on the Border of Civilizations

Towards a Critical Edition of the Metaphysics of Avicenna



Manuscripts; Edition; Web Platform

Beginning of Ilāhiyyāt
Ms. Turkey, Istanbul, Köprülü Kütüphanesi, Fazil Ahmet Paśa 894, fol. 498v, ornamental detail

The present project pursues three main objectives.

(O1) The first is a complete inventory of the manuscripts preserving Avicenna’s Ilāhiyyāt, through the systematic inspection of the catalogues of Arabic collections in libraries worldwide; the obtainment of copies of the censed manuscripts; and their description.

The manuscripts of the Ilāhiyyāt known to date are more than a hundred, but their number will be very likely increased by further research.

(O2) The second objective is to prepare an on-line critical edition of the Arabic text of the Ilāhiyyāt, divided in ten parts corresponding to the ten treatises of the work, with apparatus of variants, apparatus of sources, and apparatus of loci paralleli; to connect the edition with an English translation, based on the wording of the new critical edition, and with the Latin Medieval translation, according to its already existing critical edition; to provide a general introduction to the work and specific doctrinal introductions to the single treatises, with detailed overviews of their main doctrines and their function in the overall work, and a running commentary, with all the relevant explanatory information; to append complete indexes and lexica. Techniques of digital humanities will consent the creation and interplay of the different elements envisaged (see below, O3).

This will cumulatively lead to replace the existing faulty and incomplete printed versions of this work with a text established critically along the standards of classical philology; to make the edition accessible to readers not familiar with the Arabic language; to convey the doctrinal contents of text and translation to philosophers and historians of philosophy in general, and specialists of Avicennian studies in particular; and to make terminological, historical and cultural aspects of text and translation accessible to researchers in philosophical and non-philosophical disciplines.

(O3) The third objective is a web platform, consisting of four main elements: i) a codicological database, containing all the relevant information and the key images of the manuscripts brought to light and used in the project; ii) the edition of the text and its complements (translations, commentary, lexica etc.); iii) a bibliographical archive of editions, translations, and studies of Avicenna’s philosophy, with particular regard to his metaphysics; iv) a newsletter for the sharing of information among scholars of Avicenna’s thought worldwide. Technology will provide instruments to store information on and images of manuscripts into the database; to record the collation of the testimonia of the work, and to convert the results of the collation into the critical apparatus; to link the Arabic text with its various complements (apparatuses, translations, commentary, indices, lexica); and to compile indices and lexica.

This kind of technological assistance, and the flexibility it allows in the presentation of the results, is particularly fit for a work like the Ilahiyyat, whose manuscript tradition might evidence the existence of different recensions.

Each of these aims will be attained through a series of intermediate steps, whose results will be made constantly accessible to scholars by means of a progressive online publication (see the sections "Manuscripts", "Text" [forthcoming] and "Project's Publications" [forthcoming] in the present site).