About this manuscript
Aḥmad ibn Ṭwayr (or Uṭwayr) al-Janna (ca 1787-1848/9) was born in Wādān, in today’s Mauritania, and died there too. His fame is based on the travelogue, The Journey of Hope and Blessings, for which this manuscript seems to have been a draft version. Although a large part corresponds with the full text of later versions, the end of the text in this manuscript consists of notes. (See lesson "Mouvance", a fair draft.) That Or. 14.050 is not a finished work is also clear from its physical aspect. Considering the two together – the text and its carrier – brings one close to Ibn Ṭwayr in the process of composing his book.
Most of the text is written on bifolia of paper produced in the
Islamic world (it has no watermark nor chain lines). Sheets of paper
were often sold folded and these particular ones may have been sold as
quadrifolia (height 450 mm, width 350 mm) that were folded twice. The
last three quadrifolia of this manuscript have been written on, but they have remained uncut.
suggests that the rest of the text was also written before the sheets
were cut into bifolia. That was not common practice in the Arabic
tradition. And in the Islamic bookmaking tradition in Africa books were
not bound at all, but single sheets were held together between covers of
leather or carton, which were tied with a leather string, or kept
inside a leather portfolio.
It is possible that he learned to write on undivided folios from European examples in North Africa. And he may have considered it a good way to reduce the risk of losing sheets of paper, especially while
travelling. But working this way, Ibn Ṭwayr made a few mistakes, writing text in a wrong section of the sheet, for instance on f 7v.
The bifolia and quadrifolia of Or. 14.050 have all been pierced with one hole in the middle of the fold. One hole would not have worked for binding. Apparently, the sheets were only strung together provisionally, for the time of the journey.
J.P. Gumbert, ‘Skins, Sheets and Quires’ in Derek Pearsall, New Directions in Later Medieval Manuscript Studies, York, 2000, pp 81-91. Avalaible online via Leiden University Libraries. And here is an incomplete version of the article.
Margaret M. Smith, ‘Imposition in manuscripts: Evidence for the use of sense-sequence copying in a new fragment’ in Linda L. Brownrigg (ed.), Making the Medieval Book: Techniques of Production, Oxford 1992. pp 145-155.
J.J. Witkam, Inventory of the Oriental Manuscripts of the Library of Leiden University, Vol 15.
Why did the scribe of this manuscript cut most pages, but not the last ones? What reason can you think of why the manuscript was left in this state?
Make a model of a quadrifolium and number the eight sections as in the pictures above. Then go the manuscript in the viewer and consider the mistaken placement of text that should have been on f8verso in space number 4 of your model. Does this indicate that writing was done according to sense-sequence or page-sequence?
Look at the catchwords (custodes, taʿ qibāt) written on the bottom of some of the folios. At what stage in producing the manuscript do you think they were written?