Re: 2016 Pratesi note on Islamic cards

I complained to Franco that he left off the footnotes to to pp. 62-63 of Rosenthal's book (1975 edition), important because someone might want to read them for information relevant to the present purpose. I said I would run the page through an OCR program when I had the chance, at a local library; he replied that he happened to be by my library just after I wrote and sent me the notes. So here is Rosenthal again, with footnotes (he left me the job of putting in the diacritical markings. I don't know whether they help or hinder a web search for the works cited):
Due to the discoveries by L. A. Mayer and R. Ettinghausen of playing cards from Mamluk Egypt, it is now virtually certain that we have here the ancestors of the type of Western European playing cards most familiar to us. While for most of the cards a fifteenth-century date is assumed, R. Ettinghausen has

tentatively suggested that a card discovered by him is much earlier, possibly going back to late Fatimid times. We have no information how exactly those cards were used, but, as Ettinghausen has shown on the basis of information furnished by Laila Serageddin, we know that they were [start of p. 63] called kanjifah and that already in the early fifteenth century they were used for heavy gambling involving considerable sums of money. 264

The sixteenth-century Ibn Hajar al-Haytami mentions kanjifah in connection with at-tāb wa-d-dukk. 265 The Arabian Nights refers to it in the story of the learned slave girl Tawaddud between chess and nard, but while Tawaddud then goes on to elaborate on the latter two games, nothing more is said about kanjifah. 266 The Persian dictionary lists ganjifah, ganjīfah “pack of cards, game of cards,” ganji/īfah-bāz “card player, trickster,” ganjifah-bāzī “card trick, sleight of hand,” and ganjīfah-sāz “manufacturer of cards.” Long ago the suggestion was made by K. Himly that the Persian word was of Chinese origin. 268

A note signed by a certain Muhammad Sa’id which appears in the chess manuscript published by F. M. Pareja Casañas speaks of “the well-known paper game” (li’b al-kāghid) as an example of a game of pure luck. 269 This may refer to playing cards. However, the writer of the note might possibly have lived as late as the eighteenth century, and his testimony is thus of very little use to us.
264. Cf. L. A. Mayer, Mamluk Playing Cards, ed. R. Ettinghausen and O. Kurz (Leiden 1971, The L. A. Mayer Memorial Studies I), and R. Ettinghausen, in Gatherings in Honor of D. E. Miner, 51-78 (Baltimore 1974). The word kanjifah appears on fig. 23 of Mayer's publication. The gambling story is reported in Ibn Taghrībirdī, Nujūm, anno 820/1417-8, cf. also W. Popper (Ibn Taghrī Birdī's) History of Egypt, Part III, 50 (Berkeley and Los Angeles 1957, University of California Publications in Semitic Philology 17).
265. See above, pp. 44 f. For a reference to card playing in 1527 from Bābur's Memoirs, cf. R. Caillois (ed.), Jeux et sports, 951 (Paris 1967).
266. Cf. Arabian Nights, ed. Macnaghten, II, 354 f., trans. Littmann, III 693 f. (460th to 461st nights).
267. Cf. F. Steingass, (Persian-English Dictionary,) 1098 f. (originally published in 1892). It would be very important to know the date of the earliest occurrence of ganjifah in Persian literature and to have references to passages clarifying its use. In the article cited (n. 264), R. Ettinghausen refers to Persian occurrence from the fifteenth century.
268. Cf. K. Himly, in Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, XLIII (1889), 421 ff.
269. Cf. F. M. Pareja Casaflas, Libro del Ajedrez (de autor árabe desconocido) I, II, trans. II (Madrid and Granada 1935.

Re: 2016 Pratesi note on Islamic cards

To clarify - I was not trying to suggest there is evidence that cards were in Italy; rather: A. Mamluk cards already existed (prior to the notice of mercenaries in Italy); B. there are Muslim mercenaries in Italy. Did B have A is the question.

