Ms. nº 4764 (S.A. 2609), Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (Blochet, 1925)

This manuscript was the source for Cherbonneau’s translation of extracts from Abū ’l-Khayr’s treatise (which he erroneously attributed to Ibn al-Ḥusayn), as Pérès confirms in his introduction to that work: “His manuscript was acquired by the National Library in Paris, being no. 4764 in the Catalogue Blochet. We have identified it thanks to a signed letter of Cherbonneau, dated 2nd May 1854 and pasted to the first folio”. See an English translation of Cherbonneau’s extracts here

This is a miscellaneous work in clear maghrebi script, though faulty on occasion. It has 17 lines per folio throughout the work and has numerous marginal notes in a different handwriting to that in the text, though few from the copyist himself. The titles of the different sections are usually highlighted with different coloured ink and a thicker stroke.

The name of the only copyist of this manuscript is revealed at the end (fol. 179v) as Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al-Maghribī al Fāsī, along with the date of the copy: 28 of Ramaḍan, 1038 / May 22, 1629.

In reference to the content, folios 1v to 47r contain a work attributed to Abū ‘Abd Allāh Muḥammad b. al-Ḥusayn entitled Al-Mukhtār min mustaḥsan al-ashār. According to Professor Attié (Attié, B., 1969. ‘Les manuscrits agricoles arabes de la Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris’. Hespéris‑Tamuda 10 (3), pp. 252-3), this work is an anthology of aphorisms about the virtues of plants and interpretation of dreams.

From folios 47r to 64r, after the basmala, there is an anonymous agricultural treatise. [a work that has been edited and translated by López y López, A. C., 1990, and identified as a copy of Kitāb fī Tartīb awqāt al-ghirāsa wa ’l-maghrūsāt by the Anonymous Andalusi].

Folios 64r to 151v comprises the Kitāb al-filāḥa of Abū ’l-Khayr al-Shajjār al-Ishbīlī, as is stated in the first-mentioned folio. The agricultural treatise of this Sevillian agronomist of the 11th C. (in the course of being edited and translated by J.M. Carabaza Bravo) is not complete in this manuscript nº 4764, as is shown in the first truncated folios (64r-69v), in which mixed themes are dealt with such as the proper times to plant, the prevention of fruit drop, diseases of the wild fig-tree, fig varieties, palm fertilization, types of propagation, etc. These themes are followed by the age of trees and herbaceous plants (69v-71v), crop diseases and remedies against them (71v-85v), the planting of trees and bushes (86v-116v), pruning of trees (116v-117v), grafting of tree species (117v-131r), advice on agricultural economy (131r-136v), the correct times for sowing (136v-138), the cultivation of wild and garden plants, the cultivation of plantain, colocasia, snake root and sugar cane (150r-151r), and advice about the sowing of wild plants (151r-151v).

From folio 151v to 160v there is a passage dedicated to domestic fowl, followed by some recommendations on how to prevent crop diseases. These folios correspond to pages 67-84 of the Jordanian edition of Al-Muqni‘ (whose attribution, as we have seen, is doubtful) although the manuscript has suffered from alterations in transmission and its text is usually more concise than the edition (Cf. for example, Ibn Hajjāj, Al-Muqni, pp. 69-76 and 79, and ms. 4764 fols. 153v-156v and 158r).  [Note:  these folios consist of altered passages from the work of Ibn Wāfid, according to Carabaza Bravo & García Sánchez, 1998. ‘Códices Misceláneos de Agronomía Andalusí’. Al‑Qantara 19, pp. 393-416].

From folio 160v there is a small anonymous section entitled Tajārib al-ām relating to meteorological and astral matters and their effects on agriculture. The title of the work of which it seems to be a part is mentioned at the end in folio 161r - Kitāb al-fallāḥīn.

Folio 161v begins with a description of how to make a beautiful bouquet, corresponding to Ibn Baṣṣāl (Ibn Baṣṣāl, 1955. Kitāb al-qaṣd wa’l-bayān. Libro de Agricultura. Eds. J. M. Millás Vallicrosa & M. Aziman. Tetuan: Instituto Muley El Hassan, p.181). It is followed by a series of agricultural instructions mixed with propitiatory prayers by an anonymous author, from folios 161v to 162r.

