Eugenio Griffini and Zaydi Studies in the Light of His Correspondence with Ignaz Goldziher, 1908 through 1920

In: Shii Studies Review
Valentina Sagaria Rossi Curator, Leone Caetani Fund, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei Rome Italy

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Eugenio Griffini (1878-1925), the Italian Arabist, was the person who first realized the relevance and cultural significance of the Zaydi manuscript sources, who conveyed the largest Western collection of Zaydi manuscripts (the Caprotti collection) to the Ambrosiana Library in Milan in 1908, and who first immersed himself in this unique and virgin collection of manuscripts of Yemeni origin. Through his exploration of a treasure of nearly 2,000 manuscripts, he became experienced and acknowledged in the practice of reporting extended notes excerpted from the manuscript texts he examined. This outstanding experience over the course of twenty years of study and first-hand research at the Ambrosiana allowed him to unveil the existence and identify hundreds of unknown texts, opening up unexplored fields of interest and investigations into Zaydi literary production. With an extremely collaborative spirit, he lavished on many Orientalist scholars the insights that he had gleaned from the manuscripts he had come across, providing them with partial transcriptions and readings, sometimes upon request and other times even going beyond the requests. This article focusses on Griffini’s life and scholarly activity, particularly his involvement with Zaydi works, in the light of his correspondence with Ignaz Goldziher (1850-1921), of which an annotated edition is provided. The correspondence spans the period from 1908 to 1920 and reveals Griffini’s attitude towards his main projects: the cataloguing of the first three series of the Caprotti collection and his magnum opus, the edition of the Majmūʿ al-fiqh attributed to Zayd b. ʿAlī, on the basis of the Ambrosiana’s exemplars.

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