so, he undertook a regular manuscript hunt, traces of which have been left by him in the colophons.

Thus, the two texts of Michael of Damietta were copied from a manuscript belonging to the Shaykh Amin al-Mulk ibn al-Akram al- Tawil, a still unidentified Coptic dignitary, who lived in Cairo in 1356. He completed his copy on Friday, 25 November 1356 (fol. 22b).

The text of Elias of Nisibis was completed on Friday, 9 December 1356, copied from a manuscript copied at Qasr al-Jama‘ in Old Cairo on Wednesday, 11 November 1327, but given as a bequest to the monastery of Mari Jirjis.

On folio 13b we find a page by a contemporary reader, dated Monday, 4 Ba’unah A.M. 1073/29 May 1357, stating that the deacon Jirjis read this “book” (kitab). At this date, only the first three texts mentioned had been copied.

The two visions of Athanasius and of Samu’il were completed on Tuesday, 31 October 1357, on the basis of a manuscript belonging to Ya‘qub ‘Alam, (or Ghulam) al-Taj, son of the Qummus ibn Daniyal, who was at that time living at the Church of the Angel Gabriel (fol. 127a), probably that of Misr. Tuma further tells us that he returned the manuscript to him, and this indicates that he copied it where he was living, at Dayr Shahran. These other notables of Cairo are also still unidentified.

The notes concerning the twenty-four prophets, the commentary on the creed, and the collection of monastic texts, were all copied in one week from a manuscript belonging to ‘Ubayd (?) ibn al-Hajj Mansur the monk, who was at that time living at Bab al-Bahr in Cairo (cf. fol. 167a). They were completed respectively on 31 October, 2 November, and 6 November 1357.

It is unclear from which manuscript the biography of Saints Just and Apollo was copied, as the end of the manuscript is missing.