14 Hiob Ludolf, the Qurʾan, and the History of Writing

In: Hiob Ludolf and Johann Michael Wansleben
Jan Loop
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At some time in 1698 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716) must have informed Hiob Ludolf about yet another attempt by a German Lutheran scholar to translate the Qurʾan, for, in November of that year, Ludolf told Leibniz that he was ready to offer Henry Sike (1668–1712) any advice or assistance he might need for this endeavour.1 Thanks to the work of Alastair Hamilton we are well informed about these Lutheran attempts to produce a new translation of the Qurʾan.2 Leibniz seems to have been one of the promoters of this venture, and Sike was only the latest in a series of seventeenth-century German Lutheran scholars who had set themselves the task of translating (and editing) the sacred text of Islam. Among his predecessors and contemporaries were Andreas Acoluthus, Johann Andreas Danz, and Matthias Friedrich Beck, none of whom ever managed to produce more than specimen translations of one or two suras. Sike, it is believed, completed the translation, but it was never printed and was presumed lost, although a Latin Qurʾan translation in the hand of Sike’s Danish student, Mathias Anchersen (1682–1741), which recently turned up in Copenhagen, might be related.3

To this day Ludolf only appears as a footnote in this story. Nevertheless some discoveries in Ludolf’s Nachlass in Frankfurt and elsewhere reveal that around this time, between 1690 and the publication of Marracci’s ground-breaking translation in 1698, he took a greater interest in the Qurʾan and its translation than is usually acknowledged. The documents show that Ludolf closely followed attempts of German scholars to translate or edit the Qurʾan and that he himself studied it in those years and tried to improve these translations. It will become clear from the following remarks that the Lutheran quest for a new translation of the Qurʾan at the end of the seventeenth century was not orchestrated by Leibniz alone. Rather, this project seems to have been promoted by a wider network of scholars in which Ludolf too, as well as his polymath friend Wilhelm Ernst Tentzel (1659–1707), played a vital part.

Among other evidence, Ludolf’s Nachlass at the University Library in Frankfurt preserves three densely annotated specimen translations and editions of single suras: a bilingual version of the fourteenth and fifteenth suras, Ibrahīm and al-Ḥijr (The Stoneland) (1655) by Johann Georg Nissel, a student of Golius’s in Leiden,4 Matthias Friedrich Beck’s translation of two suras, 30 al-Rūm (Rome) and 48 al-Fatḥ (The Victory), alongside the Arabic text in Hebrew letters, published in Augsburg in 1688,5 and Johann Andreas Danz’s, Specimen Alcorani Arabico-Latini, containing the Arabic text and Latin translation of sura al-Fātiḥa and verses 1–66 of the second sura al-Baqarah (The Cow). His Nachlass also contains some pages of Christian Ravius’s Arabic-Latin edition of the first two suras published in Amsterdam in 1646. And finally, Ludolf’s personal Qurʾan copy, with marginal annotations and references to these and other seventeenth-century orientalist studies, is preserved at the Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar.6

These surviving documents are a testimony to Ludolf’s interest in the Qurʾan, his proficiency in Qurʾanic Arabic, and also the help that he was able to offer his Lutheran colleagues engaged in translating the Qurʾan at the end of the seventeenth century. Further documents show that his interest in the Qurʾan went beyond its meaning and content. As I will show in the second part of this essay, the script in which the oldest manuscripts of the Qurʾan were written also played an important role in the studies of Ludolf and some of his contemporaries.

It is difficult to determine when Ludolf started to foster an interest in the Qurʾan. According to a note on the flyleaf, his personal Qurʾan manuscript was captured during Miklós Zrínyi’s attack on the Hungarian town Pécs (Fünfkirchen) in 1664. Heinrich Rudolf Gerstenberger, who had served as a commander of cavalry in Zrínyi’s army, presented it later to Ludolf. When exactly this happened is unclear, but it is likely that the marginal annotations in the manuscript date from around 1690, the time when the following story unfolded. On 14 May 1688 Tentzel sent Ludolf news of a German translation of Du Ryer’s French version, carried out by a Johann Lange of Hamburg and edited by Eberhard Werner Happel.7 In this letter, Tentzel mentions two further translations underway – one by Ludovico Marracci (1612–1700) and another by the Jena Hebraist Johann Andreas Danz (1654–1727). Ludolf, in his response, asked for more information about Marracci who was still unknown to him but was to achieve lasting fame ten years later when his new edition and translation of the Qurʾan finally appeared.8 Danz, in contrast, is now forgotten, but Ludolf took a great interest in the work of this young professor and supported him in his plans to produce an Arabic-Latin edition of the entire Qurʾan. It would be, Ludolf argued, particularly pertinent ‘at a time when in so many places efforts are being made to convert Turks’.9 This was doubtless a reflection on the situation on Europe’s borderlands in the south east, where Holy League armies were on the offensive, penetrating deep into Ottoman Europe. A Lutheran mission to Muslims and Oriental Christians was a project close to Ludolf’s heart. In 1703 he would advise August Hermann Francke (1663–1727) and Johann Heinrich Michaelis (1668–1738) in Halle to direct their Collegium Orientale away from a purely philological to a more missionary endeavour.10 Knowledge of the Qurʾan, such was probably Ludolf’s thinking, would help refuting it more convincingly and thus make conversion of Muslims more likely. However, while missionary purpose always takes a prominent place when European scholars justify their interest in the Qurʾan, it was far from the only reason for their numerous attempts to translate it in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In the tradition of Protestant oriental studies particularly, the Qurʾan was seen to represent the standard of the Arabic language and as the best textbook to learn it with. Many European antiquarians and Biblical scholars also believed they would find religious, cultural and historical information in the Qurʾan that could be useful for interpreting the Old Testament and oriental culture in general. As the following pages will show, Ludolf’s interest in the Qurʾan was clearly motivated by all of these reasons.

Only one later letter from Danz to Ludolf has been preserved, but his translation is discussed repeatedly in the correspondence between Ludolf and Tentzel, who must have been in direct contact with Danz in Jena.11 At the end of December 1689 Ludolf asked Tentzel to provide him with some first pages of Danz’s translation and offered to support the sale by advertising it among his friends abroad.12 Tentzel seems to have sent him samples of the translation a week later. On 14 January 1690, he wrote back to Tentzel:

I have seen [his] specimen of the Qurʾan on scrap paper, and had he consulted me, I would have suggested that he number the verses as he did in the first sura, and that he add this to the Arabic text in the margin, which would have been so much more useful for references as well as for [the compilation and annotation of] lexica. Any student of Arabic would have preferred a literal translation with short annotations. I would have indicated suras, partially translated, which could illuminate the meaning [of the sura].13

As we will see below, Ludolf, in his annotations to contemporary Qurʾan translations and in his own copy of the Qurʾan, followed some of these maxims. He numbered the verses and added cross-references to other suras and verses which often helped him to understand Qurʾanic concepts and obscure words.

It seems that in 1690 – rather than 1692, as it is usually dated – Danz had printed a very small number of copies of his Specimen Alcorani Arabico-Latini.14 In April 1690 he sent this work to Ludolf, to the orientalist Andreas Müller (1630–1694) and possibly other scholars15 with a request for comments. He had sought, he writes to Ludolf, a middle way between a literal and an ad sensum translation.16 Presumably, Ludolf sent Danz comments and corrections to his edition and translation similar to those preserved in the copy of Danz’s specimen at the University library in Frankfurt (see Figure 14.1).17 Most of them concern subtle semantic and grammatical problems, as the following examples illustrate.

Figure 14.1
Figure 14.1

Johann Andreas Danz, Specimen Alcorani Arabico-Latini ([Jena] [1690], p. 9), Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg Frankfurt am Main, Ms Ff. H. Ludolf II 32 Fasc. A Nr. 4 (p. 9)

In sura al-Baqarah, v. 19 Danz translates the expression kaṣayyibin mina ’l-samāʾi (كَصَيِّبٍ مِنَ ٱلسَّمَاءِ) more or less correctly with ‘the likeness of a heavenly cloud’ (‘instar nubis coelestis’). Ludolf, however, is right to specify that the cloud is ‘pouring down water, i.e. fertile’ (‘aquam fundentis, i.e. foecundae’);18 In sura 2, v. 22 Danz translates fa-akhraja bihi mina ’l-thamarāti rizqān (فَأَخْرَجَ بِهِۦ مِنَ ٱلثَّمَرَٰتِ رِزْقًۭا) with ‘thereby he produced food for you from trees’ (‘quâ producit de arboribus victum vobis’), to which Ludolf added the more elegant and correct ‘fruits of every kind’ (‘omnis generis fructus’);19 in sura 2, v. 23 Danz mistranslated dūni ’l-lahi (دُونِ ٱللَّهِ) as ‘before God’ (‘coram Deo’), which Ludolf corrected to ‘other than God’ (‘praeter Deum’); or, as a final example, we can add sura 2, v. 33, where wa-aʿlamu mā tubdūna wa-mā kuntum taktumūna (وَأَعْلَمُ مَا تُبْدُونَ وَمَا كُنتُمْ تَكْتُمُونَ) is translated by Danz as ‘I shall know what you start and what you are going to seal’ (‘sciam quid incipiatis et quid sitis obsignaturi’), which Ludolf correctly changed into ‘what you reveal and what you conceal’ (‘manifestatis et occultatis’).