From folio 162v to 175v we find an agricultural calendar attributed to Abū’ l-Abbās Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. Al-Bannā’, as indicated in the manuscript, of which there is an edition and translation in French (Ibn al-Bannā', 1948. Le Calendrier d'lbn al-Bannā' de Marrakech (1256‑1321 A.D). Edited with French translation and notes by  H.P.J. Renaud. Paris: Larose).

Finally, folios 176r-179v contain instructions on how to make an amulet to protect against jinn and evil entitled Ḥijāb al-jāriya. It is illustrated by three stories and is full of religious invocations.

(translated from Carabaza Bravo, J. M., García Sánchez, E. & Llavero Ruiz, E. 1991. ‘Obras manuscritas de los geoponos andalusies (siglos X-XII)’. pp. 1122-23. In: Emilio Molina et al. (co-ords.), Homenaje al Profesor Jacinto Bosch Vila, vol. 2, Granada: Universidad de Granada, 1991, pp. 1115-32)

This is what Attié, in his rather convoluted style, says about Ms. no. 4764 (S.A. 2609) in the Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris:

Here is an anthology of treatises and fragments of treatises. Cherbonneau sees it as “a compendium of Muslim knowledge of agronomy of the Middle Ages”, composed, according to him, by Ibn al-Ḥusayn, from which he has taken extracts, edited in 1854 (Cherbonneau, A. 1854. Culture arabe au Moyen-Age: Notices et extraits du Kitab el-filaha. Paris: Chez Hachette). Henri Pérès, in re-editing the extracts of Cherbonneau, corrected certain errors but also committed others more serious.

These are the different texts contained in the manuscript :
  1. Fols. 1 – 47a. al-Mukhtār min mustaḥsan al-ash‘ – Ibn al-Ḥusayn.
    The text is neither an agricultural treatise nor a poetic anthology. It is really an anthology of aphorisms on the virtues of plants and the interpretation of dreams gathered from the works of Ibn Waḥshīya, Ibn ‘Abd Rabbih, Ar-Rāzī and Ibn Sīrīn. Thus it is only by chance that one finds an agricultural text of marvellous character, like the text on grafting, or that which remains of it, in the re-edited extracts by Pérès (p.16). The second text (pp. 17-18), on the properties of the olive, is a model of the genre of aphorisms collected by Ibn al-Ḥusayn.
  2. Fols. 47a – 64a. Kitāb al-filāḥa – anonymous Andalusi.
    E. Blochet describes this as an “Extract of an Agricultural Treatise”. Pérès adds that it is “Identical to that of Nahrāwī”. But G. Vadja places it, with good reason, among the anonymous. For in fact this treatise and the Kitāb al-filāḥa of Nahrāwī are totally different. But how is it possible that the eminent professor [Pérès] identifies it as such? Firstly because the texts themselves are mutilated, anonymous or without titles, in anthologies that are defective from all points of view… and secondly because Pérès identifies Ibn Ḥajjāj with Nahrāwī. Now we have in fact ascertained the identity of some passages of the treatise with the treatise of Ibn Ḥajjāj…. but Ibn Ḥajjāj is neither Nahrāwī nor the anonymous author of this treatise. Moreover the Kitāb al-filāḥa of Nahrāwī is a complete work and has no need of these heterogenous pages, interesting as they are for the history of Andalusian agriculture.
  3. Fols. 64a – 151b. Kitāb an-nabāt – Abū’l Khayr.
    All the texts found between the preceding anonymous treatise and the calendar of Ibn al-Bannā’, that is to say, an agricultural treatise, a basse-cour, a page of predictions, and some recipes and anecdotes, from folio 64a – 162a, have been attributed to Abū’l Khayr. However we [Attié] only attribute to Kitāb an-nabāt – ‘the Book of Plants’ – of Abū’l Khayr, the pages which treat of plants (fols. 64a – 151b).

