The book, “Kashf al-ẓunūn ‘an asāmī al-kutub wa al-funūn”, by its author, Muṣṭafā b. ‘Abd Allāh al-Qasṭanṭīnī al-‘Uthmānī, renowned as Kâtip Çelebi and as Ḥājī Khalīfah (1017-1067AH), is considered the largest bibliographical and encyclopaedic lexicon in the author’s era. The author spent over twenty years gathering the material for this work, and writing the draft (al-musawwadah), before beginning work on the fair copy (al-mubayaḍah). However, he died while working on the entries of the letter ‘dāl’, leaving behind the unfinished fair copy, and all the drafts.
The author methodically presented the names of books and disciplines, where he would mention and define the discipline, based mostly on Ṭāsh Kubrī Zādah’s “Miftāḥ al-Sa‘ādah”, with corrections. This is followed by book titles arranged in alphabetical order, along with author names, if known to him, and then explanations, abridgements, and glosses related to each book. He would perhaps point out the book’s topic, or reproduce its beginning; especially those works that he had perused.
This book acquired great importance among researchers, students, and critical editors, who referred to it frequently, and depended upon it in their research, studies, and critical editions.
As a result of this work’s great significance, the Europeans concerned themselves with its critical edition, publication, and translation into Latin—until recently the language of knowledge in Europe. The German orientalist, Flügel, critically edited the first two volumes during 1835-1838CE in Leipzig, then the third to seventh volumes with indices were published in London.
Subsequently, two Turkish scholars republished the book, based on the European edition, collating this against the author’s holograph, both fair copy and drafts.
However, it is quite sad that both publications failed to meet the requirements of the scientific approach to manuscript critical edition. The previous editors freely amended the original text, with insertions and deletions, and changes to many of the sentences, under the impression that this would facilitate understanding of the text, and ensure its soundness. In addition, there was a large amount of interpolation, affecting every single page of these two editions.
Therefore, the Centre for the Study of Islamic Manuscripts belonging to Al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation concluded that it was imperative to publish a critical edition of this highly important text, especially, in view of the numerous errors in both previous editions, as well as mistakes by the author himself in titles of books, names of authors, dates of demise, and crediting many books to the wrong authors; bearing in mind that the author did not have the opportunity to revise the copy that he wrote, which later became the only source for this important text.
The edition that Al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation hopes will appear soon, has seen significant and praiseworthy effort exerted in adopting the author’s fair copy, and those drafts, adding commentary, and correcting thousands of mistakes, as well as disambiguating those parts requiring it. This edition, with the aid of Allāh, will be the first scientific critical edition of this key text.