Sylvester of Antioch’s Arabic Books Printed in 1747 at Bucharest

Recent Findings

In: Scrinium
Ioana Feodorov Senior Researcher, Institute for South-East European Studies of the Romanian Academy Bucharest Romania
Principal Investigator, TYPARABIC Project, Institute for South-East European Studies, Romanian Academy Bucharest Romania

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This article presents the new findings connected to several Arabic books that have been discovered by TYPARABIC team members in libraries around the world, where they were catalogued in insufficient or inaccurate detail, which has led to their being kept hidden from scrutiny until now. Projects of reediting and translating these Arabic books, to allow their study by a larger academic community, are also presented herewith. One of these books is of utmost importance for the discussions that will take place in 2024, when 300 years from the split in the Church of Antioch will be commemorated through conferences and volumes of collected works.

In the Corpus list that the ERC-funded TYPARABIC project team has been surveying since July 1, 2021 (, the Arabic books printed at Iași and Beirut by the Patriarch Sylvester of Antioch occupy several boxes. For Iași, we knew about Kitāb al-Qundāq / The Divine Liturgies, a reedition, in 1745, of the Arabic text in the Book of the Divine Liturgies of Snagov, 1701;1 Kitāb qaḍā al-ḥaqq wa-naql al-ṣidq / Book of the Rule of Justice and the Transmission of Truth by Nectarius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem (Fig. 1), bound together with the Risāla muḫtaṣara fī l-radd ʿalā ʿadam ġalaṭ bābāwāt Rūmiyā / Brief Epistle against the Popes’ Infallibility by Eustratios Argentis, printed in 1746 (Fig. 2); and the Kitāb al-ʿašā al-Rabbānī / Book of the Divine Supper of 1747. If the first two were known to us from a few available copies, the third only came to our attention recently. Another book mentioned in a few sources from a century ago seemed to have a legendary aura, as no copy was known to exist: the Acts of the Synods convened at Constantinople concerning the Catholics’ Advent among the Antiochian Christians, presumably also printed in Iași. As for patriarch Sylvester’s preoccupation with printing Arabic books in Wallachia and Moldavia, the most reliable information we have found comes from the correspondence of the patriarch’s secretary, deacon Mūsā Nawfal Ṭrābulsī, with various friends and acquaintances, starting in 1732.2 This unique manuscript contains clear indications that the patriarch, unhappy with the wear of the first Arabic type that he had used in Iași and unable to secure new type in Moldavia, brought from Syria a group of capable monks who settled at the monastery of Saint Spyridon in Bucharest, the metokion granted to him by the prince of Wallachia, Constantin Mavrocordat.

Figure 1
Figure 1

Nectarius of Jerusalem, Book of the Rule of Justice and the Transmission of Truth, Iași, 1746 (B.A.R.)

Citation: Scrinium 19, 1 (2023) ; 10.1163/18177565-bja10086

Figure 2
Figure 2

Eustratios Argentis, Brief Epistle against the Pope’s Infallibility, Iași, 1746 (B.A.R.)

Citation: Scrinium 19, 1 (2023) ; 10.1163/18177565-bja10086

From the information I collected for my book Arabic Printing for the Christians in Ottoman Lands. The East-European Connection, which was recently published in Open Access by De Gruyter, I concluded that this Arabic type was not used in Bucharest, but travelled to Syria and then Beirut, where Yūsuf Mark, one of the patriarch’s disciples, printed a few books after 1750. I described all these books in my work, including one, the Arabic Akathist (Fig. 3), which, missing the title page and colophon, could have been printed anywhere, but was probably also printed by care of patriarch Sylvester.3

Figure 3
Figure 3

Arabic Akathist, [Bucharest?], [1747?]

Citation: Scrinium 19, 1 (2023) ; 10.1163/18177565-bja10086

Documentary testimonies contemporary to Patriarch Sylvester’s travels to the Romanian Principalities state that he was there from 1745 to 1747 and then travelled to Bucharest.4 An echo of his Moldavian journeys is also present in a letter addressed to Mūsā Ṭrābulsī on April 13, 1747, from Izmir, by the Beirut-born Dimitrios Ṣabbāġ, who asked if the rumor that the patriarch had left for Moldavia was true.5 Indeed, in 1747, Sylvester headed to Bucharest in Wallachia. There is a note in a local chronicle that he celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the great church of Urziceni and pronounced a prayer against the locusts.6 While reporting on the rule of Constantin Mavrocordat, Constantin (Kesarios) Dapontes mentions that the Patriarch Sylvester came to Bucharest from Moldavia and the prince, out of his great love for him, dedicated the Monastery of Saint Spyridon to the Patriarchate of Antioch.7 The decision to leave Iași for Bucharest was supported by the welcoming attitude shown to the Syrian patriarch by Mavrocordat, who was one of the most enlightened and educated Phanar-born princes who ruled the Romanian Principalities.8

Yūsuf Mark reached Bucharest in 1747 and stayed until 1750, nearly three years. Upon his arrival, he found Sylvester at the Monastery of Saint Spyridon busy making Arabic type.9 Yūsuf informed his friend Mūsā that he would stay on at Saint Spyridon after the patriarch left for Constantinople,10 as the monastery had recently been granted as a metokion to the Patriarchate of Antioch.

