dated 16 dhu’l-Qa‘dah 828 (24 September 1425)
black and red ink on paper; burgundy leather binding of a later date
copied in naskh script, 21 lines to the page; with numerous diagrams
121 folios; 26 x 17.6cm
Abu’l-‘Abbas al-Buni (d 622 AH/1225 AD) was the author of works on magic, with a strong concentration on ‘magic squares’, grammatology (‘ilm al-huruf) and onomancy (‘ilm al-asma’). These were much reproduced in later Islam, from the Maghrib to Central Asia.
The treatise consists of six sections (fasls) of which the first five constitute a general introduction to the magical uses of the 99 names of God, the al-asma’ al-husna. The sixth concerns specific talismans employing the divine names, individual verses of the Qur’an and their talismanic use, and a general discussion of magical alphabets. It presents magic squares and talismanic diagrams efficacious in a variety of situations, such as assuring safety on board ship, victory in battle, averting plague, controlling fever, quelling the crying of children and preventing epileptic seizures.
F. Maddison & E. Savage-Smith, Science, Tools & Magic, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, volume XII, Part One, London 1997, cat.22, pp.66 and 68–9. J.M. Rogers, The Arts of Islam. Masterpieces from the Khalili Collection, London 2010, cat.202, pp.170–71.