Al-Buni’s Shams al-Ma‘arif al-Kubra

ink, gold and opaque watercolour on English paper, watermarked J. Whatman 1847; burgundy leather binding with flap, with recessed medallions decorated in gold and blue; gold-tooled green leather doublures

text copied in maghribi script, with 20 or 21 lines to the page

folios; 24.8 x 19.9cm

This is the final volume of a two- or three-volume set of
 Abu’l-‘Abbas Ahmad ibn ‘Ali ibn Yusuf al-Buni’s Shams al-Ma‘arif al-Kubra, the longest version of his well-known compendium of magic. The treatise comprises 40 chapters dealing with the magical use of numbers and magic squares, and the occult properties of certain Qur’anic verses and the Asma’ al-Husna (‘The Ninety-nice Names of God’). It contains numerous descriptions of amulets and talismans, with prescriptions for their manufacture. The present copy contains only the last two chapters of the work: chapter 39 – the longest  in the treatise – on the Asma’ al-Husna, and chapter 40, which is related to prayers and invocations. This is followed by an appendix (khatimah) giving various chains of authorities for scholars in relevant areas of expertise such as the magical uses of letter-numerals (‘ilm al-huruf). Among the numerous well-drawn diagrams in this manuscript is an illustration to a discussion of one of the ‘Ninety-nine Names’ – al-‘alim (‘The Omniscient’; folio 54a).

In the long colophon (folios 220b–221a), the scribe writes that the present copy was written for Mawlana Hasan ibn Amir al-Mu’minin Mawlana Muhammad ibn Amir al-Mu’minin Mawlana ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Amir al-Mu’minin Mawlana Hisham ibn Amir al-Mu’minin Mawlana Muhammad ibn Amir al-Mu’minin Mawlana ‘Abdallah ibn Amir al-Mu’minin Mawlana Isma‘il, that is, for the future Sultan of Morocco, Hasan I (r 1873–1895).

F. Maddison & E. Savage-Smith, Science, Tools & Magic, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, volume XII, Part One, London 1997, cat.20, pp.64–5.

J.M. Rogers, The Arts of Islam. Masterpieces from the Khalili Collection, London 2010, cat.274, pp.238–9.