Occasionally, Ludolf corrects Danz’s Latin rendering with a reference to André Du Ryer’s French translation of 1647,20 as in sura 2, v. 60, where Danz translates wa-lā taʿthaw fī ’l-arḍi (وَلَا تَعْثَوْا۟ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ) with ‘nec damna inferte terrae’ (nor shall you do harm to the land). Ludolf, in the margin, adds ‘R polluite terram’,21 referring to Du Ryer’s translation of this sentence ‘ne salissez plus la terre’.22 He does the same in the following verse, where Danz translates min baqlihā wa-qithāʾihā wa-fūmihā (مِنۢ بَقْلِهَا وَقِثَّآئِهَا وَفُومِهَا) as ‘ex oleribus, & cucurbitis, item cicere’ (from vegetables, gourds, and chick pea’). Ludolf adds ‘R des blettes, concombres, ails’ (chard, cucumbers, garlic).23

While Du Ryer’s was certainly the best available European translation of the Qurʾan at that time, it was not free from error. In sura 2, v. 51 for example, Danz translated wa-idh wāʿadnā mūsā arbaʿīna laylatan (وَإِذْ وَٰعَدْنَا مُوسَىٰٓ أَرْبَعِينَ لَيْلَةًۭ) correctly as ‘Nihilominus cum indixissemus Mosi quadraginta noctes’ (notwithstanding, as we appointed forty nights for Moses).24 However, Ludolf suggested Du Ryer’s erroneous version ‘R. Nous avons arresté. [d]etinuimus’, which might have resulted from a misreading of wāʿadnā as wāʿarnā, for which Golius gives the meaning ‘inhibuit’ and ‘impedivit’.25

This mistake should not obscure the fact that Ludolf’s careful emendation of Danz’s translation made a number of improvements, albeit mostly minor and subtle. Danz’s translation of sura al-Fātiḥa and the 66 verses of sura 2 was a promising start and with Ludolf’s advice, as well as with the help of the orientalist Andreas Müller who also offered his support,26 a satisfactory translation, together with an edition of the Arabic Qurʾan, could reasonably have been expected. However, Danz did not pursue the project any further, apparently because he heard of similar plans by the Lutheran pastor in Hamburg, Abraham Hinckelmann ,27 or, according to other reports, because of Ludovico Marracci’s project.28 Danz thus joined the ranks of a number of seventeenth-century Lutheran scholars who never delivered on their promise to translate and edit the entire Qurʾan.29

Among these was Johann Georg Nissel (1623–1662), a student of Golius’s in Leiden, who published, in 1655, a bilingual version of the fourteenth and fifteenth suras, Ibrahīm and al-Ḥijr. An annotated copy of this specimen, which was written much earlier than the others discussed here, also survives in Ludolf’s archive. It was less accomplished than the one by Danz – ‘much is omitted, and it contains many typographical errors, as we have noted throughout’ (‘multa omissa sunt, multa vitia typographica continentur, uti nos passim notavimus’), Ludolf wrote on the title page of the publication. And indeed, the pages of Nissel’s Arabic-Latin edition of the two suras are riddled with corrections and modifications (see Figure 14.2).

Figure 14.2
Figure 14.2

Johann Georg Nissel, Historia de Abrahamo, et de Gomorro-Sodomoticae versione ex Alcorano, ejusque Surata XIVta et XVta (Leiden, 1655), p. 9; Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg Frankfurt am Main, Ms. Ff. H. Ludolf II 32 Fasc. A Nr. 1 (fol. 13ʳ, olim: Sura 15, p. 9)

Often accompanied by expressions of disapproval, Ludolf makes corrections of the Arabic text with references to his own Qurʾan manuscript, cross- references to other suras and verses that use the same word or root, references to biblical passages, and, frequently, adds Du Ryer’s better translation. The last point is remarkable, as Nissel had printed a Latin version of Du Ryer’s translation of the two suras accompanying his own translation and one wonders why he did not follow the French translation, which is clearly better than his own.30 A case in point is the translation of the expression ḥijāratan min sijjīlin (حِجَارَةً مِن سِجِّيلٍ – stones of clay [hardened by the fire of Hell]) in sura 15, v. 74. Du Ryer translates it more or less correctly as ‘pierres avec du feu’ – ‘lapides, ignemque’ in Nissel’s Latin rendering of the French. In his own rendering, however, he translates it as ‘lapides è libro fatali’ (‘stones from the book of fate’) ‘Inepte!’ Ludolf writes on the margin ‘what should this fatal book be?’ The same words and the same stones can be found in sura al-Fīl (The Elephant) which the commentators, Ludolf writes, would interpret as ‘lapillos ex argillâ igne infernali coctos’ (‘small stones of clay, cooked in the fire of Hell’).31 It is not immediately clear where Ludolf found this interpretation. He refers, on the opposite page, to Pococke’s Specimen Historiae Arabum, where sura al-Fīl is quoted and discussed with reference to the commentaries by al-Jalālayn, Zamakhsharī and Baydāwī.32 But none of these commentaries refer to the infernal fire. The interpretation can be found, however in al-Qurṭubī’s tafsir, with reference to the tenth-century dictionary, al-Ṣiḥāḥ by al-Jawharī,33 whence it was adopted by Golius in his Lexicon Arabico Latinum – ‘Argilla, ex eave lapides, igne infernali indurata’34 – and this is where Ludolf probably found it.35

Ludolf was similarly critical of Matthias Friedrich Beck’s (1649–1701) translation, which is the third specimen of a Qurʾan edition and translation preserved in his archive. Here too certain obvious mistakes, of which there are a few, are disapprovingly commented upon (‘malè’), for example in sura al-Rūm, verses 23–24, where Beck repeatedly translates the straightforward liqawmin (لِّقَوْمٍ) (for/of people) with ‘propter Resurrectionem’ (‘for resurrection’) (which would be لقيامة).36 The root qwm قوم and its derivates created further problems in verse 55 (54 in Beck’s edition) where Beck translated wa-yawma taqūmu l-sāʿatu yuqsimu l-mujrimūna (وَيَوْمَ تَقُومُ السَّاعَةُ يُقْسِمُ الْمُجْرِمُونَ) with ‘Diem verò Resurrectionis constituet tempus, quo jurabunt Rei’ (Indeed, the time when culprits swear shall constitute the day of resurrection). Ludolf correctly amended the first part of the sentence ‘Quo die venerit hora’ (‘on the day when the hour will come’). However, in the second part he erred himself, misreading yuqsimu (يُقْسِمُ), which is the fourth stem and means ‘to swear, take an oath’ (as Beck rightly saw), as yaqasimu (يَقَسِمُ), i.e. the base stem and means ‘to divide’: ‘separabit improbos’ (he will separate the wicked).37 This is a rare moment of carelessness for Ludolf,38 who otherwise notices the smallest flaws in Beck’s translation, for example in sura 30, v. 11, where Beck wrongly translates turjaʿūna (تُرْجَعُون) as ‘reducentur’ (‘they will be led back’). ‘Reducemini’ (‘you will be led back’) was the correct form, ‘because the second plural starts with ت not with ي.’39 Beck repeated the same mistake in verse 19 and Ludolf again replaced ‘educentur’ (they will be led out) for تُخْرَجُونَ with the correct ‘educemini’ (you will be led out).

With Beck’s translation too, Ludolf makes use of the literature available to him, particularly Du Ryer’s translation, but avails himself also of other authoritative Qurʾan translations, such as Erpenius’ translation of, and comments to, sura 64, al-Taghābun in the 1620 revised edition of Rudimenta linguae Arabicae. Beck completely misses the meaning of sura 48, v. 6 wa-sāʾat maṣīran (وَسَاءَتْ مَصِيرًا), which he translates as ‘quae affligit intestinum’ (which affects the inside). He probably looked up maṣīran under the root m-ṣ-r in Golius’ Lexicon (‘intestinum’), rather than reading it as the accusative of the verbal noun to ṣāra-yaṣīru (to become etc.).40 Ludolf corrects this and refers to Erpenius’s translation sura 64, v. 10 (وَبِئْسَ الْمَصِيرُ – ‘o mala habitatio’), and his subsequent analysis: ‘maṣīr est Infinitivus seu nomen verbale […] à verbo concavo […] صَارَ quod significat, fieri, esse’.41

In his corrections of the three seventeenth-century attempts to translate the Qurʾan, Ludolf shows a remarkable mastery of Arabic and extensive knowledge of the Qurʾan. His familiarity with available scholarly literature and the different translations is particularly impressive and shows that he had spent a considerable effort in scrutinising them. This is also evident from the annotations in his own copy of the Qurʾan, for example to sura al-Taghābun.42 He uses both, Erpenius’ interlinear translation, and at one point also André Du Ryer’s French version to work through the Arabic text. Probably based on his knowledge of Islamic commentaries, Du Ryer interpreted the end of verse 3 – wa-ʾilayhi ’l-maṣīru (وَإِلَيْهِ ٱلْمَصِيرُ) ‘and to him is the return / destination’ – as ‘[vous] serez un iour assemblez devant luy pour etre iugez’, which Ludolf added to Erpenius’ more literal translation ‘ad eum est abitus’ (Figure 14.3).

