Tarikh Ahmed Pasha al-Jazzar naqlan 'an naskha maktaba Kuliyya al-Qadis Yusuf fi Beyrout.

(History of Ahmed Jazzar Pasha, according to the copy [manuscript] in the library of the College of Saint Joseph in Beirut.)

Beirut: 1899 Stock Code: 142204
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Rare history of Ahmed Jazzar Pasha's reign over Lebanon and Syria

At the crossroads of print and manuscript cultures in Lebanon, this fascinating manuscript was copied in 1899 from an anonymous contemporary history of Ahmed Jazzar (the Butcher) Pasha (c.1725-1804), a Bosnian adventurer whose bloody career spanned Ottoman Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria. After early years in Egypt, a change in circumstance forced al-Jazzar to flee to Syria, where he served as the garrison commander at Acre, and then governor of Sidon from 1776 until his death. From 1795 he simultaneously served as governor of Damascus: his reign brought Mount Lebanon increasingly under Ottoman control. Ahmed Pasha attracted much European attention after he mounted a successful defense against Napoleon's expeditionary force in 1799.

This text is perhaps the most complete account of Ahmed Pasha's life extant; the source manuscript was completed in 1828. It continues beyond his death in 1804, with a supplement until 1810 concluding the history. In addition, the anonymous author includes excerpts from the contemporary chronicles of Haidar Ahmed al-Shihabi (d.1835), emir and historian, and reproduces the texts of firman issued by the Ottoman Porte. The prose is both elegant and accessible. The College, now University, of Saint Joseph at Beirut was established by the Jesuits in 1875, and built its small but rich collection of manuscripts, Christian and Muslim, through aggressive book-buying, locally and in Europe. Our manuscript's source is now catalogued as Cheikho 44: our copyist included bracketed marginal numerals corresponding to the Beirut manuscript's pagination. Cheikho speculates that the anonymous author may have been Nicolas Turk, a Melkite in the service of Emir Bashir Shihab II of Lebanon (1767-1850).

The College purchased MS Cheikho 44 from a London bookseller in 1891. The manuscript came from the library of the renowned French orientalist Antoine Isaac Silvestre de Sacy (1758-1838), dispersed in a series of monumental sales after his death. Eight years after it reached Beirut, our anonymous copyist decided it was worth reproducing in full. The text of our manuscript does not appear to have been published, although Haidar Ahmed al-Shihabi's history of Ahmed Jazzar Pasha has been (Beirut, 1955). Beyond our manuscript and the Beirut copy, we trace no other copies of this history. Cambridge University Library MS Qq.200, copied in 1816, is a history of Ahmed Jazzar Pasha, acquired by J. L. Burckhardt in 1819. It may be a third copy of this text under a variant title. Regardless, this manuscript is a rare, contemporary account of an important period in Lebanon's modern history.

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Small 4to (242 x 190 mm), Arabic manuscript on thick European laid paper; pp. [i, calligraphic title], 154 (copyist's pagination), [3, blank]; 21 lines of black Ottoman ruq'ah per page, text markers, section headings, pagination, and marginal notations in purple ink. Bound in late 20th-century reddish tan quarter-calf with nonpareil marbled boards and endpapers, floral devices gilt to the spine.


Single minute scuff to front board, otherwise in fine condition. Contents clean, bar a handful of spots on final blank, with a number scribal errors throughout, corrected by the copyist. Title with pencilled European and Arab bookseller's prices, Arabic reader's inscription, dated 1930 and 1931 CE.


See Cheikho, P.L., Catalogue raisonné des manuscrits historiques de la Bibliothèque orientale de l'Université St. Joseph (Beirut, 1913-29), no.44.


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