An explanation for the fact that early in 1747 Patriarch Sylvester’s printing activity in Iași ceased for good is suggested in several letters: the Arabic type used there was completely worn out after printing several books in large print runs. According to a report from Mūsā to Yūsuf Mark on November 21, 1747, the typographer Ğirğīs Abū Šaʿr, well rewarded both by the Patriarch and his lordship the prince Mavrocordat, had cast lead types for a new Arabic set, but they were larger than the ones used in the first books. This Ğirğīs, who could be a Greek – Giorgios – well-versed in Greek printing, did not do a good job carving Arabic type. The patriarch was not satisfied with this new font, so he left to look for Arabic type in Constantinople. There, since 1729, Ibrahim Müteferrika had been printing Turkish scientific books on geography, grammar, and state policy, in Arabic type. By 1743, he had printed seventeen titles, each in 500 to 1,000 copies. That year, he retired from the workshop,11 but the printing activity did not stop. Therefore, Sylvester may have thought that he could find Arabic type in Constantinople. Once acquired, it would have been taken away from the center of the Sultan’s authority, eliminating the threat of conspiracy accusations. It is not unlikely that even the Arabic type used in Iași had been secured from the Ottoman capital.

In spring 1747, Yūsuf Mark writes to Mūsā that he is preparing to cast Arabic type so the press would be ready to work after Easter. He was doing his best so it would turn out as well as possible, hoping the press would later be installed in a safe place where it could work unhindered.12 The task given him by Sylvester was to assimilate as much knowledge as possible from the Wallachian printers to become capable of installing an Arabic press in Syria, like the one established by the Patriarch Athanasios III Dabbās at Aleppo. Before leaving Bucharest, Sylvester entrusted the direction of the press to Yūsuf Mark. In several letters of 1748, Yūsuf informs Mūsā that the Patriarch finished his affairs in ‘these countries’ (i.e., the Romanian Principalities) and his lordship Grigore Bey (i.e., prince Grigore Ghica) would see him before leaving, on the third day after the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God (August 18).13

An additional point is the presence at the Monastery of Saint Spyridon in Bucharest of the hieromonk Mīḫā’īl of Kūrat al-Ḏahab, who had been a young apprentice in Dabbās’s printing press. Mūsā states that patriarch Sylvester strongly insisted on his return to Bucharest, where he had worked in Antim the Iberian’s press around 1700.

While the TYPARABIC team already had access to good reproductions of most titles in the project corpus, several books attributed to Sylvester of Antioch were missing from our collection. After my work received the imprimatur, two wonderful events occurred that enabled me to return to topics already addressed there. They say that “chance favors the prepared mind”, a phrase attributed to the 19th-century bacteriologist Louis Pasteur. While convinced that many of my colleagues on the TYPARABIC team are prepared for major discoveries, this time, I have to acknowledge the contributions of Samuel Noble and Radu Dipratu. Thanks to them, we have already acquired high-resolution reproductions of the newly found books, which will help advance the research of the entire team.

The first is a Psalter printed in 1747 at Bucharest in Arabic in 253 pages (Fig. 4). It contains only text printed in Arabic type, a portrait of David the King and Prophet (Fig. 5), a few pages with frontispieces, and several ornamental elements derived both from Romanian and Western European models. Archim. Polycarp Chițulescu, an expert in early printing and director of the Library of the Holy Synod in Bucharest, has already identified the same woodblock in three books printed in Wallachia (Fig. 6). This research will be continued by him together with the art historians of our team, who will compare all the ornamental elements of the Bucharest Psalter with those of other presses.

Figure 4
Figure 4

Book of the Psalms, Bucharest, 1747 (Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Yale University)

Citation: Scrinium 19, 1 (2023) ; 10.1163/18177565-bja10086

Figure 5
Figure 5

David the King and Prophet, Book of the Psalms, Bucharest, 1747 (id.)

Citation: Scrinium 19, 1 (2023) ; 10.1163/18177565-bja10086

Figure 6
Figure 6

Psalter, Târgoviște (Wallachia), 1710 (B.A.R.)

Citation: Scrinium 19, 1 (2023) ; 10.1163/18177565-bja10086

Bought at an auction, this Book of Psalms ended up in the Beinecke Library of Yale University. According to a stamp inside the cover, it reached the Rare Book Room on May 26, 1961. Samuel Noble, who carefully surveyed the catalog descriptions of the early printed Arabic books held at Yale as part of his tasks for the project, pointed this record out to me and allowed me to reconsider my earlier findings. Mihai Țipău is currently researching the complicated journey of this Psalter until it reached the Beinecke Library.