Figure 14.3
Figure 14.3

Beginning of sura Al-Taghābun in Ludolf’s own copy of the Qurʾan. Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek Weimar, Ms Q 660, fol. 163ᵛ

On a more basic level, Ludolf used existing orientalist literature to structure the Arabic text of the Qurʾan and make it better navigable and comparable: He numbered and translated all the sura names,43 and he also numbered the verses of all the suras, for which translations and editions existed: al-Fātiḥa and large parts of sura al-Baqarah (Danz), sura Ibrahīm and sura al-Ḥijr (Nissel), sura al-Rūm and sura al-Fatḥ (Beck), sura Luqmān, sura al-Sajdah and sura al-Ṣaff, all of which had been edited by Golius,44 and finally sura Yūsuf and al-Taghābun, which had been edited and translated by Erpenius.45

Another example further illustrates Ludolf’s extensive study of orientalist literature on the Qurʾan. Among his papers, attached at the beginning of Christian Ravius’ Prima tredecim partium Alcorani Arabico-Latini (1646), is a collation of different translations of the opening sura al-Fātiḥa by Ravius,46 André Du Ryer,47 and Jacob Golius.48 Golius’s little-known translation is the most interesting of all.49 Ludolf excerpted this translation from a longer passage he had found in Henning Henningsen’s edition of Muslim prayers, the Muhammedanus precans, id est liber precationum muhammedicarum arabicus manuscriptus (1666). Here, Henningsen printed Golius’ Latin translation of a Persian paraphrase of al-Fātiḥa, which the Leiden arabist had once sent to Adam Olearius, from whom it came into Henningsen’s possession.50 Golius used the same technique for sura Luqmān in his masterly 1656 edition of Erpenius’ grammar, where he added to his Latin translation extracts from the Persian commentary by Ḥusain Wāʾiẓ Kāshifī in Latin translation.51 In Ludolf’s transcription the translation of sura al-Fātiḥa is given in red, the commentary in black ink (see Figure 14.4).

Figure 14.4
Figure 14.4

Translation of al-Fātiḥa (red) and a Persian commentary by Jacob Golius, Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg Frankfurt am Main, Ms. Ff. H. Ludolf II 32 Fasc. A Nr. 3 (suppl. to fol. 3/4)

With this background and expertise Ludolf was well qualified to support anyone attempting to produce a new translation of the Qurʾan – or could have been himself a candidate for the task. It is doubtful he ever considered undertaking the work himself. We do, nonetheless, have evidence of other attempts by Ludolf to translate Qurʾanic passages independently, which leads us into a heated early modern debate about the origin and history of writing.

Ludolf’s dealings with the Qurʾan in the late 1680s left some traces in his published work, particularly in his Commentary to the Historia aethiopica, which appeared in 1691 and, less frequently, also in earlier works. In a similar manner to Johann Heinrich Hottinger, Samuel Bochart and others, Ludolf used Qurʾanic passages for lexicographical purposes,52 to contextualise and interpret cultural and religious phenomena of the Near East,53 or as an archive of historical information.54 Most of these short passages offer translations by Ludolf himself and they all betray remarkable knowledge of the Qurʾan and of the available tools and sources to establish its meaning.55

This expertise proved to be useful when, in April 1690, Ludolf was commissioned to write an expert opinion on a curious manuscript which had been sent to him from Kassel three months earlier. The object in question is MS Orient 4 and consists of two parts or fragments of the Qurʾan, one written in Maghribi and one in Kufic script (see Figures 14.5 and 14.6).56

Figure 14.5
Figure 14.5

Facsimile copy of Maghribi Qurʾan fragment by J.H. Hottinger, Kassel Universitätsbibliothek, Ms Orient 4, fol. 3

Figure 14.6
Figure 14.6

Facsimile copy of Kufic Qurʾan fragment by J.H. Hottinger, Kassel Universitätsbibliothek, Ms Orient 4, fol. 178

The manuscript is a European facsimile copy of two originals which were once in the possession of the St. Gallen antiquarian Sebastian Schobinger (1579–1652). Only the Maghribi original, booty from Charles V’s Tunis expedition (1535), is still preserved in St. Gallen.57 The Kufic fragment, which was brought back from Cairo by a Tobias Krum (alias Krumm or Kromm) in 1620, is now lost.58 Krum had probably taken this manuscript from a deposit at the ʿAmr mosque in al-Fusṭāṭ – from where Westerners would spirit away countless Qurʾan manuscripts in the following centuries.59

Neither Schobinger and Krum, nor apparently the guardians of this deposit were able to read the ‘marvellous characters’ and thought that the book was from pharaonic times, containing ‘sacred and profane history’ and the ‘wisedome of the ancient Egyptians’. In 1645, Schobinger sent both fragments to the Zurich church historian and orientalist Johann Heinrich Hottinger (1620–1667), asking for his expert opinion. Hottinger, who had already seen a fragment of a Kufic Qurʾan in Leiden in the possession of Jacob Golius,60 was able to decipher the ancient script and to identify the suras. He produced at least two facsimile copies of the manuscripts, of which one is now in Groningen,61 the other in Kassel. Of some significance for Ludolf and the further development of Arabic paleography in Northern Europe is an ‘Alphabetum Kuficum’, or a key to Kufic calligraphy, which Hottinger added to the Kassel copy (see Figure 14.7). However, as was noticed by scholars of the next generation, the alphabet was not comprehensive.62 It lacked most of the ligated forms as well as the letters ṣād and ḍād.

Figure 14.7
Figure 14.7

Key to Kufic calligraphy by J.H. Hottinger, Kassel UB, Ms Orient 4, fol. 184

In 1655, Hottinger offered the facsimile copy as a gift to the Elector Palatine, Karl Ludwig I (1617–1680).63 It was later passed on to his son, Charles II, and arrived at the Kassel library in 1686, when the Palatine library was inherited by the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, Charles I (1670–1730). The librarian of the Kassel Library appears not to have known what language or what script it was written in and sent it to Ludolf in Frankfurt for an evaluation.64

In the following weeks Ludolf wrote Tractatus duo mutili lingua Arabica conscripti. Quorum alter Charactere Mauritano: alter Charactere Cufico antiquissimo exaratus est. The beautifully executed treatise follows the page layout of Kassel Ms orient 4, with a red margin, and is written in Ludolf’s typical, careful handwriting. The work contains six folios and is preserved in Kassel;65 it is dated 6 February 1690 (see Figures 14.8 and 14.9). An almost identical copy of this treatise is also found in Ludolf’s archive in Frankfurt66 (See Figures 14.10 and 14.11). The Frankfurt copy differs slightly from the one in Kassel and was presumably a draft version. In addition to the ‘technical’ report on language, content, and script, both manuscripts contain transcriptions and translations of selected passages from the Maghribi and the Kufic part of Ms Orient 4.

Figure 14.8
Figure 14.8

Ludolf’s treatise on the Qurʾan fragments in Kassel, UB Kassel, Ms orient Anhang 31, fol. 1ʳ

Figure 14.9
Figure 14.9

Ludolf’s treatise on the Qurʾan fragments in Kassel, UB Kassel, Ms orient Anhang 31, fol. 2ᵛ

Figure 14.10
Figure 14.10

Ludolf’s treatise on the Qurʾan fragments in Kassel (draft), Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg Frankfurt am Main, Ms Ff.H.Ludolf II 32 Fasc. F Nr 1., fol. 1ʳ (title page)

Figure 14.11
Figure 14.11

Ludolf’s treatise on the Qurʾan fragments in Kassel (draft), Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg Frankfurt am Main, Ms Ff.H.Ludolf II 32 Fasc. F Nr 1., fol. 2ʳ

In his treatise Ludolf provides two short accounts of the Kufic and the Maghribi – or ‘Mauritanian’ as Ludolf calls it – calligraphy. Particular attention is paid to describing the function and figure of tashkīl in the Maghribi part, i.e. the vowel signs: fatḥa (a), kasrah (i) and ḍamma (u), as well as of other diacritics (‘notae ortographicae’) sukūn (no vowel), tashdīd (or shaddah – consonant gemination), hamza (glottal stop), waṣlah (liaison), maddah (with alif: glottal stop with long alif) and alif maqṣūrah.67

Ludolf also reports the classic story of the invention of Kufic characters by ‘Moramerus’ (Murāmir ibn Murrah), as it was transmitted to Europe by Edward Pococke.68

According to Pococke, [Kufic characters] can still be found in titles of books, and stone [engravings] (others, however, say they can be found on coins). It was with these letters that the Qurʾan was first written; they remained in use for almost three hundred years after Muhammad, when they gradually changed, and turned into more elegant forms of letters, which we see today in normal Arabic books, either manuscript or printed.69

The main part of Ludolf’s treatise, however, contains a number of Qurʾanic verses transcribed from both parts of the Kassel manuscript, in Arabic and with Latin translation ‘so that the studious reader need not just judge from a description but from the book itself in its entirety’.70 The Qurʾan, he continues, ‘is venerated by Muslims as sent from heaven and divinely inspired’.71

In order to give an impression of the quality of Ludolf’s rendering, I quote here the first Qurʾan passage he translated (5: 82–86), which is also the beginning of the Maghribi part of Ms orient 4. For comparison, I add the English translation from the The Study Qurʾan.

