Book of Curiosities


In June 2002, the Bodleian Library acquired a unique manuscript of a hitherto unknown Arabic cosmographical treatise, the Kitāb Gharāʾib al-funūn wa-mulaḥ al-ʿuyūn, loosely translated as 'The Book of Curiosities of the Sciences and Marvels for the Eyes'. The manuscript is a copy, probably made in Egypt in the late 12th or early 13th century, of an anonymous work compiled in Egypt between 1020 and 1050. It is extraordinarily important for the history of science, especially for astronomy and cartography, and contains an unparalleled series of diagrams of the heavens and maps of the earth.

The acquisition of the Book of Curiosities was made possible by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and generous donations from the National Arts Collections Fund, the Friends of the Bodleian, Saudi Aramco, several Oxford colleges, and private individuals.

These grants and donations, along with the Arts & Humanities Research Council, also funded the project to prepare a full study of the treatise, including an edition of the Arabic text and English translation, and to disseminate the results as widely as possible through the internet, exhibitions, and an outreach programme. The newly established Khalili Research Centre for the Art & Material Culture of the Middle East provided a home for the execution of the project.

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