Last year, while conducting research in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, I did my utmost to locate all the books that were mentioned by the well-known French scholar and bibliophile Baron Antoine Isaac Silvestre de Sacy (1758–1838). De Sacy held many offices, such as ‘Président de la Société Asiatique’ and ‘Conservateur des manuscrits orientaux de la Bibliothèque Royale’. In 1811, among other tasks, he was in charge of the royal press. De Sacy examined the Book of the Divine Liturgies of 1701 (Snagov) and the Horologion of 1702 (Bucharest) in the Royal Library of Paris.14 The Horologion was described by Silvestre de Sacy in Magasin encyclopédique15 and then by Émile Picot.16 De Sacy then received from the French consul in Syria two books printed at Aleppo by Athanasios Dabbās: The Gospel (1706) and the Book of Prophecies (1708).17 He wrote on July 30, 1811, to Théodore Ledoulx, the French vice-consul in Bucharest, asking him to inquire what Arabic books were printed there by Athanasios Dabbās and Sylvester of Antioch.18 He informed him that he had received from the French consul in Aleppo, Jean-François Xavier Rousseau,19 a Psalter printed by Sylvester and dated 1747. Although described in Bibliothèque de M. le Baron Sylvestre de Sacy, a catalog published after his death, this book is no longer in the BnF. De Sacy wrote to Ledoulx that he did not understand the Syrian patriarch’s purpose in printing Arabic books in the Romanian Principalities. He expressed his opinion about Sylvester’s probable reason for printing in Arabic in Wallachia and Moldavia as follows:

Undoubtedly, there are in Wallachia and Moldavia enough Christians who speak Arabic and do not use Greek in their Liturgy at all, if the patriarch thought it necessary to print exclusively Arabic-language books for their enrichment and their children’s education.20

Ledoulx replied to him on February 12, 1812, after he consulted Ignatios, the metropolitan of Wallachia,21 who gave him some information to which he added his own comments: There are no speakers of Arabic in Wallachia; there never was an Arabic press there supported by the government; there are monasteries that are metokia of Eastern Churches, Jerusalem and Antioch, where patriarchs of these churches sometimes reside; the patriarch Sylvester resided in one of them and, to alleviate the absence of Arabic printed books in his eparchy, and do something that would undoubtedly have brought him a lot of money, he secured Arabic type from “Dadone or Mome”, and opened a press in “his” monastery. He then distributed the printed books across the Levant. In Ledoulx’s opinion, de Sacy’s Psalter belonged to that production.22

Consequently, some historians developed the opinion that the Monastery of Snagov had started printing Arabic books again in the mid-18th century. However, Ledoulx was undoubtedly referring to the workshop set up at the Monastery of Saint Spyridon in Bucharest, which, as a metokion of the Patriarchate of Antioch, could be called “Sylvester’s monastery.”

A copy of the Psalter that Sylvestre de Sacy owned was also known to Ulrich Jasper Seetzen, a German physician and scientist who journeyed across Syria, Palestine, and Yemen in 1803 to 1811.23 In his list of acquisitions from Aleppo, Seetzen mentions three books printed in Beirut, which he connects to the press of Ḫinšāra or Shuwayr, on Mount Lebanon. According to him, the latter was active for a brief time and, under the direction of the bishop of the non-united Greeks (Bischof der nicht-unirten Griechen), printed a Greek Catholic [sic] Horologion (which he names Breviarium), a “Kundák, ein Missale”, and the Psalms in two editions. He declares that of all these books, he only succeeded in acquiring a copy of the first edition of the Psalter.24

Christian Friedrich von Schnurrer (1742–1822), chancellor of the University of Tübingen, a theologian, Oriental scholar, and historian of early printing, gives in his annotated catalogue Bibliotheca Arabica of 1811 an excerpt of the title page of a Psalter printed at Bucharest in 1747.25 The copy he describes, most likely available to him later than Seetzen’s notes, belonged to Sylvestre de Sacy, who had stated that this was the only existing copy in Europe (“exemplar hoc Bucharesto ad me missum, unicum esse in Europa …”).26 This book was later in the possession of the French scholar and bibliophile Émile Picot, who mentions it in his “Notice biographique et bibliographique sur l’imprimeur Anthime d’Ivir” (Paris, 1886).27

The Yale librarians added to this book an extract from a source that is inadequately indicated. It is itself a rare book: The Typographical Gazetteer is a collection of texts published by the Rev. Henry Cotton (1789–1879) at the Clarendon Press in Oxford in 1825. This book contains a list of editions of the Bible and parts of it in English. Cotton, who was, “sublibrarian of the Bodleian Library and student at Christ Church, Oxford”, read Schnurrer and offered in the entry about Bucharest some information gleaned by him from the preface of the Psalter of 1747: “According to Schnurrer, The Book of Psalms in Arabic was executed here in the year 1747, with a preface by Sylvester, then patriarch of Antioch, who states there that, with a view of instructing the Christian youths in the knowledge of the holy scriptures, he established a printing-shop at Bucharest, at which he had begun by printing Missals and such sort of books, from which he had proceeded to this edition of the Psalter, promising to go on with other publications as time and opportunity might serve.”28