The excerpt, of course, is too short to allow a comprehensive judgement of Ludolf’s mastery of Qurʾanic Arabic and Qurʾanic theological concepts. However, we can still note that his translation is literally correct and comprehensible, even if there are some small syntactical flaws, and one or the other semantic error and omission. The comments show a remarkable knowledge of central Qurʾanic concepts (shirk, kibr) and indicate Ludolf’s familiarity with the Qurʾan as a whole. But the passage also illustrates well the challenges which early modern translators of the Qurʾan faced, for even the smallest syntactical and semantic misinterpretations can distort the meaning of a verse. It seems that Ludolf missed the central point in this passage, which is to differentiate the Jews and Christians with regard to their attitude towards Muslims. ‘Here the Jews are described as the most hostile to the believers, along with the idolaters […] while the Christians are said to be the nearestin affection to Muslim believers.’73 This positive attitude to the Christian community and the spiritual affinity that the passage evokes between Muslims and Christians escaped Ludolf. In Ludolf’s treatise this first passage is followed by translations of, and comments on, a number of other verses from the Maghribi Qurʾan (5:110, 5:119–120, 6:1–2, 6:59, 6:110).74

Things became more challenging for Ludolf with the Kufic part of Ms orient 4, a calligraphy which, at the time, was only attested by a handful of manuscripts in Europe and by all accounts could only be read by very few scholars.75 In learning to decipher the script Ludolf must have profited from Hottinger’s alphabet in the appendix of Ms orient 4.76 He also produced a copy of this alphabet, which he interleaved in his handcopy of Ägidius Gutbier’s Musae orientalis sacris nuptiis (1651) (see Figure 14.12).77 To this, he added further observations ‘for a better understanding of the Kufic script’ (‘pro meliori cognitione scripturae Cuficae’) (see Figure 14.13): the similar forms of lām and alif; the green dots to indicate alif al-waṣl; the connection of two ḥā; how similar consonants are distinguished through different stroke lengths (as in بيننا ‘between us’); or the green lines that connect alif and lām of the article al- when they are on different lines. Ludolf also notes here how difficult it is to discern certain Kufic letters, for example ح from ع. And indeed, in the short passages Ludolf transcribed in his treatise (sura 42, v. 15b, v. 52b–53, sura 43, v. 1–5) starting with the beginning of the Kufic fragment, sura 42, v. 15b, we find a couple of misreadings. He misreads the second word as احمالنا (our loads, burdens) instead of اعمالنا (our deeds), which then leads to the mistranslation: ‘For us are our burdens, and for you are your burdens’ (‘Nobis onera nostra, et vobis onera vestra’) instead of ‘Unto us are our deeds, and unto you are your deeds’). He also misreads داعضة rather than داحضة (sura 42, v 16) ‘being invalid’ and translates it as ‘full of lies’.78

Figure 14.12
Figure 14.12

Ludolf’s hand copy of Ägidius Gutbier’s Musae orientalis sacris nuptiis (Hamburg, 1651), British Library, Marsden Collection B 6/8

Figure 14.13
Figure 14.13

Ludolf’s hand copy of Ägidius Gutbier’s Musae orientalis sacris nuptiis (Hamburg, 1651), British Library, Marsden Collection B 6/8

‘You need to be very experienced in the language if you want to read this script’ Ludolf writes at the end of his treatise on the two Kassel fragments. The script, he continues, is very coarse

and there are no orthographic notes which we find written upon the Maghribi script, except for a green dot which is once a Hamza, once a Sukun (‘Gezma’), and a line between [Alif] and [Lam] which indicates a connection. Instead of diacritical points they here use tiny [double] lines […] by which several consonants are differentiated, which would otherwise barely differ from each other and which is very inconvenient in this language. For vowels they use three red dots, which take their value from their respective position: a dot above denotates A or E, one below i, a dot in the middle O or U, and two at the end which signify the case endings un. an. and in., which the Grammarians call ‘nunation’ (tanwīn).79

The presence of diacritical signs and vowel points in this Kufic fragment, albeit in rudimentary form, has lent this document an importance and prominence in the history of early modern oriental scholarship and, above all, in early modern investigations into the history of writing. Hottinger first used the original Kufic fragment, which had been sent to him for inspection by Sebastian Schobinger in the autumn of 1645, to bolster arguments for the antiquity of vowel points in Hebrew.80 The orthodox position, which tried to defend the antiquity and divine origin of the Hebrew square script together with the vowel points, became a scholarly bone of contention in the seventeenth century. Scholars like Joseph Justus Scaliger (1540–1609), Louis Cappel (1585–1658) and others argued that in the Hebrew, as well as in the Arabic script, vowel points were a later invention by grammarians introduced from the sixth century AD onwards. One piece of antiquarian evidence often used in this debate were earliest Arabic Kufic manuscripts without vowel points, one of which was in the possession of Jacob Golius.81 Schobinger’s Kufic fragment however, had such vowel points and Hottinger, after having seen it, wrote a triumphant letter to Johann Buxtorf the Younger in Basel, one of the champions of the antiquity of Hebrew vowel points:

I recently wrote to you that the oldest copies of the Qurʾan were lacking vowel points. I now retract and openly perform a palinode. This is ordered by that most ancient fragment, written at least seven hundred years ago in Kufic characters, which not even one in a thousand Arabs understands. It was sent to me this week from St. Gallen by the most distinguished Consul Schobinger asking me to try to extract some meaning. I have now found out and realized that vowel points were set even in the first exemplars of the Qurʾan and I therefore start to wonder why Golius has denied this. And although the form of today’s vowel points is different from the ancient Kufic ones, it is still certain that Kufic too did not lack vowel points. I am sending you a sample, which has been written very carefully. You will see marks and little red dots, some of them above (a and o) and some below the script (denoting i), so that this Herculean argument which Mr Cappel is in the habit of advancing, may clearly collapse.82

The Kufic Qurʾan manuscript from Cairo, in other words, served Hottinger as material evidence to support the claim that vowel points can be found in the oldest Arabic manuscripts and must have existed in Arabic script from the beginning.83 And in order to preserve and disseminate it, Hottinger himself, or someone commissioned by him, made faithful facsimile copies of the Kufic fragment (as well as of the Maghribi Qurʾan also in Schobinger’s possession) now in Kassel and Groningen. These copies meticulously reproduce the ancient black script together with the red vowel points, the paratexts which were further witnesses of the authenticity of the document and a key to decipher the Kufic calligraphy. Thanks to Hiob Ludolf, who produced some specimen facsimile copies of a few pages of both parts of the Kassel manuscript, there is now also a third, partial copy, in Frankfurt (see Figures 14.14 and 14.15).84 Hottinger’s attempt to disseminate this material evidence for a theologically charged argument was an impressive success. As we will see below, there are further copies we can add here. But as with many other attempts by early modern Protestant orientalists to buttress their theological positions with philological and antiquarian evidence, this one too was soon put to a use which ran counter to Hottinger’s intentions. Thirty years after his death belief in the historicity of the Hebrew script seems to have prevailed among many oriental scholars. Already in 1657 Brian Walton, in one of the introductory articles to the London Polyglot Bible, popularised the idea, championed also by Azariah de’ Rossi (1511–1578), Gerardus Vossius (1577–1649), Jean Morin (1591–1659), and others, that the (unvocalised) Samaritan letters predated the square Hebrew characters which the Jews adopted from the Assyrians and brought back from Babylon and had used ever since. He also quoted Joseph Scaliger’s argument that the Greek alphabet was derived from the Samaritan alphabet, via the Phoenician characters which were carried to Greece from the Orient by Cadmus.85 This inspired the Oxford scholar Edward Bernard (1638–1697) to compose a chart on a large engraved sheet exhibiting the development of writing.86 It took the form of twenty-nine tables, chronologically arranged, starting from the Alphabetum Adami, Noachi, Nini, Abrahami, Phoenicum & Samaritarum, ante Christi 5509 à nummis Iudaicis, Africanisque & à Pentateuchi through to the Hebrew square script (Babylonium & Iudaicum ex Adamico a Chr. 747), to Syriac (332 BC), Arabic (900 AD, via Syriac), Brahmanic, and Greek (1500 BC via Phoenician), Latin (714 BC, via Ionic), Coptic (700 AD, via Greek), Ethiopic (800 AD, via Coptic) and Slavic alphabets (700 AD, via Greek). On this table Bernard dates the introduction of vowel points into the Syriac alphabet via the Greek to 332 AD. The most remarkable feature of this table was probably that it codified a historical concept of writing and, particularly, of the Hebrew square script, while it fell short in some other respects in the eyes of learned contemporaries.

Figure 14.14
Figure 14.14

Facsimile copy of Kufic Qurʾan fragment by H. Ludolf, Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg Frankfurt am Main, Ms Ff.H.Ludolf II 32 Fasc. F Nr 1., fol. 9ᵛ

Figure 14.15
Figure 14.15

Facsimile copy of Maghribi Qurʾan fragment by H. Ludolf, Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg Frankfurt am Main; Ms Ff.H.Ludolf II 32 Fasc. F Nr 1., fol. 17ᵛ

On 22 January 1690, Ludolf sent Tentzel Bernard’s table with the remark that ‘Mr Bernard did not have, as I see, the Arabs’ ancient Kufic letters which are related to the Hebrew letters, as is apparent from the letter נ [nun]; nor the Maghribi [letters], and I do not know whether such types have ever been seen in print in Europe’.87 And indeed Bernard presented only one form of Arabic calligraphy, a simple naskh alphabet, the invention of which he ascribed to Ibn Muqla (‘Moclid’) in 900 AD.88 Ludolf, while writing his report for the library in Kassel, produced yet another specimen copy of the Kufic Qurʾan from Cairo and sent it to Edward Bernard in Oxford ‘although I doubt’ he writes ‘that you have not seen this before.’89 After Kassel, Groningen, and Frankfurt, this specimen is the fourth copy of the Kufic Qurʾan from Cairo we know of and is now preserved at the Royal Library in Copenhagen, under the Shelfmark Cod. Arab. Add. 1 (See Figures 14.16 and 14.17). It is a beautifully crafted gift, which consists of two folio pages of each fragment, and a title page, from which we learn that the present was sent to Bernard on 21 February 1690 as a token of Ludolf’s appreciation for the table of alphabets.90 It repeats the observation already made to Tentzel, and indicates possible uses that could be made of the Kufic script in order to better understand the development of oriental alphabets.

