Epistles of the Brethren of Purity. On the Natural Sciences An Arabic Critical Edition and English Translation of EPISTLES 15-21 By Carmela Baffioni, ed. and trans. (Oxford: Oxford University Press in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2013. 969 pages.)

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Sajjad Rizvi



One does not need to repeat the oft-stated observation that editing and translating
the epistles of the Brethren of Purity (Ikhwan al-Safa’) will greatly enhance
our understanding of the pre-Avicennan period’s intellectual history of
the philosophical sciences. Carmela Baffioni, senior research fellow at the Institute
of Ismaili Studies, which sponsors this project, is a leading specialist
on the Brethren, having spent an illustrious career at Naples – twenty-five
items in the bibliography constitute her major contributions, alongside the editions
and translations she has contributed to this series. She has already edited
and translated the epistles on logic in an earlier volume of this series – those
epistles come immediately before the seven that are published here (out of
the seventeen epistles that comprise the second section on the natural sciences)
and are the culmination of the first section on the mathematical sciences. The
volume immediately after on epistle 22 on animals has been published many
times and is arguably one of the most famous of the Epistles: The Case of the
Animals versus Man before the King of the Jinns (published in this series in
the translation of Lenn Goodman and Richard MacGregor).
With this highly useful and impressive volume, she has made a major
contribution. This large volume (around 1,000 pages of English and Arabic)
comprises a foreword by Nader el-Bizri (the project’s general editor); an ...

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