As I was only aware of the Beirut Psalter printed in 1752 (Fig. 7), my thinking was that while at the Monastery of Saint Spyridon in Bucharest, Sylvester had the title page of the Arabic Psalter typeset as a trial for the newly-cast Arabic type, and that he did not proceed with the printing of the Psalms, which were only later printed in Beirut, with the year ‘1752’ mentioned on the last page (Fig. 8). I also mentioned cautiously that “a de visu examination of the intriguing copy held at the Beinecke Library is mandatory for a clear understanding of patriarch Sylvester’s printing activities at the Monastery of Saint Spyridon in Bucharest.”29 It turns out that in 1752 a second edition of Sylvester’s Psalter was printed in Beirut. Indeed, the Syrian historian ‘Īsā Iskandar al-Maʿlūf mentioned in 1911 that he had seen a Psalter at the Patriarchal Monastery of Mār Elias Šuwayya in Lebanon with the first page dated earlier.30 Aware of Patriarch Sylvester’s presence in the capital of Moldavia in 1747, al-Maʿlūf expressed his opinion that he had printed the Psalter in Iași. I can now positively assert that two editions of the Psalter were printed under the care of Sylvester of Antioch: one in Bucharest, in 1747, clearly dated and presented as such, and another one printed in Beirut in 1752. We now have access to a unique copy of the first one, held by the Beinecke Library at Yale, and a copy of the second, held by the Uppsala University Library, which I described in detail in previously published works.31

Figure 7
Figure 7

Psalter, Beirut, 1752, title page (Library of the University of Uppsala)

Citation: Scrinium 19, 1 (2023) ; 10.1163/18177565-bja10086

Figure 8
Figure 8

Last page, Psalter, Beirut, 1752 (id.)

Citation: Scrinium 19, 1 (2023) ; 10.1163/18177565-bja10086

The second discovery was made by Radu Dipratu, whose eagerness and enthusiasm for the research for the TYPARABIC project is exceptional. This is a unique exemplar of a book conventionally known as Aʿmāl al-mağmaʿayn al-kanīsiyayn al-munʿaqidayn fī-l-Qusṭanṭīniyya bi-šaʾn ẓuhūr al-kāṯūlik bayna ṣufūf al-masīḥiyyīn al-anṭākiyyīn, i.e., Acts of the Two Church Synods Convened at Constantinople concerning the Advent of the Catholics amidst the Antiochian Christians, printed in 1747, presumably at Iași (Fig. 9). On this work, we had very little information.32 I explained in my book that “This book, which is enigmatic, presumably contains the Acts of the Synod of Constantinople convened by Patriarch Jeremiah III in 1723, and of those of the Synod of 1727, presided over by Patriarch Paisios.”33 The few details available came from Assad Rustum who, in his work Kanīsat madīnat Allāh ʾAnṭākiya al-ʿUẓmā, reproduced a few of the closing pages.34 At the time I was writing about this book, I knew of no surviving copy. I now have precise information on this outstanding work of Patriarch Sylvester. Before I do, I shall briefly address the circumstances of his printing activities – and the reasons they were so important to him and his Orthodox flock.

Figure 9
Figure 9

Patriarch Sylvester of Antioch, Acts of the Two Church Synods held in Constantinople, București (Bucharest), 1747, first page

Citation: Scrinium 19, 1 (2023) ; 10.1163/18177565-bja10086

In 1724, a Greek Catholic Melkite Church separated from the body of the Church of Antioch and All the East. Although its connections with Rome remained close, its rites and rituals did not depart from their Byzantine roots. While preserving the Greek rite and Arabic-language liturgy, they took over exclusively the name “Melkite” in their title: the Melkite Greek Catholic Church of Antioch.35 Derived from the Syriac word melek, “emperor”, up until 1724, the name “Melkite” had referred to all the Chalcedonian Christians, who had adopted the decisions of the Fourth Ecumenical Council convened in 451 by the Roman emperor Marcian. When the new Greek Catholic Melkite Church of Antioch emerged, a tough dialogue, often devoid of brotherly love, commenced between the two Churches of Antioch and their scholars. After the dust settled on the Antiochian Churches of Ottoman Syria, Arabic presses became one of the grounds where the battle was fought between followers and opponents of the union with Rome. We also need to remember that in 1745, patriarch Sylvester faced a direct threat from a competitor who strove to obtain his deposition and to occupy the throne of the Church of Antioch: Seraphim Tanas, later Patriarch Cyril VI, who was appointed instead of him for a very brief time. Incidentally, the period from 1745 to 1747, when Sylvester printed Arabic books in Moldavia and then in Wallachia, was the time he faced the strongest opposition at home. Among other strategic moves, Sylvester was determined to use the most up-to-date weapons to fight the Catholic advance in Syria: printed books containing Arabic translations of well-known Greek polemical works and other equally convincing texts.

This book contains a composite and rare miscellany. For our book currently in preparation for the same EAPE series of De Gruyter, Yulia Petrova and I have done a rapid overview and translation of its contents. The colophon clearly states that the book was “Newly printed in the [God]-protected city of Bucharest in the year 1747 of the Christian era”. As this book is very important for historical research, especially given the commemoration of the 1724 schism in the Church of Antioch, a complete reedition of the Arabic text and English annotated translation is already under way, as a task of another TYPARABIC team member. Also, its complete bibliographical description will be included by Archim. Polycarp Chițulescu in the comprehensive catalog of the project corpus that he is preparing.