Also, I think you may have missed my PS:
PS Just found this - this would be in favor of the Crusader theory (the timing, 1365, is "impeccable"), but why a brutally sacked and enslaved Mamluk Alexandria would want to teach their conquerors a game begs the question. And why no early evidence of cards in Venice (the returning crusaders, rich with plunder, by way of Rhodes and Cyprus)? At all events - an interesting read:
The short entry:
Peter I spent three years, from 1362 to 1365, amassing an army and seeking financial support for a Crusade from the wealthiest courts of the day. When he learned of a planned Egyptian attack against his Kingdom of Cyprus, he employed the same strategy of preemptive war that had been so successful against the Turks and redirected his military ambitions against Egypt. From Venice, he arranged for his naval fleet and ground forces to assemble at the Crusader stronghold of Rhodes, where they were joined by the Knights of the Order of St. John.

In October 1365, Peter I set sail from Rhodes, himself commanding a sizable expeditionary force and a fleet of 165 ships, despite Venice's greater economic and political clout. Landfall was made in Alexandria around 9 October, and over the next three days, Peter's army looted the city killing thousands and taking 5000 people to be enslaved.[1] Mosques, temples, churches and the library also bore the brunt of the raid.[4][5]

Facing an untenable position, Peter's army permanently withdrew on 12 October.[3] Peter had wanted to stay and hold the city and use it as a beachhead for more crusades into Egypt, but the majority of his barons refused, wishing only to leave with their loot. Peter himself was one of the last to leave the city, only getting onto his ship when Mamluk soldiers entered the city. Monarchs and barons in Europe, struck by the abandonment of the city, referred to Peter as the only good and brave Christian to have crusaded in Alexandria.[6]
The loot could have included hand-painted playing cards and either Muslims already in Italy or the slaves taken from Alexandria could have explained how the game was played. That only allows 5-10 years before cards are heard of in Europe, but the fact that the early notices know of them as Muslim might support this short time period (i.e., there was not enough time to elapse for a European name to take hold).

But again, why no early mention in Venice if the cards came directly from Egypt at this late date?

Edit, came across this: ... re&f=false

A translation of a epic poem by Machaut of Peter I of Cyprus's sack of Alexandria in 1365: R. Barton Palmer, La Prise D'Alixandre: The Taking of Alexandria, 2002. Peter I created an Order of the Sword (p. 20; were Swords the highest suit in the Mamluk deck?) and more importantly signed agreements with Genoa and Venice before he sailed (21). In fact, 31 of the 70 ships set out from Venice; the fleet met up at Rhodes before attacking Alexandria.

There is a comment of French Crusaders (its a French poem) - I'm assuming Venice contributed something as well, but the info is vague.


Re: 2016 Pratesi note on Islamic cards

Yes, I understand, Phaeded. It is possible that playing cards came from Egypt to Italy via the raid on Alexandria, but with the problem that there is no mention of cards in Venice--or anywhere else in the Veneto--only a doubtful reference, in a short book published in 1877 on the occasion of a wedding, in an isolated area (for other readers, I am referring to p. 5 of Franco's note translated at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1097) where they still don't speak standard Italian, to cards in statutes allegedly of 1371 but which bans only card-playing at night, the type of provision that typically was added (I think, but I could be wrong) after a complete ban on card games proved unpopular.

Re: 2016 Pratesi note on Islamic cards

On another thread the question has arisen, from Huck (at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1097&p=16875#p16871), of whether there were Islamic cards in Muslim Spain. So far there is just Huck's recollection of having read such a thing. I hope he can track the source of his recollection down. Even more than printed books by scholars, the Internet is filled with information which when tracked down proves imaginary.