We here see the very same Hebrew and Samaritan נ [Nun], which, angular, later became rounded in this fashion ن. So that if anyone who wants to demonstrate the evolvement of letters of the literate world [orbis literarus] from the ancient Samaritan letters, should also indicate the progress of change of elements in each given nation, by which the mutation and derivation from the original become all the more evident.91

Figure 14.16
Figure 14.16

Ludolf's facsimile copy of Maghribi Qurʾan fragment for Edward Bernard in Oxford, Royal Library Copenhagen, Cod. Arab. Add. 1, fols. 2a–b

Figure 14.17
Figure 14.17

Ludolf's facsimile copy of Kufic Qurʾan fragment for Edward Bernard in Oxford, Royal Library Copenhagen, Cod. Arab. Add. 1, fols. 4a–b

Kufic, in other words, represents an intermediate stage between Samaritan and Hebrew on the one side, and Arabic naskh on the other, as can be illustrated with the letter nun, which is still angular in Kufic script.

Edward Bernard, it seems, was aware of the shortcomings of his chart: ‘My Arabic tables’, he writes in his response to Ludolf, ‘can satisfy neither myself, nor others. And I did not find the right place and time to change them, before publishing my Alphabetarium.’92 He seems, after all, to have been aware of the existence of Kufic script, and had possibly already seen the manuscript in John Greaves’ collection, which is also mentioned by other contemporary orientalists,93 as well as one of the two Kufic fragments in Golius’ possession. However, Bernard was probably unable to produce types of all the different letters of the Kufic alphabet in the way he did for other scripts and the way Thomas Hunt would do for the edition of 1759.94 Whether Ludolf had sent him a copy of the Kufic alphabet he had himself copied from Hottinger’s Kassel manuscript is unclear. He did, however, send one to the Breslau orientalist Andreas Acoluthus (1654–1704) who planned, at the time, to produce a polyglot Qurʾan edition in Arabic-Turkish-Persian-Latin and who has drawn up a Kufic alphabet ‘ex communicatione Dn. Jobi Ludolfi.’95 (See Figure 14.18). The alphabet corresponds exactly to the one in Ms Orient 4, and Acoluthus was right to comment that it ‘still suffers from many errors as I have found letters both in manuscripts and coins which do not appear here’.96 A much improved and complete Kufic alphabet was prepared for print just a few years later by the Swiss polymath Louis Bourguet (1678–1742). Bourguet worked on a critical history of the origin of writing (Histoire critique de l’origine des lettres) between 1701 and 1708, but never completed the book and only a manuscript draft is preserved at the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris.97 It is worth mentioning Bourguet’s work here, because he too criticised the shortcomings of Bernard’s tables with regard to the history of Arabic script. Even more astounding is the fact that he too, like Ludolf, complemented Bernard’s tables with Kufic and Maghribi script – copied again from the Kufic Qurʾan from Cairo and the Maghribi fragment from Tunis. Bourguet seems to have had access to a copy from which he made his own facsimile specimen,98 which was most certainly in Hottinger’s Nachlass in the possession of Hottinger’s son, Johann Heinrich the Younger (1647–1692) or the grandson of the same name (1681–1750) in Zurich.99 In other words, Bourguet’s Recueil des Alphabets et des caracteres de toutes les langues. Alphabets Orientaux at the BnF in Paris preserves the fifth partial copy of these fragments (see Figure 14.19).100

Figure 14.18
Figure 14.18

Kufic alphabet by Andreas Acoluthus, Sächsische Landesbibliothek – Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, Dresden, Ms Mscr. Dresd. Ea. 319

Photo by Paul Babinski
Figure 14.19
Figure 14.19

Louis Bourguet’s facsimile copy of Kufic Qurʾan fragment, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Nouvelle acquisitions françaises, Ms 891, fol.71ʳ

Photo by Paul Babinski

Using the Qurʾan in support of mass conversions of Turks during the Great Turkish War (1683–1699) as Ludolf had suggested in a letter to Tentzel, was not the only reason for seventeenth and early eighteenth-century European scholars to study the Qurʾan. The case of Hiob Ludolf shows that around 1690 the Qurʾan was used as an archive of linguistic, religious, cultural, and historical information for scholars interested in East Africa and the Orient. Moreover, material aspects of Qurʾanic manuscripts, and above all the scripts in which they were written, started to attract the attention of scholars. Old Kufic manuscripts played a prominent role in the many seventeenth- and eighteenth-century attempts to trace the development of oriental and western alphabets.

As such, these manuscripts were often carefully copied by European orientalists, and distributed among scholarly networks over space and time. The case discussed here presents a Protestant network of communication spanning the entire seventeenth century from Cairo to Switzerland, Germany and England. Through it were distributed these copies of a Kufic Qurʾan manuscript – together with keys and instructions on how to decipher them. This created a small community of experts, and enabled scholars within this community to read and to productively use these documents in scholarly, historical, and also theological debates.101

Seen as testimonies of early stages of the development of writing in the Near East, these manuscripts and the orientalist copies of them were also used to make inferences about the history of the Hebrew script, including the contested antiquity of diacritical signs. Around 1700 the intensity of the debate had somewhat abated, but while the opinion that the Hebrew script was a historical product had prevailed among many scholars, there were still numerous respectable defenders of its antiquity and divine origin. The famous Göttingen scholar Johann David Michaelis, for example, still defended the antiquity of the Hebrew vowel points in 1739 in his inaugural dissertation, presided over, and possibly written by, his father, the Halle professor Christian Benedict Michaelis.102 Louis Bourguet too was sceptical about Bernard’s attempt to deduce all alphabets from the Samaritan script, and about his claim that there had been an alphabet used before the time of Moses. He favoured the traditional narrative according to which the Hebrew square script, revealed to Moses, was the original alphabet from which all others were derived.103 But nor was the ‘Samaritan’ hypothesis, promoted by Walton, Bernard and others, a break with Biblical narrative according to which the art of writing was given to Adam as a fully fledged alphabet from which all subsequent alphabets were developed. In general Ludolf seems to have agreed with Bernard’s Samaritan hypothesis and his criticism was directed only at the gaps in his Arabic chart.

At the same time more innovative ways of thinking about this problem were possible too, as was the case with Wilhelm Ernst Tentzel who, after receiving Bernard’s chart from Ludolf, discussed the piece in his Monatliche Unterredungen.104 Tentzel’s reflections clearly question the mythological premises of the Biblical story and offer an alternative way of thinking about the origin of writing, anticipating arguments that dominated the famous discussions on the origin of language in the mid-eighteenth century.105 Criticizing the idea that writing started with one specific script and an almost complete set of letters, he highlighted the constant changing of writing from generation to generation, and even between individual writers. On this basis, Tentzel argues, it was impossible to claim that a script or alphabet such as the Samaritan one was the first and original one, because every script was subject to constant changes and developments.106 However, it was a fact that every nation and every tribe would claim their forefathers to be the inventor of writing. Finally, Tentzel also alludes to the idea that writing started from crude beginnings and became more refined, and that alphabets grew more complex over time, in lockstep with human development: ‘Since, however, in the following years the world has become wiser, they have added more letters’.107 The fact that the Qurʾan played a central role in this debate complicates the history of early modern European engagement with Islam and Muslim Scripture and shows that this went far beyond polemical or Islamophile approaches.


I am deeply indebted to Asaph Ben-Tov, who has meticulously corrected earlier drafts of this essay and helped me with the translation of Latin passages. I would also like to thank Paul Babinski, Alastair Hamilton, Simon Mills and Martin Mulsow for their comments and corrections. I gratefully acknowledge the support I received from the Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, the Forschungsbibliothek Gotha, the Universitätsbibliothek Kassel, the University of Groningen Library, and, particularly, the Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg, Frankfurt am Main. Research for this essay was undertaken within the framework of the project entitled ‘The European Qurʾan. Islamic Scripture in European Religion and Culture’ which has received funding from the European Research Council [ERC] Synergy Grant under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 810141). My work is also supported by the NYUAD Humanities Research Fellowship Program for the Study of the Arab World.


Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Allgemeiner politischer und historischer Briefwechsel (Darmstadt etc. 1923–), 14: 730: ‘Sikum (cujus quidem Evangelium Ifantiae Jesu apocryphum non vidi), propter ingenium, quod laudas, admiror. Si versionem Alcorani, utique difficilimam, in animo habet, vellem consilio meo uteretur.’ The reference is given by Alastair Hamilton, ‘Henry Sike (1668–1712), A German Orientalist in Holland and England’, in Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 84 (2021), 207–241.


See Alastair Hamilton, ‘A Lutheran Translator for the Quran. A Late Seventeenth – Century Quest’, in The Republic of Letters and the Levant, ed. A. Hamilton et al. (Leiden, 2005), pp. 197–221; ‘“To rescue the honour of the Germans”: Qurʾan translations by Eighteenth- and Early Nineteenth-century German Protestants’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 77 (2014), 173–209.


It was discovered by Paul Babinski and I in boxes of uncatalogued orientalist material at the Royal Library in Copenhagen, to which Eva-Maria Jansson had pointed us. Together with Alastair Hamilton we are preparing an edition of Anchersen’s transcription, which contains suras 1–2, and 50–114. Copenhagen, Det Kgl. Bibliotek (KB), Ms OrArch.


Johann Georg Nissel, Historia de Abrahamo, et de Gomorro-Sodomotica eversione ex Alcorano, ejusque Surata XIVta et XVta arabice. […] nec non commodioris interpretationis ergo triplici versione latina vestita (Leiden, 1655).


