Al-Jabarti, Ajaib al-athar fi l-tarajim wa-l-akhbar (The Marvelous Chronicles: Biographies and Events). Edited by SHMUEL MOREH. Max Schloessinger Memorial Series, Texts, vol. 9. 5 vols. Jerusalem: HEBREW UNIVERSITY, 2013. Pp. 2,780. $525.
Al-Jabarti's history of Egypt, a chronicle that covers the eighteenth century, the French expedition of Napoleon (1798-1801), and the early years of the reign of Muhammad Ali (1805-1848), up to 1821, is better known to scholars than most other Arabic historical works. It not only exists in a number of scholarly and non-scholarly editions, the work was also translated into French by Gaston Wiet and Abd al-Rahman Zaki in 1954 and into English by Moshe Perlmann and Thomas Philipp in 1994.
A new critical edition by Shmuel Moreh has now been published. Moreh has spent many years studying al-Jabarti and his works, and already has a number of publications about both al-Jabarti and his chronicle, Ajaib al-athar. The present edition includes a twenty-five-page introduction in Arabic and an introduction in English, to which has been appended an article on al-Jabarti published by David Ayalon written in 1960, "The Historian al-Jabarti and His Background." The introduction provides details about how al-Jabarti composed his chronicle, indicating that the first two volumes were based on the texts of earlier historians and the last two volumes, which cover events contemporary to the author's own lifetime, were based on his observations, as well as on the manuscripts of some of his contemporaries and colleagues, namely, al-Muradi and al-Zabidl.
As noted, al-Jabarti's chronicle is probably the most published of Arabic historical chronicles and, certainly, the most published history of Ottoman Egypt. It is therefore appropriate to ask what a new edition of this work adds to what already exists? There are three answers. First, while previous editions have also been based on the Bulaq edition of 1880, Moreh has integrated some other manuscripts into his edition, including a particularly important one preserved in the Cambridge University Library that has an autograph by the author. Moreover, Moreh collated it with a number of other manuscripts of the Aja ib, paying particular attention to the manuscripts that had been copied under al-Jabarti's own supervision. Al-Jabarti checked these copies himself, writing his corrections in the margins. Although the new additions that this edition brings may not drastically change what we...