I will only mention en passant that the pages that give the place and year of publication provide important information on the printers and typesetters: they were different for the two books, the name of the city of Bucharest – București – is spelled differently in the two colophons, with the consonants in the wrong order.

The name of the capital of Wallachia has five consonants, much too much for the classical Arabic standard of three, and it was transferred differently to Arabic – phonetically and graphically – by applying the rules of loanword treatment in Arabic. Then, the typesetters, definitely Arabic-speaking, did their best to set the letters right – and failed. This type of comment will be developed in their philological research by other members of the TYPARABIC project team.

The preface also gives the date and circumstances for the printing of this book: “If you find letters that are not accurately connected, correct them, for they are old and were carved by a person who did not know Arabic. But, by the grace of the Almighty God, we have recently cast new type and soon, God willing, will accurately print with them a lot of books.” This could mean that the Acts were the last book printed with the type manufactured by Ğirğīs Abū Šaʿr, which Sylvester disliked. Apparently, Ğirğīs worked in the press of Bucharest, which is another new piece of information, as previously it seemed that he had worked in Iași. Another clue is that the type is visibly worn out and left a poor imprint on the page, which explains Sylvester’s determination to find new fonts.

In the opening pages, patriarch Sylvester informs the Orthodox faithful who “were eager to know the true situation concerning the schismatics that had recently separated from our Orthodox Church”. Based on the Holy Scriptures, the acts of the ecumenical councils, the Orthodox Church Fathers’ exegesis, and that of eminent Western Holy Fathers, the two councils of 1725 and 1727 found that “the schismatics had disobeyed the Church canons and defied the councils’ decisions”, i.e., the seven Ecumenical Councils. Sylvester clearly expresses his purpose when compiling this collection: “I urge all the Orthodox Christians who are my spiritual sons, by the Lord’s word, to listen neither to the sophistic teachings of those schismatics, nor to their twisted words. Let not your hearts and minds turn towards them, lest you perish in soul and body”. Beside the Acts of the councils of Constantinople, Sylvester mentions the names of the persons declared anathema, excommunicated, and “cut off from the Church of Christ in this earthly life and the age to come” because they are “followers of the error of the false teachers who come in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravening wolves” (according to Matt. 7:15).

The book is divided into three sections. The first starts with an official address to the Orthodox Christians at the synod of Constantinople of 1723, translated from Greek into Arabic. It confirms the truth of the Holy Fathers’ teachings at the seven holy synods of old and the need to reject the errors recently introduced in the Orthodox Church by heretics, starting with the claim of the pope’s primacy. The text is an abridged version of the Greek act adopted by the synod of 1723, convened during the office of Patriarch Athanasios III Dabbās, who was struggling to keep the Church of Antioch together, faced with the strong actions of the union-inclined faithful of his diocese, who were encouraged by the Catholic missionaries of Damascus and Aleppo. This part is followed by five texts that explain the Catholics’ doctrinal errors, rejecting the five “innovations” or “inventions” (Ar. mustaḥdiṯāt) introduced by the Latin Church into the Christian dogma. They address the pope’s primacy, the descent of the Holy Spirit, the leavened and unleavened bread, Purgatory, and the beatitude of saints in Heaven.

The second section contains the Acts of the synod of Constantinople of 1727, composed as a kind of Orthodox constitution, Dustūr:

A concise exposition of the commandments of the Holy Eastern Apostolic Catholic [i.e., Orthodox] Church of God, namely, the Orthodox Christians’ creed and their Orthodox faith, flawless and exempt from error, as the Eastern Church of Christ believes. It is the canonical duty of all Christians who are children of the Eastern Church, at all time, to embrace it, believe and confess it as it is written here, without adding or removing anything.

Sixteen chapters follow, and a final note that these are the decisions recorded after the synod of 1727, when Paisios was the patriarch of Constantinople. Composed in the first person, it is declared as signed and stamped by all the participants to the synod, whose names and rank are then recorded in a long list.

The third section encloses texts issued at the end of the synod of Constantinople in 1725, during the office of Patriarch Jeremiah. They begin with a report on the state of the Church of Antioch after the death of Patriarch Athanasios III, reporting on the sojourn of metropolitan Gerasimos in Aleppo before Sylvester was confirmed by the Ecumenical patriarch. Then, metropolitan Timothy of Hama was handed a copy of the Orthodox creed, to be given to all the priests when ordained. The Orthodox creed and catechism, and the Catholics’ errors, are then explained once more, on eleven pages. Sylvester of Antioch signed and stamped this text, alongside the higher clergy, and posted it in the Maryamiya church in Damascus. The synod handed Sylvester a sinodikon signed by the patriarch Jeremiah and addressed to all the clergy and faithful of the Church of Antioch, to prevent their being mislead by heretics. The 40-page long text of this sinodikon then follows. It records, at the end, the names of numerous heretics, among them Abdallāh Zākher, the Greek-Catholic monk who printed Latin translations and polemical works in his press at the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Shuwayr (Khenchara, Mount Lebanon). Then, the names of the ratifying clergy are listed on two pages.