One image Huck reproduced is that of a fragment of a card which an internet source, without a specific reference, says was found in "papers from the collection of a Mr. Jean Pozzi" (quoted from The same image is shown in Ettinghausen's "Further comments on Mamluk Playing cards", p. 66, which I have uploaded at: ... nCards.jpg. He dates the fragment as "12th-14th century". On p. 64 he calls it "Egyptian":
The more recent discovery of what seemed to be an earlier fragment [than the cards in Istanbul] of an Egyptian playing card in the Edmund de Unger Collection in London (fig. 21) indicated an even longer history of the game in the Islamic world...
I can find no specific justification for Egypt, other than that it seems to be a remote ancestor of the cards in Istanbul, dated to around 1500. I say "remote" because he dates his figure 22, another card found by Dr. de Unger, as later than fig. 21 but earlier than the Istanbul. Here is the rest of the paragraph, the beginning of which is above; it also talks about the two other fragments, figs. 23 and 24, that he reproduces on the same page (p. 66):
...Recently Dr. de Unger has discovered still another paper fragment which also belongs to a cup series (fig. 22).” Due to the fragmentary condition of the second de Unger card it is not possible to state what its place was in the original set. It could have been the number “one” card, but it might also have been one of the court-cards, if the now-lost lower half contained the pertinent subscription. As to date this card may be placed chronologically
between the first de Unger card and the Istanbul set and possibly closer to the latter. It has a decorative element which reflects a Mamluk technique not found in Egypt in later periods. The series of circular units on the bowl is apparently inspired by the common use of rows of dots executed in colored enamels on glass vessels, or, perhaps reflects a series of dots in different colors on a pottery vessel. Unfortunately, no complete enameled cups have been preserved. Both the de Unger fragments are simpler and more sketchily drawn than the Istanbul set and were probably made for a socially less prominent clientele. Apart from these two fragments, the writer has discovered the halves of two European (Italian) sixteenth century playing cards, found in the rubbish heaps of Fostat, the first Arab settlement after the Muslim conquest. One of these fragments has been in the writer s own collection for a long time (figs. 23, 24). The other, the upper half of a blockprinted card with six swords, is in the collection of Mr. Sa‘d Khadam in Cairo.
11. The writer takes this opportunity to thank Dr. de Unger for his kindness in having drawn his attention to this second fragment and having given his permission to publish it here. Besides the black outlines, a bluish grey and red were sparsely applied to the (now foxed) paper. A further examination of the original of the de Unger card (fig. 21) revealed a tiny black mark at the tip of the left-hand triangular tear at the bottom of the page. This presupposes another line or possibly the tip of another design in this area whose exact nature must, of course, remain a mystery—at least until more such early cards have been discovered.

Fostat, or Fustat, was the original Muslim capital of Egypt, now part of Old Cairo. Of it Wikipeida says (
While the Mamluks were in power from the 13th century to the 16th century, the area of Fustat was used as a rubbish dump, though it still maintained a population of thousands, with the primary crafts being those of pottery and trash-collecting. The layers of garbage accumulated over hundreds of years, and gradually the population decreased, leaving what had once been a thriving city as an effective wasteland.[5]
What is mostly of interest to us is what Ettinghausen says in his next paragraph:
This new material from Egypt admits two conclusions. First, the torn condition of the four fragments—be they Egyptian or Italian—suggests that the cards were not worn out by prolonged, rough handling, but seem to have been deliberately destroyed, possibly by a person who disapproved of their use. Playing cards seem to [beginning of 67] have led a sub rosa existence, and when they were discovered by representatives of the Muslim establishment, were prone to be made unusable. Secondly, as soon as cheap, printed and often partially colored European cards were available, they superseded the hand-painted Muslim ones and thereby killed not only a native production, but even the memory of it.
So even under Mamluk rule, playing cards seem to have been if not illegal than at least disapproved of items. Another thing is that Ettinghausen seems to be implying that Egypt under Mamluk rule did not have woodcuts, but only painted cards.

That both of the Islamic fragments are earlier than the Istanbul designs is indicated by the more abstract nature of the Istanbul cards. He compares the two upper cards above with the Istanbul cups (p. 61: images that follow from p. 60):
The cards themselves indicate that they represent a late stage of the evolution of the symbols. This is to be deduced by the shape of each of the four designs. Let us first look at the “cups” (if they can still be called cups). In the case of the cards of the Governor and Second-Governor (fig. 14) there is no base (as a real cup would have had). Also, on these cards there are two knobs decorating the thin stems. The bowl-shaped parts of the cups on the King and Second-Governor cards have strange curved, goatee-like excrescences emanating from their sides which could not have occurred in reality. By contrast, late Mamluk blazons show unmistakable designs of chalice-like cups. Even the curious fleur-de-lys cups found on coins minted in Damascus between 798 and 802 H. / 1395-1400 a.d. have pottery prototypes.

The Second-Governor of Cups is on the left. Note that this is a court card, but there is no court figure, only writing.

