on the Border of Civilizations

Towards a Critical Edition of the Metaphysics of Avicenna



31 July 2019
A facsimile edition of an Avicennian manuscript by Amos Bertolacci and Gholamreza Dadkhah

Avicenna (Ibn Sīnā): The Metaphysics of the Šifāʾ. Facsimile Edition of MS Malek Library (Tehran) 1085, Dated 509H/1115. With Introductions in English and Persian by Amos Bertolacci and Gholamreza Dadkhah, Mazda Publishers, Costa Mesa (CA), 2019. ISBN 978-1568593128


If the Šifāʾ (The Cure, or The Healing) in its entirety deserves to be considered Ibn Sīnā’s masterpiece in philosophy, the same can be said in particular of its metaphysical section (Ilāhiyyāt, Divine Things): this final and culminant part of the entire work instantiates at the highest degree the author’s view of the fundamental role of metaphysics in the system of philosophy, displays a massive use and thorough reworking of the previous metaphysical tradition, and evidences Ibn Sīnā’s originality and creativeness. Unsurprisingly, the Metaphysics of the Šifāʾ was soon translated into Latin and Persian, repeatedly commented upon, and abundantly quoted.
In the wait of a future critical edition of this landmark of metaphysical speculation in both East and West, and in preparation of it, the consultation of valuable manuscripts of the work proves essential. In the long-lasting and wide-ranging process of copy of the Šifāʾ, the Iranian manuscript tradition stands out in many respects, in terms of number of codices produced and of cities and libraries involved. The manuscript selected for the present facsimile edition – owned by the Malek Library (Tehran, Iran) – is a noteworthy example of this activity of copy, in so far as its colophon and its content put us in front of the most ancient extant and complete account of the Metaphysics of the Šifāʾ presently known

Avicenna lived in a Shi'i environment, was a native speaker of Persian and wrote his major works in Arabic. The manuscript at stake is a precious witness of his most important Arabic work on metaphysics, translated into Latin in the Sunni Andalusia of the XII century by a Jewish-Christian team of translators under the patronage of the bishop of Toledo, and into Persian during the Safavid dynasty of Iran.
Besides contributing to the preservation and analysis of a specimen of cultural heritage of utmost significance, the present facsimile edition (the result of the joint efforts of a library in Tehran, an American publisher, and two scholars from Iran and Europe) hopes to contribute to the reinforcement of the cultural links between East and West, at a time of troublesome political international relations.