Matthias Friederich Beck Specimen arabicum, hoc est bina capitula Alcorani XXX. de Roma & XLIIX. de Victoria, e IV. Codicibus MSSS.: Arabice descripta, Latine versa, & notis animadversionibusque locupletata (Augsburg, 1688). See Alastair Hamilton, ‘A Lutheran Translator for the Qurʾan. A Late Seventeenth-Century Quest’ in The Republic of Letters and the Levant, ed. A Hamilton (Leiden, 2005), pp. 195–221; 203, and Asaph Ben-Tov, ‘Matthias Friedrich Beck’ in Christian-Muslim Relations 1500–1900, ed. D. Thomas. Consulted online on 25 November 2020 http://dx.doi.org.proxy.library.nyu.edu/10.1163/2451-9537_cmrii_COM_28949.


Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, Ms Q 660, see Florian Sobieroj, Islamische Handschriften. Teil 5: Thüringen (Stuttgart, 2001), p. xv.


Letter from Wilhelm Ernst Tentzel to Ludolf, 14 May 1688, FBG, Chart. B 202, Bl. 97ᵛ–98ʳ; 98ʳ. The translation has the title Vollständiges türckisches Gesetz-Buch, Oder, Des Ertz-betriegers Mahomets Alkoran: welcher vorhin nimmer volkommen heraus gegeben noch im Truck ausgefertiget worden (Hamburg, 1688). The translation was based on Jan Hendrik Glazemaker’s Dutch version of Du Ryer.


Alcorani textus universus ex correctioribus arabum exemplaribus summa fide […] descriptus (Padua, 1698).


‘Versio Alcorani literalis & genuina hac maxime tempestate ubi de Turcis convertendis tot in locis laboratur, necessaria valde foret & optat Pater meus.’ Letter from Karl Christian Ludolf to Wilhelm Ernst Tentzel, 18 May 1688. FBG, MS. Chart. B 202, fols. 565ʳ–566ᵛ. Ludolf senior was busy finishing work on his Commentarius, as he explains at the end of the letter, fol. 566ʳ, and therefore had his son Karl Christian take care of his correspondence. Ludolf’s Ad suam Historiam aethiopicam antehac editam commentarius appeared in Frankfurt am Main in 1691.


But without success. Michaelis’ Collegium Orientale was in effect not much more than a workshop for his edition of the Hebrew Bible. Ludolf’s hopes were realised two decades after his death with Johann Heinrich Callenberg’s Institutum Judaicum et Muhammedicum, founded in 1728. On the Collegium Orientale and Ludolf’s intervention see Otto Podczeck, ‘Die Arbeit am Alten Testament in Halle zur Zeit des Pietismus. Das Collegium Orientale theologicum A.H. Franckes’ Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Gesellschafts- und Sprachwissenschaften, VII/5, 1059–78. On Callenberg’s Institutum see Simon Mills ‘Johann Heinrich Callenberg’s Orient’, in The Power of the Dispersed: Early Modern Global Travelers beyond Integration, ed. C. Zwierlein (Leiden, 2021), 209–39.


Danz to Ludolf, 3 April 1690, Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg Frankfurt am Main (UB Frankfurt), Ms. Ff. H. Ludolf I, fol. 444. Danz sent him the printed specimen translation with this letter. See below.


Ludolf to Tentzel, 31 Dec. 1689, FBG, MS. Chart. B 202, fol. 174ʳ. ‘Itane Dantzius Alcoranum imprimi curat, me non monito. Ego certe omnium sententias & consilia libenter audio, mea nemini obtrudo gratissimum mihi foret, si opus jam coeptum est, ut mihi specimen unius vel alterius schedae quamvis rejectitiae, impetrares, promovebo venditionem, notam faciendo impressionem exteris amicis meis; Sin minus repete per amicum oblationem officiorum meorum. Non crediderim illum tam insanum esse, ut laudi suae aliquid decedere putet, si amicorum monita audiat; cum ego contra eam potius augeri putem.’


Ludolf to Tentzel, 14 January 16[90], FBG, Chart. B 202, fol. 175ʳ. ‘Vidi specimen Alcorani ex charta rejectitia, et si me consuluisset, suasissem ut versus numeraret prout in prima Surata fecit, et textui Arabico in margine apponeret, quod cum ad allegationes, tum ad Lexica apprimè utile fuisset. Versionem literalem cum brevibus notis omnes Arabismi studiosi praetulissent. Indicassem Suratas hic illic versas quae illi lumen afferre potuissent.’


The date does not appear on the few surviving copies, but it is commonly given as 1692, e.g. by Christian Friedrich von Schnurrer, Bibliotheca Arabica, 2nd. ed. (Halle, 1811), p. 410, no. 375. However, Danz sent Ludolf a Specimen Alcorani Arabico-Latini on 3 April 1690. This could of course have been an unprinted draft, but it seems to correspond to a claim by the otherwise well informed Tentzel in his Monatliche Unterredungen of 1692. There, p. 917, Tentzel discusses Danz’s plan soon to publish an entire translation of the Qurʾan and writes: ‘Und hat jener [i.e. Danz] allbereit das vor etlichen Jahren gedruckte Specimen nicht nur allenthalben in Europa, sondern auch gar im Orient herum geschicket.’ (my underline) ‘Vor etlichen Jahren’ might indeed indicate that it was even printed before 1690.


Monatliche Unterredungen (1692), p. 917.


Danz to Ludolf, 3 April 1690, UB Frankfurt, Ms. Ff. H. Ludolf I, fol. 444.


UB Frankfurt, Ms. Ff. H. Ludolf II 32 Fasc. A Nr. 4.


The Study Qurʾan, p. 18, offers the translation ‘a cloudburst from the sky’; cf. The Study Qurʾan. A New Translation and Commentary, ed. S.H. Nasr (New York, 2015).


Danz followed Golius’ lexicon, which gives arbor as a meaning for ثمرة. See Jacob Golius, Lexicon Arabico-Latinum (Leiden, 1653), col. 443.


L’Alcoran de Mahomet, Translaté d’Arabe en François. Par le Sieur Du Ryer, Sieur de la Garde Malezair (Paris, 1647). On this translation see Alastair Hamilton and Francis Richard, André du Ryer and Oriental Studies in Seventeenth-Century France (Oxford, London, 2004), ch. 4.


UB Frankfurt, Ms. Ff. H. Ludolf II 32 Fasc. A Nr. 4, p. 11.


Du Ryer, L’Alcoran, p. 8.


UB Frankfurt, Ms. Ff. H. Ludolf II 32 Fasc. A Nr. 4, p. 11.


Ibid., p. 9.


Golius, Lexicon Arabico-Latinum, col. 2696.


See above fn. 15.


Cf. Johann Michael Lange, Dissertatio Historico-Philologico-Theologica de speciminibus, conatibus variis atque novissimis successibus doctorum quorundam virorum in edendo Alcorano Arabico (Altdorf, 1704), p. 28. ‘Abruptioni, ut puto, occasionem dedit labor Hinckelmannianus, qui primus eousque emersit, ut totum Alcoranum Arabicum impressum sisteret orbi docto conspiciendum.’


Johann Dietrich Winckler, Sylloge anecdotorum varios virorum quondam celeberrimorom labores utilissimos, hactenus ineditos, historico – antiquarii et literarii argumenti, complexa (Leipzig, 1750), p. 298. This seems less likely though, as Danz had most probably been informed about Marracci’s plans some time earlier. Tentzel had already told Ludolf about it in 1688. See letter from Tentzel to Ludolf, 14 May 1688, FBG, MS Chart. B 202, Bl. 97ᵛ–98ʳ; 98ʳ.


See also Tentzel’s comments on the many failed attempts to print the Arabic Qurʾan in the seventeenth century: ‘So viel ich mercke … ist eine gemeine persuasion unter denen Leuten, als ob es Gott nicht haben wolte, daß der Alcoran Arabisch in Druck käme, deßwegen stürben die Leute, so ihn herauszugeben vornehmen, alle vor der Zeit hinweg.’ Monatliche Unterredungen (1692), p. 917.


The remark in Christian Muslim Relations that ‘the translation was not made from the Arabic original, but rather from André du Ryer’s French translation of these suras’ needs to be corrected. His own Latin translation does not follow Du Ryer’s. Cf. John Morrow, ’Johann Georg Nissel’, in Christian-Muslim Relations 1500–1900, general ed. David Thomas. Consulted online on 02 September 2020. <http://dx.doi.org.proxy.library.nyu.edu/10.1163/2451-9537_cmrii_COM_26718>.


Ms. Ff. H. Ludolf II 32 Fasc. A Nr. 1 (fol. 13ʳ, olim: sura 15, p. 9) (= Nissel, Historia de Abrahamo, p. 9).


See Edward Pococke, Specimen Historiae Arabum (Oxford, 1650), pp. 63–4.


In the edition by al-Resalah publishers in 24 vols. (Beirut, 2006) 22: 492 (https://www.australianislamiclibrary.org/tafsir-qurtubi.html).


Golius, Lexicon, col. 1144.


I am grateful to Alastair Hamilton for helping me solve this puzzle.


UB Frankfurt, Ms. Ff. H. Ludolf II 32 Fasc. A Nr. 2, p. 4; Beck, Specimen arabicum, p. 4, sura 30, v. 21, 23, 24.


UB Frankfurt, Ms. Ff. H. Ludolf II 32 Fasc. A Nr. 2, p. 9 (sura 30).


Correct in Du Ryer, L’Alcoran, p. 389: ‘Les meschans iureront au iour du jugement’.