This work contains carefully selected texts to be used as a handbook to support the rightful leadership of the patriarch Sylvester over the Church of Antioch and help the opposition to the Catholic teachings. The selection is most certainly due to patriarch Sylvester, who struggled for many years to keep his patriarchal see and bring relief to a divided Christian community living within Muslim society. The endeavor to build a defense wall against the claims and accusations of the Greek-Catholics is clear in the structure of this unusual miscellany. It is practically a showcase of the society and social turmoil during Sylvester’s office.

Hopefully, other copies of this book will be located in time, as its description in catalogs is often inaccurate. I have met with fragments of this book, which I recognize now in the complete version that I have access to. Several pages used for reinforcing the binding of a manuscript are conserved in a Romanian monastery. They are obviously waste from block prints left unbound in a local press, but the content does not resemble any of the books we knew from the Iași press. We know now that they came from unbound volumes of the Acts of the Two Church Synods held in Constantinople printed at Bucharest in 1747.

Recently, we also gained access to a rare copy of the last book printed by Patriarch Sylvester in Iași, in 1747: Fī l-ʿašā al-Rabbāni / The Lord’s Supper, that is, Book Three, Peri chrēseōs tou mystēriou, of the Syntagma kata ton azymon by Eustratios Argentis. The Greek original was published at Leipzig only later, in 1760. This is an in-4o book that contains a preface of twelve pages and the main text in 228 pages. Its printing was completed in February 1747, as the last book of Iași, information confirmed by Mūsā Ṭrābulsī’s letters. The Arabic version was prepared based on a Greek manuscript copy by Masʿad Nashw, one of the most diligent translators of Sylvester’s team, active between 1740 and 1785.36

I also met with a copy of this book without knowing it. One page was inserted as an illustration, inaccurately dated 1737, in a travel book about Lebanon published in Beirut in 1969.37 The author must have had a copy at hand, preserved in the family library.

Another discovery was made by my colleague Mihai Țipău, who came across a fragment of a book sold at an auction that proved to be Kitāb muḫtasar al-sawāʿī / The Abridged Book of the Hours, Beirut, 1751. From the title page we learn that this book was “printed under the care of our spiritual father the shaykh Yūnus Niqūlā, our respected wakīl,38 in the well-protected city of Beirut in the year 1751 of the Christian era.” The book is badly damaged, as if saved from a fire, and misses many pages, including pp. 38–176. The last page that was accessible for viewing is numbered 368 but is it not the closing page. Considering that a standard Book of the Hours can hold more than 700 pages, what is left of this book probably comprises only half of the original text. Remarkably, the few ornamental elements are similar to the ones that decorate the books printed in the Romanian Principalities by Antim the Iberian and, in 1706–1711 at Aleppo, by Athanasios Dabbās. In the absence of a complete copy of this book, no conclusions can be drawn, other than that Ulrich Jasper Seetzen’s assertion that an Arabic Horologion was printed in Lebanon was correct, with the amendment that it was not printed by Greek Catholics at Khenchara, as he thought, but by Rūm Orthodox, at the monastery of Saint George in Beirut.39

The recent findings that I have presented above allowed me to draw a list of Patriarch Sylvester’s printed books, richer than any previous records. At this point, we are aware of ten books successively printed in Iași, Bucharest, and Beirut, thus:



1. Kitāb al-Qundāq / The Divine Liturgies, a reedition of the Arabic text in the Book of the Divine Liturgies of Snagov, 1701.


2. Patriarch Nektarios of Jerusalem, Kitāb qaḍā al-ḥaqq wa-naql al-ṣidq / Book of the Rule of Justice and the Transmission of Truth.

3. Eustratios Argentis, Risāla muḫtaṣara fī l-radd ʿalā ʿadam ġalaṭ bābāwāt Rūmiyā / Brief Epistle against the Popes’ Infallibility.


4. Eustratios Argentis, Kitāb al-ʿašā al-Rabbānī / Book of the Lord’s Supper, the Third Part of Sintagma kata azymon.



5. Kitāb al-Zabūr al-Šarīf / The Holy Book of the Psalms.

6. Aʿmāl al-mağmaʿayn al-kanīsiyayn al-munʿaqidayn fī-l-Qusṭanṭīniyya bi-šaʾn ẓuhūr al-kāṯūlik bayna ṣufūf al-masīḥiyyīn al-ʾanṭākiyyīn / Acts of the Two Church Synods Convened at Constantinople concerning the Advent of the Catholics among the Antiochian Christians.

7. Tartīb ḫidmat al-madīḥ allaḏī lā yağibu al-ğulūs fī-hi / Order of the Service of the Hymn [of the Akathist] during which it is not Allowed to Sit.



8. Kitāb muḫtasar al-sawāʿī / Abridged Book of the Hours


9. Kitāb al-Zabūr al-Šarīf / The Holy Book of the Psalms

10. Kitāb Al-Qaddāsāt al-ṯalāṯa al-ilāhiyya / Book of the Three Divine Liturgies

Noticeably, all these are rare books, with only one or two copies of certain titles available worldwide, which makes them rarities and collectibles, and, as such, liable to be concealed from academic research. Unless private bibliophiles become interested in finding more about their prized possessions, some of Sylvesters of Antioch’s Arabic printed books may never resurface, to the detriment of historical studies – and the cultural history of Greater Syria under the Ottomans.