He goes on to compare the other Istanbul suits to the real objects in question. Although he has no earlier cards to make the comparison between earlier and later, he makes the generalization that:
The Istanbul set and, even more so, its substitute cards must be regarded as the end product of a development of several centuries during which the individual forms underwent formal changes that eventually led to a transfiguration of their physical aspects. The earlier cards, so far undiscovered, were probably closer to the actual appearances of the represented emblems. Indeed, they must have been fairly realistic, otherwise they could not have been properly interpreted and copied by the Italian masters 12 who then retained their realistic approach.
In other words, the Italian cards come from the earlier rather than the later Islamic cards. That of course is in itself an obvious point, since the Istanbul cards are c. 1500, while the first Italian mention of cards so far is 1377 (footnote 12, which I did not reproduce, is the citation of Viterbo and Florence). The point I am making is something else, namely, that we cannot assume a Mamluk, or Egyptian, ancestry for European playing cards, if the only definitely Mamluk, or Egyptian, cards are of the later variety, from c. 1500 or a little before.

Another point in the same direction is a feature of the suit of coins, namely, their color and name.
In addition, the dirhams show floral decorations (fig. 15), which real coins never had, and are rendered in gold, the color of dinars, while the dirhams, of course, were of silver. It can, however, be assumed that in the earlier Egyptian sets the symbols [beginning p. 62] were called dinars and not dirhams as the Italian cards are entitled dinari. ...
That the Italian cards in the suit of coins were shown as gold rather than silver, and were called dinari (even though the coins on the Visconti sets were ducats) suggests that their Muslim prototypes were of an earlier style than the Istanbul set. Curiously, the floral designs of the Istanbul do not appear in the Visconti cards, but are in the PMB. I do not think we can assume that the PMB suit of coins was based on later Muslim cards. The use of Visconti coins may have been simply a Visconti touch. That the Istanbul suit was called "dirhams" is indicated by the writing on the cards. The fact of writing on the cards is another sign that the Italian cards were inspired by earlier Muslim designs. The earlier fragments have no writing.

It would be interesting to know what the earlier Muslim court cards looked like. The Istanbul courts do not actually picture the corresponding personage, but rather describe him in words. That in itself, plus the words used, is for Ettinghausen of interest for describing the clientele for whom these cards were made, evidently literate. But in addition, the words are a mixture of Arabic and what appears to be Turkish. e.g. naib malik al-tuman. The first two words are Arabic for "deputy governor", but the last appears to be Turkish, meaning "clad in long full drawers or trousers". He concludes (p. 62):
In any case, the Turkish designations point to an Arab-Turkish milieu, and not to a purely Arab one. Such a linguistic mixture could be expected in a Mamluk setting where the sultan and his functionaries were Turkish speaking. It is, however, noteworthy that in Mamluk inscriptions on buildings and metal objects Arabic is always used. The intrusion of Turkish elements reflects the less official and more informal character of the playing cards.
So far that is the only thing I can find arguing for a specifically Mamluk origin for Muslim cards. We cannot conclude that Italian cards are inspired by cards made for this specific milieu, since the Italian cards do not have words describing what is on the cards. In fact, I am not sure why the earlier fragments are called "Egyptian" at all. That they are ancestors of Egyptian cards is true enough, but they are also ancestors to cards not made in Egypt (e.g. Catalonian and Italian cards).

Another point of interest in Ettinghausen's account is the question of how long it would take cards made in a Muslim country (he says "Egypt" but that does not seem certain) to get to Christian Europe in such numbers as to be written about. He says (p. 68):
One more special problem which should at least be posed, although it cannot be solved at present, is the question of the “time lag” between the painting of a set of Egyptian cards and the first mention in Western documents. In other words, how long did it take for these Saracenic cards to reach Italy and become a popular pastime so that they are referred to as a not too rare phenomenon in Italian sources? A possible parallel is the manufacture of Oriental animal rugs in the Near East (probably Anatolia) and their appearance and use in the West. By comparing the date of the representation of such a carpet in a Persian miniature of the mid-fourteenth century with its stylistic equivalents in Italian paintings one arrives at a probable time lag of about fifty years. 14 The analogy is, of course, rather tenuous, but it gives at least a clue for an eventual evaluation from a related case of cultural interdependence.
14. R. Ettinghausen, “New Light on Early Animal Carpets," Aus der Welt der islamischen Kunst, Festschrift fur Ernst Kiihnel zum 75. Geburtstag am 26.10.1957, Berlin, 1959, p. 105
There are several disanalogies, however. For one, disapproval by some Muslims might have slowed down transmission by means of regular trade. For another, greater proximity of Arab cards to Christian lands if they were in Granada rather than Egypt might have sped up transmission. And third, representation in visual art might precede mention in documents. After all, cards themselves are a kind of visual art. But what he says is better than nothing.