UB Frankfurt, Ms. Ff. H. Ludolf II 32 Fasc. A Nr. 2, p. 2 (sura 30) The Hebrew transcription, however, is correct.


UB Frankfurt, Ms. Ff. H. Ludolf II 32 Fasc. A Nr. 2, p. 2 (sura 48). Beck, Specimen arabicum, p. 2.


Erpenius, Rudimenta linguae Arabicae (Leiden, 1620), sig. M7ᵛ.


Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, Ms Q 660, fol. 163ᵛ.


Occasionally, he indicates variants and explanations he found in Johann Heinrich Hottinger’s Promtuarium sive Bibliotheca Orientalis (Zurich, 1658), for example to sura 46 al-Aḥqāf, which Hottinger, on p. 126, translated as ‘Caput tumulorum arenosorum’ (The chapter of the sandy mounds). See Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, Ms Q 660, fol. 237ʳ.


In the Arabicae linguae tyrocinium, id est Thomae Erpenii Grammatica Arabica (Leiden, 1656).


Sura Yūsuf in the masterly edition Historia Josephi Patriarchae ex Alcorano (Leiden, 1617).


Christian Ravius, Prima tredecim partium Alcorani Arabico-Latini (Amsterdam, 1646), p. A2ᵛ.


Ludolf gives a wrong date, 1649 instead of 1647.


UB Frankfurt, Ms. Ff. H. Ludolf II 32 Fasc. A Nr. 3 (Suppl. to fol. 3/4).


For a survey of editions of the first sura see the dissertation delivered under the aegis of Johann Andreas Michael Nagel (1710–1788), professor of oriental languages at the University of Altdorf, Jacob Christoph Wilhelm Holste, Dissertatio inauguralis de prima alcorani sura (Altdorf, 1743).


Henningsen, Muhammedanus precans, id est Liber precationum Muhammedicarum Arabicus Manuscriptus (Schleswig, 1666), pp. 7f.


This commentary is now at the Bodleian (Oxford, Bodl.), Ms Marsh 210. See Alastair Hamilton, ‘The Qurʾan as Chrestomathy in Early Modern Europe’, in J. Loop, A. Hamilton and C. Burnett (eds), The Teaching and Learning of Arabic in Early Modern Europe (Leiden, 2017), p. 213–29; here 222f.


For example in the discussion of the meaning of שְׂלַו (selav, pl. selavim) in Exodus 16:13, usually translated as ‘quail’ but claimed by Ludolf to be locust. See the contribution by Ulrich Groetsch to this volume. Ludolf refers to sura 2, v. 57, and sura 7, v. 160, where the Qurʾan mentions salwā (سلوى). However, the passages and the interpretations, according to which salwā means ‘bird’ in general (see Bochart, Hierozoicon (London, 1663), 2: 92) gave no positive support for his theory. Nevertheless they were still useful: ‘If this word would be used in Arabic to mean ‘quail’, they would have acknowledged this; they could easily have brought forward the very familiar synonym سمان summān.’ (‘aliter locutus fuisset, si vocabulum hoc in linguâ Arabicâ pro coturnice usitatum, & ab eo intellectum fuisset; quippe Synonymum ejus tritissimum Sumana facilè proferre potuisset.’) Ludolf, Commentarius, p. 171.


In his Historia aethiopica, L III, c.1, Ludolf argues that the tradition of circumcision among Muslims is not taken from the Jews, and that Muhammad nowhere mentions circumcision in the Qurʾan – an indication that he already knew the Qurʾan well at the time of the composition of the Historia. In his Commentarius, pp. 359–60, he discusses the Qurʾanic concept of purgatory, with reference to sura 7, v. 46.


See Commentarius, p. 234, where Ludolf discusses the atrocities of the Yemeni king Dhū Nuwās (‘Dunawasus’). He quotes and translates sura 85, v. 4–7, which is traditionally interpreted as a reference to Dhū Nuwās’s killing of Christians. Ludolf remarks that the verses are an illustrative example of the ‘Rhythmi Muhammedis’, i.e. rhyming prose.


The short passages also show the many pitfalls which the Qurʾanic text had for the translator and Ludolf was not immune to making mistakes. The translation of sura 7 v. 46, in the Commentarius, p. 360, for example, is immaculate, as are most verses of sura 85 on p. 234. However, why Ludolf translated the verbal noun quʿūdun قعود)) in verse 6 as ‘conspirantes’ is unclear. The rather simple sentence ‘when they sat by [the fire]’ becomes in Ludolf’s translation ‘Cum illi essent super eo [quasi] conspirantes’ (‘as they were conspiring against him’).


I have discussed this manuscript and its origin in detail in my Johann Heinrich Hottinger. Arabic and Islamic Studies in the Seventeenth Century (Oxford, 2013).


Vadiana Library, St. Gallen (VadSlg), Ms 387.


See Loop, Johann Heinrich Hottinger, pp. 122ff.


Among them were Ulrich Jasper Seetzen and Jean-Joseph Marcel. See François Déroche, La transmission écrite du Coran dans les débuts de l’islam. Le codex Parisino-petropolitanus (Leiden, 2009), pp. 8–15.


Golius owned two Kufic manuscripts, see Arabicae Linguae Tyrocinium (Leiden, 1656), p. 183. They are referenced in his auction catalogue, Catalogus insignium in omni facultate, linguisque, arabica, persica, turcica, chinensi &c. librorum Mss. (Leiden, 1696), p. 23 (n. 1) and p. 25, no. 31. The first one, it seems, was bought by Narcissus Marsh, through Edward Bernard, at the Golius auction in 1696, and is today’s Bodleian MS Marsh 178. See Estelle Whelan, ‘Writing the Word of God: Some Early Qurʾan Manuscripts and their Milieux, Part I’, Ars Orientalis 20 (1990), p. 113–47, p. 127, fn. 32. The second one is perhaps the one mentioned by Hottinger in the Promtuarium, p. 105 of which he had received a copy from Golius (‘Vidi aliud, forma minori, in aedibus Celeb. D. Golii, qui & ἀποσπασματίου, quod habeo, copiam mihi fecit.’). A copy of this copy can be found in Burguet’s Recueil des Alphabets et des caracteres de toutes les langues. Alphabets Orientaux, BnF, NAF Ms 891, p. 70. See below.


University Library Groningen, Ms. 468. This copy also contains a transcription and translation of part of the Kufic text.


See below, p. 389 the comments by Andreas Acoluthus.


See the inscription Universitätsbibliothek Kassel, Ms orient 4, fol. 145.


UB Frankfurt, Ms. Ff. H. Ludolf II 32 Fasc. F Nr. 1 (fol. 18ᵛ).


Under the shelfmark Ms orient Anhang 31.


Under the shelfmark Ms Ff.H.Ludolf II 32 Fasc. F Nr 1.


UB Kassel, Ms orient Anhang 31, fols. 2ʳᵛ.


In his Specimen, p. 158.


‘Libellus iste, seu potius libri cujusdam fragmentum, characteribus Arabicis antiquissimis, quos Moramerus invenit, scriptus est. Ii teste Pocokio* in librorum titulis, et lapidibus (alii ajunt autem in nummis) adhuc conspiciuntur. His literis Alcoranus primum conscriptus fuit, duraverunt fere trecentis post Muhammedem annis, donec sensim mutarentur, et in elegantiorem literarum formam flecterentur, quas hodie in vulgaribus libris Arabicis tam Msstis quam impressis videmus.’ Kassel UB, Ms orient Anhang 31, fol. 5ʳ.


‘Specimen aliquot ex initio, medio et fine Libri desumta vulgaribus characteribus Arabicis descripta, versione Latina addita hic dabimus, ex quibus studiosus lector non solum de scriptura ipsa, sed et de ipso libro in universum judicare potest.’ Ibid., fol. 2ᵛ.


‘Continet enim pericopas integras et ipsissima verba Alcorani, quem Musulmanni haud secus ac librum coelitus demissum, vel divinitus inspiratum venerantur.’ Ibid., fol. 2ᵛ.


The following is only in the Frankfurt draft.


The Study Qurʾan, p. 320.


The Study Qurʾan, p. 319.


This verse is only in the Frankfurt draft.


See Loop, Hottinger, p. 123. On the Kufic manuscripts in European collections at the time see Jacob Georg Christian Adler, Descriptio codicum quorundam cuficorum (Altona, 1780), p. 23, n. 47.


UB Kassel, Ms orient 4, p. 184.


British Library, Marsden Collection B 6/8. I owe the reference and the images to Martin Mulsow and Toon van Hal.


Why Ludolf did not compare these with the Arabic Qurʾan to which he referred in his annotations to the specimens (see above), or revert to Du Ryer’s translation as a guide here, is a mystery.


‘Sed linguae peritum esse oportet eum, qui talia legere velit, Cufica praesertim, quae plane rudia sunt scripturae Arabicae rudimenta, nullae ibi notae orthographicae, quas supra ex Mauritana scriptura depinximus. Nisi quod punctum viride modo Hamza modo Gesma denotare videatur, et linea inter [Alif] et [Lam] connexionem indicet. Loco punctorum diacriticorum hic parvas adhibent lineolas […] quibus aliquot Consonantes distinguuntur, figura alioquin inter se non dissimiles, quod valde incommodum est in hac lingua. Pro vocalibus adhibent tria puncta rubra, quae ex situ valorem suum accipiunt. Etenim supra positum denotat A vel E, infra i in medio O vel U. duo in fine terminationem casuum in On. An. & in. significant, idque Grammatici Nunnationem vocant.’ UB Kassel, Ms Orient Anhang 31, fol. 6ᵛ.