    The name of the doctor and agronomist Abū’l Khayr, and that of innumerable extracts from his treatise, are known to us by 1. the work of Ibn al-‘Awwām, 2. the compendium (majmū‘a) of M. Aziman [Millás Vallicrosa, Sobre bibliografia agronómica hispani-arabe, in Al-Andalus 19 (1954), pp. 137 and foll.; cf. Aportaciones para el estudio de la obra agronómica de Ibn Ḥağğāğ  y de Abū’l Ḫayr, Al Andalus 20 (1955), pp. 101-105], 3. by the collection edited by Sidi Tuhami (Abū’l Khayr al-Andalusī. Kitāb fī-l-falāḥa, Fez, 1357 hijri, pp. 144-74; see García Gómez, Sobre agricultura arábigo-hispana (Cuestiones bibliográficas), in Al-Andalus 10 (1945), pp. 127 et foll.), who, like everyone else, ascribes these complicated texts to the first author named in the manuscript, that is to say, Abū’l Khayr, and 4.  by the present text. But these sources do not give the title of the treatise. It has been recovered by Dr. Millás Vallicrosa in ms. 2809 of the B. N. of Paris (Aportaciones..., Al-Andalus, 20 (1955), p. 104.) that we have come to identify as Al-Fann ar-rābi‘ of  Mabāhij al-fikr wa manāhij al-‘ibar of Al-Kutubī [Al-Waṭwāṭ]. Furthermore Al-Kutubī gives us extracts relating to plants which are of no interest to agriculturalists but which would be of more use to a herbal physician.
  4. Fols. 151b – 160b. La Basse-cour – Nahrāwī
    We have here a basse-cour treatise attributed, wrongly, to Abū’l Khayr, who is the author of a treatise entitled Kitāb an-nabāt (‘Book of Plants’). A basse-cour [dealing with small farmyard animal husbandry] has no place in such a treatise. Its presence, following the extracts of the treatise of Abū’l Khayr, is explicable by the miscellaneous character of this manuscript. We have always known this basse-cour to be an integral part of a Kitāb al-filāḥa, either as an anonymous work (cf. ms. no. 5013) or attributed to a certain Nahrāwī (cf. ms. no. 5754). That is why we attribute it to Nahrāwī.
  5. Fols. 160b – 161a. A page of jafr (prognostics, predictions) – Anonymous.
    This page of predictions sits well in this rural anthology but it does not come from Kitāb an-nabāt (there is the basse-cour between them), nor from Kitāb al-filāḥa, for one does not find it following the basse-cour in any of the other manuscripts. Besides we believe that the Kitāb an-nabāt does not include an agricultural calendar, for Ibn al-‘Awwām only cites his fellow-countryman Abū’l Khayr four times in his calendar. And yet he cites ‘Arīb, who is from another region, more than ten times. And that, in spite of the fact that the Andalusi agronomists have made little use of the Kitāb al-anwā’ of ‘Arīb: “Concerning ‘Arīb”, says the anonymous writer of Alger, “most of what he says concerning the times of sowing and planting is from the point of view of a person who has never put them into practice and who speaks only according to that which seems right to him!” (note: ms. no. 2162 of the B. N. of Algiers, fol. 65. This is probably the judgement of Al-Ḥājj al-Gharnāṭī, the author of Zahr al-bustān. The anonymous text of Algiers (ms. no. 2162 of the Reserve Inventory of the B. N. Algiers) carries, in its introduction, the title Zahr al-bustān, and it is an abridgement of the treatise of Al-Ḥājj (ms. 2163 of the same inventory, mutilated by a good half). It seems also that this anonymous abridgement is identical to mss. nos. 459 and 460 of Rabat, attributed to Ibn Ḥamdūn. The abbreviator, Ibn Ḥamdūn, is identified, wrongly, as the author Al-Ḥājj al-Gharnāṭī, of Zahr al-bustān).
  6. Fol. 161b. A bouquet – Ibn Baṣṣāl
    Here is a bouquet abridged and distorted by the scribes. One finds it better preserved in the treatise edited by Dr. Millás Vallicrosa and M. Muḥammad Aziman and attributed by them to Ibn Baṣṣāl (Ibn Baṣṣāl, Kitāb al-falāḥa or Libro de Agricultura, ed. trad. Millás Vallicrosa and Muḥammad Aziman, Tetuán, Instituto Muley El-Hasan, 1955, p. 181 of the Arabic text). We note the bouquet, together with the recipes and anecdotes which follow, to show, once again, the miscellaneous character of this manuscript.
  7. Fol. 162b – 175b. Kitāb al-anwā’ – Ibn al-Bannā’
    The calendar of Ibn al-Bannā’ is the last of these texts relating to agriculture. It has been edited by Dr. H. P. J. Renaud. (Ibn al-Bannā’, 1948. Le Calendrier d'lbn al-Bannā’ de Marrakech (1256‑1321 A.D). Edited with French translation and notes by  H.P.J. Renaud. Paris: Larose).
(translated from Attié, B., 1969. ‘Les manuscrits agricoles arabes de la Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris’. Hespéris‑Tamuda 10 (3),  pp. 241-261).