To conclude, there are three points that I tried to make in this contribution.

We have located copies of two Arabic books that were unquestionably printed in Bucharest in 1747. Soon, the Acts of the Two Church Synods Convened at Constantinople will be reedited with an English translation preceded by an introductory study by one of our team members. This work is of utmost importance for the history of the first decades after the 1724 split in the Church of Antioch, considering that Patriarch Sylvester included here church documents and comments on all the doctrinal elements that opposed Orthodoxy and Catholicism in Ottoman Syria.

Two presses worked in Bucharest with Arabic type in the 18th century, one in 1702, the other in 1747. A new press was thus added to the map of Arabic-type printing presses in Europe: the one at the monastery of Saint Spyridon in Bucharest, whose production we can estimate at three books, for the time being. Therefore, the map that I included in my book should be improved so as to look like the one below (Fig. 10).

Figure 10
Figure 10

Arabic-type presses in Moldavia and Wallachia, 18th century

Citation: Scrinium 19, 1 (2023) ; 10.1163/18177565-bja10086

I am today the herald of this important breakthrough that would not have been possible without the wholehearted research of several TYPARABIC team members, whose names I mentioned above. This is only an early announcement of newly collected information. For the time being, I have only connected the dots. The TYPARABIC team continues to work on describing and commenting on this important corpus of Christian Arabic printed books, whose role in the advancement of the Christian communities living under Ottoman rule cannot be ignored.

This research is part of a project that has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant Agreement No. 883219-AdG-2019 – Project TYPARABIC).


The only copy I have seen is contained in a manuscript codex, MS 15 in the library of the Monastery of Balamand (Lebanon), which was scanned and is accessible on the Virtual HMML database.


See Ioana Feodorov, Arabic Printing for the Christians in Ottoman Lands. The East-European Connection (EAPE-1), Berlin-Boston, De Gruyter, 2023.


For a description of this book, see Feodorov, Arabic Printing for the Christians in Ottoman Lands, pp. 304–307, Fig. 54–60.


See Feodorov, Arabic Printing for the Christians in Ottoman Lands, pp. 199–205.


Rachid Haddad, “La correspondance de Ṭrābulsī, secrétaire du Patriarche d’Antioche Sylvestre de Chypre”, in Pierre Canivet and Jean-Paul Rey-Coquais (eds.), Mémorial Monseigneur Joseph Nasrallah, Damascus, 2006, pp. 282–283.


Gabriel Ștrempel, Catalogul manuscriselor românești, t. II, Bucharest, 1983, p. 104.


Kaisários Dapontes / Chesarie Daponte, Katalogos historikos tōn kath’ hēmas chrēmatisantōn episēmōn Rōmaiōn/Catalogul istoric al oamenilor însemnaţi din secolul al XVIII-lea din care majoritatea au trăit în Valahia și Țara Românească, ed. and transl. Constantin Erbiceanu, in Cronicari greci cariĭ au scris despre români în epoca fanariotă, Bucharest, 1888, pp. 183–184.


The chroniclers of the time maintained that “he loved learning and corresponding with people from all foreign countries”, cf. Enaki Kogălniceanu, Letopisețul Țerei Moldovei, in Cronicele României, ed. Mihail Kogălniceanu, t. III, Bucharest, 1874, p. 203.


Letter to Mūsā Ṭrābulsī dated November 21, 1747 (f. 21r).


In the beginning of October 1748 (ff. 38r–v).


He retired because of health issues and died two years later, in 1745.


MS no. 9/22, ff. 20r–v.


This information is presented in an excerpt of a letter dated July 29, 1748 (f. 20r).


Feodorov, Arabic Printing for the Christians in Ottoman Lands, pp. 143–162, 255–262, Fig. 11–13, 17–19.


Silvestre de Sacy, [Note], in Magasin encyclopédique, Paris, t. I, 1814, pp. 198–201.


Émile Picot, “Notice biographique et bibliographique sur l’imprimeur Anthime d’Ivir, Métropolitain de Valachie”, in Bibliothēkē Historikōn Meletōn, Athens, 1972, 54, pp. 541–544, no. 21 (1st ed., Nouveaux Mélanges Orientaux, Paris, 1886).


As discussed in de Sacy, Magasin encyclopédique, p. 201, and Picot, “Notice biographique et bibliographique sur l’imprimeur Anthime d’Ivir”, pp. 515–560.


This correspondence is preserved in a large folder of letters belonging to Silvestre de Sacy at the Institut de France in Paris, in de Sacy’s archive (MS NS 377, with a catalogue, Correspondance et papiers divers de Silvestre de Sacy, II).