See Loop, Hottinger, p. 123.


See Loop, Hottinger, p. 129. See now for a more nuanced discussion of the vowel points controversy, Timothy Twining, ‘The Early Modern Debate Over the Age of the Hebrew Vowel Points: Biblical Criticism and Hebrew Scholarship in the Confessional Republic of Letters’ in Journal of the History of Ideas 81, 3 (2020), 337–58.


‘Scripsi Tibi nuper antiquissima Alcorani exemplaria punctis vocalibus fuisse destituta. Retracto nunc et candide παλινωδίαν cano. Iubet id antiquissimum illud ἀποσπασμάτιον, ante septingentos minimum annos scriptum, et Cufico charactere, ne millesimo Arabi intelligibile, exaratum, quod haec ipsa septimana ad me Sangallo misit amplissimus D. Consul Schobingerus, ut de sensu nonnihil laborarem eruendo. Erui Cl. D. et deprehendi jam tam puncta vocalia Alcorani primis exemplaribus adscripta, id cur D. Golius negavit jam mirari incipio. Etsi enim non eadem sit hodiernorum punctorum et antiquorum illorum Cuficorum figura, certum tamen est neque Cuficis sua defuisse puncta. Mitto ejus rei specimen accuratissime expressum. Videbis apices et punctula illa rufa, alia superne (a et o) alia inferne (i notantia) scripta, adeo ut Herculeum illud quod D. Cappel uti solet hoc in re argumentum, plane corruat’ Hottinger to Buxtorf, 22 December [!] 1645, Basel Universitätsbibliothek, Ms G I 58, fol. 101. See Loop, Hottinger, p. 128.


For a recent comparative study of the histrory of vocalisation in Semitic scripts see Nick Posegay, Points of Contact. The Shared Intellectual Tradition of History of Voclisation in Syriac, Arabic, and Hebrew (Cambridge, 2021).


He copied from the Maghribi part of UB Kassel, Ms Orient 4, fols. 1 and 2 (= sura 5, v. 82) and fols. 9 and 10 (= sura 5, v. 90). From the Kufic part he copied Ms Orient 4, fol. 146 (= sura 42, v. 15b, i.e. the beginning of the Kufic part of the Kassel manuscript) and fols. 152 (6) – 154 (1) (= sura 42, v. 22).


See Simon Mills, A Commerce of Knowledge. Trade, Religion, and Scholarship between England and the Ottoman Empire, 1600–1760 (Oxford, 2020), p. 127.


Edward Bernard, Orbis eruditi literatura à charactere Samaritico deducta (Oxford, 1689).


‘Non habuit, ut video, Dn Bernardus literas Cuficas Arabum primaev[a]s, et Hebraicis affines, ut ex litera נ constat; neq[ue] etiam Mauretanas, ac nescio an unquam typis editae in Europa visae fuerint.’ Ludolf to Tentzel, 22. January 1690, FBG, Chart. B 202, 177ᵛ.


The story of Ibn Muqla’s ‘invention’ of the naskh script around 900 AD is often repeated among early modern Arabists, and was probably transmitted via Ibn Khallikān. In this narrative, Ibn Muqla is credited with ‘refining’ the old Kufic alphabet and introducing the naskh-script that is still used today. See Pococke, Specimen, p. 163 and my Hottinger, p. 194.


Oxford, Bodl., MS Smith 5, fols. 167ʳ–ᵛ. I would like to thank Simon Mills for providing me with a copy of this letter.


Copenhagen, KB, Cod. Arab. Add. 1 fol. 1ʳ.


‘Hic apparet ipsissimum נ Hebraeum & Samaritanum quod postmodum ex angulari rotundum factum est hoc modo ن. Ut si quis derivationem characterum Orbis literati a primaevis Samaritanis ostendere velit, simul etiam progressum mutationis Elementorum in qualibet natione indicare debeat, quo mutatio et derivatio a prima origine eo magis elucescat’ Copenhagen, KB, MS Cod. Arab. Add. 1. On Ludolf’s concept of language and linguistic change see Toon van Hal’s contribution below.


‘Quippe tabulae nostrae Arabica nec mihi nec satis aliis facere possunt: quanquam ipse nec locum commodum nec tempus immutandi illa offendi, dum Alphabetarium meum ederem.’ The letter is preserved partly thanks to a transcript in the Monatliche Unterredungen (1690), p. 1081.


John Greaves’ Kufic manuscript is mentioned by Pococke, Specimen Historiae Arabum, p. 158 and by Hottinger, Bibliothecarius Quadripartitus (Zurich, 1664), p. 32. “in fol. Alcoranus accurate scriptus à 500 minimum annis. Pars Alcorani maximis characteribus. Tituli capitum exarati sunt scriptura Cufensi, contextus Algeriensi.” See also Toomer, Eastern Wisedome and Learning, p. 178, for Bernard’s acquaintance with the Greaves estate. The Kufic alphabet was added to the third edition of Bernard’s table, edited by Charles Morton in 1759 (a second edition was edited by John Owen in 1700). The Kufic alphabet was provided by the Laudian Professor of Arabic, Thomas Hunt.


‘Cufica etiam tua laeto pectore amplector, & ad nummos Siculos, Africanos & Asianos Saracenorum principum conferre gestio; ac praecipue cum scheda una atque altera Alcorani, uncialibus litteris punctorumque omnium puris, Johannis Graevii praedecessoris nostri, tam in Oxonia, quam apud Hagam Comitum, inter Codices Colianos [Golianos] comparare.’ (‘I embrace your Kufica with a joyful heart, and I look forward to comparing them to Sicilian, African and Asian coins of Saracen princes, and particularly to comparing them to one or other Qurʾan leaves, completely free from small letters and points, either in Oxford from our predecessor John Greaves, or in The Hague, among the Golius manuscripts.). Monatliche Unterredungen (1690), pp. 1080f.


On Acoluthus work on the Qurʾan See Hamilton, ‘To Rescue the Honour of the Germans’, pp. 177–80. The Kufic alphabet was discovered by Paul Babinski at the Sächsische Landesbibliothek – Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, MS Mscr. Dresd. Ea. 319.


Paul Babinski, World Literature in Practice: The Orientalist’s Manuscript Between the Ottoman Empire and Germany. Unpublished Dissertation, Princeton 2020, p. 320f.


Bourguet apparently gave the project up after the publication of Bernard de Montfaucon’s Palaeographia Graeca, sive de ortu et progressu literarum graecarum (Paris, 1708). Based on some indications in the manuscript – e.g. a reference to Bourguet’s stay in Rome in 1707 and 1708 (p. 8) – the manuscript must have been written shortly after his return in 1708. Paris, BnF, NAF Ms 891, as Recueil des Alphabets et des caracteres de toutes les langues. Alphabets Orientaux. I owe this reference to Paul Babinski.


‘Le fragment qui suit est tiré de la copie écrite par Hottinger et c’est le commencement de la 43. Surate de l’Alcoran.’ Paris, BnF, NAF Ms 891, fols. 72ff.


Loop, Hottinger, 137. It is of course possible that this copy was the one that is now in Groningen.


It is most certainly in Hottinger’s Nachlass that Bourguet also found another specimen copy of a Kufic Qurʾan fragment, which was once given to Hottinger by Golius. Bourguet copied a page of this one too. See above, fn. 70. I was not able to match this fragment with any of the known Kufic fragments of the time, so the original was probably the one mentioned in Golius’ Catalogus insignium in omni facultate (Leiden, 1696), p. 23 (n. 1).


Scholars excluded from such networks had a disadvantage, as can be demonstrated with the case of the French Catholic orientalist Etienne Fourmont (1683–1745), professor of Arabic at the College de France since 1715. Having never seen a Kufic (Qurʾan) manuscript, he was unable to read or identify the leaves of a Kufic Qurʾan fragment that were sent to him from Copenhagen in the 1730ies. I will be discussing this story in more detail elsewhere. For now see François Déroche, ‘De Fourmond à Reinaud, les péripéties de l’identification des plus anciens manuscrits du Coran’ in Comptes rendus des séances de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 143 (1999), 563–576.


Christian Benedict Michaelis (praeses) and Johann David Michaelis (respondens), Dissertatio inauguralis de punctorum hebraeorum antiquitate (Halle, 1739).


‘On est [?] generalement persuadé que les lettres Ebraiques? sont les premieres de toutes. Mais comme il en est de deux sortes, l’une qu’on nomme simplement Judaique, et l’autre qui est appellée Samaritaine, parce que le Pentateuque des Samaritains est écrit en ces caracteres; on dispute laquelle des deux doit l’emporter d’ancieneté sur l’autre. Les sentimens sont fort partagez; & comme je crois que ce sont les quarrées Judaiques, je commencerait de renger mon Recueil par celles là reservant les preuves pour un autre endroit.’ Paris, BnF, NAF Ms 891, fol. 1.


Monatliche Unterredungen (1690), 277ff.


See Avi Lifschitz, Language and Enlightenment: The Berlin Debates of the Eighteenth Century (Oxford, 2012).


‘… weil die Samaritanische so wol als die andern alle variiret und nach und nach geändert worden.’ Monatliche Unterredungen (1690), 279.


‘Als aber in folgenden Jahren die Welt klüger worden / hat man mehr Buchstaben hinzugesetzt’. Monatliche Unterredungen (1690), 280.

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Hiob Ludolf and Johann Michael Wansleben

Oriental Studies, Politics, and History between Gotha and Africa, 1650-1700

Series:  The History of Oriental Studies, Volume: 15


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