MAGIC SQUARES AND DIVINATION

Kitāb Al Fawayīd wa al-Ṣilāt Wa al-‘Awāyid [On Magic and Talismans]

[Sana’a, Yemen, AH 969/1562]

£26,500

Arabic manuscript on paper, 100 ff. of text, two free end papers, pages numbered, each with 25 lines of black naskh script, text panel 157 x 100 mm, titles and some words picked out in red, some phrases underlined in red, text within red frame, including numerous arithmetical tables and some diagrams, later notes to the end papers, colophon signed ‘Abd al-Raḥīm al-Zubaydi in Sana’a in modern Yemen in Shawwal AH 969 (June-July 1562 AD) and dated, repair without loss, at least three different hands of marginal annotations.

Contemporary, polished natural high quality morocco with central stamped medallion, an excellent copy with minor damp staining and marginal finger-soiling.

Kitāb Al Fawayīd wa al-ilāt Wa al-‘Awāyid is a treatise outlining the various principles of numerology in Islam where charts and numbers are used for divination or to bring barākā (blessings). Most of the illustrations in this manuscript are of the Islamic talismanic design known as wafq – ‘magic squares’ (see Maddison, F., and Savage-Smith E., ‘Science, Tools & Magic in the Khalili Collection of Islamic Art’, Oxford; Oxford University Press, 1997 or Savage-Smith, E., ‘Magic and divination in early Islam’, Aldershot; Ashgate Variorum, 2004). A magic square is arranged to produce a constant sum in all rows and columns and were most commonly depicted on amulets or manuscripts. The wafq is sometimes described as ‘recreational mathematics’ because of the sophisticated mathematical principles they illustrate. Jacques Sesiano in the article ‘Magic squares in Islamic Mathematics’ has argued that magic squares in Medieval Islam were developed from chess which was hugely popular in the Middle East. Sesiano has also observed how there are references to the use of magic squares in astrological calculations. Magic squares are, generally, magic by association (because of the carefully arranged sums), physical proximity and in their supposed capacity to foretell future outcomes.Rare.

From the collection of Adrienne Minassian; formerly at Brown University.

K136

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