On the two generations of scholars and diplomats in the Rousseau family, see: [Jean- Baptiste Louis Jacques Rousseau], Éloge historique de feu Jean-François-Xavier Rousseau, ancien consul-général de France à Bagdad et Bassora, Mort à Alep le 12 Mai 1808, Précédé de quelques détails curieux et intéressans sur le voyage de son père à la cour de Perse, au commencement du dix-huitième siècle, [Paris], 1810; Henri Dehérain, “Jean-François Rousseau, agent de la Compagnie des Indes, consul et orientaliste (1738–1808)”, Journal des savants, August–October 1927, pp. 355–370; Ulrich Jasper Seetzen, Tagebücher, 2. Tagebuch des Aufenthalts in Aleppo 1803–1805, ed. by Judith Zepter, with Carsten Walbiner and Michael Brauner, Hildesheim, 2011, especially pp. 198, 253, 305–306; Serge A. Frantsouzoff, “Les vieux livres imprimés en écriture arabe dans la collection des Rousseau, père et fils, conservée à Saint-Pétersbourg”, in Ioana Feodorov, Bernard Heyberger and Samuel Noble (eds.), Arabic Christianity between the Ottoman Levant and Eastern Europe, Leiden and Boston, 2021, pp. 251–285.


MS NS 377, Correspondance et papiers divers de Silvestre de Sacy, no. 196, letter dated July 30, 1811, sent from Paris to “Mr. Ledoulx, vice consul de France en Valachie à Bucharest.”


Elected on January 15, 1810, installed on May 5, Ignatios the Greek was patriarch until August 10, 1812. He reformed the Princely Academy during the rule of Ioan Gheorghe Caragea, requesting the assistance of acknowledged scholars of the time.


MS NS 377, Correspondance et papiers divers de Silvestre de Sacy, no. 197.


Born in 1767, Seetzen travelled extensively in Syria and Palestine, where he learned Arabic, became familiar with the Arab way of life, and was the first to make a scientific survey of the Dead Sea. He did not return to Germany and died in Yemen in 1811. See Ulrich Jasper Seetzen’s Reisen durch Syrien, Palästina, Phonicien, die Transjordan-Lander, Arabia Petraea und Unter-Aegypten, edited and commented by Professor Dr. Fr. Kruse, Berlin, 1854–1859, 4 vols.; Carsten Walbiner, Ulrich Jasper Seetzen [in Aleppo (1803–1805)], in Neil Cooke and Vanessa Daubney (eds.), Every Traveler Needs a Compass. Travel and Collecting in Egypt and the Near East, Oxford, 2015, pp. 197–204.


Ulrich Jasper Seetzen, “Nachricht von den in der Levante befindlichen Buchdruckereyen von U.J. Seetzen in Haleb 1805”, Intelligenzblatt der Jenaischen Allgem. Literatur-Zeitung, 1805, 76, col. 648.


Christianus Friedericus von Schnurrer, Bibliotheca arabica, Halle, 1811, on pp. 515a)–517a) and p. 522 of the Addenda, recorded as Liber Psalmorum Davidis CL una cum 10 Canticis. Prima editio facta in urbe Buccuresch, anno Christi MDCCXLVII. Quart. min. [in 4o]. […] Sylvester misericordia Dei summi Patriarcha Antiochiae omnisque Orientis. Schnurrer transcribed part of the Arabic foreword and translated it into Latin.


Daonou (ed.), Bibliothèque de M. le Baron Silvestre de Sacy, t. I, 1842, p. XLIXLII and 289.


Picot, “Notice biographique et bibliographique sur l’imprimeur Anthime d’Ivir”, p. 544.


Rev. Henry Cotton, The Typographical Gazetteer, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1825, p. 23.


Feodorov, Arabic Printing for the Christians in Ottoman Lands, p. 249.


ʿĪsā ʾIskandar al-Maʿlūf, “Maṭbāʿa rūmāniyya al-urṯūḏuksiyya al-ʿarabiyya al-anṭākiyya”, Al-Niʿma, 1911, 3, p. 55.


Ioana Feodorov, “New Data on the Early Arabic Printing in the Levant and Its Connections to the Romanian Presses”, Revue des études sud-est européennes, 56, 2018, 1–4, pp. 197–233.


Al-Maʿlūf, “Maṭbaʿa rūmāniyya al-urṯūḏuksiyya al-ʿarabiyya al-anṭākiyyā”, p. 56.


Feodorov, Arabic Printing for the Christians in Ottoman Lands, p. 62.


Assad Rustum, Kanīsat madīnat Allāh ʾAnṭākiya al-ʿUẓmā, Beirut, vol. III, 1928, pp. 146–148.


For the history of the ‘Melkites’, in their various Churches and communities, see Ignace Dick, Les Melkites Grecs-Orthodoxes et Grecs-Catholiques des Patriarcats d’Antioche, d’Alexandrie et de Jérusalem, Turnhout, 1994; “Melkitische Kirche” and “Melkitischen Mönchtum”, in Hubert Kaufhold (ed.), Kleines Lexikon des Christlichen Orients, Wiesbaden, 2007, pp. 346–351.


The Greek original exists only in a couple of manuscripts. Cf. Timothy Ware, Eustratios Argenti: A Study of the Greek Church under Turkish Rule. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964, pp. 56–57.


Samia Kfouri Nassar, Connaissance du Liban, Beyrouth : L’Association pour la Protection des Sites et Anciennes Demeures, 1969, p. 98.


Probably, epitropos.


Feodorov, Arabic Printing for the Christians in Ottoman Lands, p. 248.

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