Re: 2016 Pratesi note on Islamic cards

Ludophone at Aeclectic ... ... zzi&page=5
... gives some further information to Islamic cards in a recent discussion.

He refers to Dummett, GoT p. 41, and Simon Wintle and indirectly to , which both contain the sentence "The earliest historical reference to specifically moorish designs in Barcelona is dated 1414", and to "William Robinson's "Islamic Painting and the Arts of the Book" (1973)".

Rom Decker refers to the well-known notes Viterbo-1379 and to Valentina-Visconti-1408 in the saracen context:


(Decker 2013, p. 61) ... ds&f=false

The collector "Mr. Jean Pozzi", who had the discussed card-fragment once in his possession, should be this man:
... also
Somewhere I saw, that he left a lot of personal papers in a library, which might contain the info, where he found the card.

Re: 2016 Pratesi note on Islamic cards

mikeh wrote:It is possible that playing cards came from Egypt to Italy via the raid on Alexandria, but with the problem that there is no mention of cards in Venice--or anywhere else in the Veneto--...
Well, there is no need to insist on Venice (just a likely point of ingress, IMO) as it was a king of Cyprus that lead the invasion of Alexandria, whose apparent goal on at least one level was to diminish Alexandria as a primary port to the East, thereby raising the importance of his island state. From Cyprus the cards could have entered the Italian mainland from any port. Despite my own suspicions, there is reason to believe Venice would NOT have been one of these ports: "in 1366 [the year after the sack of Alexandria] Venetians forbade their ships to carry men and war materials to Cyprus" (Peter W. Edbury, The Kingdom of Cyprus and the Crusades, 1191-1374; 1991: 178). In fact, the ruling house of Cyprus may have had its origins in Pisa (ibid, 40) and granted trading privileges to that city (ibid, 110), which at least tentatively connects the dots to Tuscany.

I don't understand how this connection has not been studied more in regard to the diffusion of card-playing. We have:
1. Mamluk cards
2. Alexandria as the Mamluk capital
3. Alexandria plundered, along with 5,000 slaves, right before the earliest European mention of cards.

Any diffusion rule or "time lag" is exceedingly pointless. Nothing prevents hand-painted cards from being looted from the richest houses of Alexandria, when that city was sacked in 1365, from being dispersed from Cyprus to other major trading centers, such as Florence 5-10 years later...and known by the Egyptian Mamluk name Na’ib (Naip/Naibbe/Nayb). Men like games, especially games that lend themselves to gambling - there is no need to propose any didactic purpose to regular playing cards. Card-playing with simple ordinal rules could have taken off like a wildfire (i.e., no need to learn the order of unnumbered trumps).

So we don't have evidence of cards' arrival in ports nor any surviving pre-1400 Egyptian Mamluk cards - we also don't have any of the c. 1440 Florentine ur-tarot decks, of which Giusti's was just one. In fact none of Malatesta's decks survived, inclusive of the ones he ordered from Bianca/Francesco Sforza; perhaps port cities, such as Rimini, are especially problematic for the survival of cultural ephemera, especially something so susceptible to the ravages of sea marauders (portability) and the environmental detriment of sea air itself upon paper.


Re: 2016 Pratesi note on Islamic cards

Levant Trade in the Middle Ages
Eliyahu Ashtor
Princeton University Press, 14 Jul 2014 - Business & Economics - 624 pages ... ce&f=false

The text refers to some intensive trade between Aragon and the Levante at the given time (1360s).

However as recently ...
... discussed elsewhere, Rosenfeld brought in 1979 a serious argument against the value of the 1371-Nayp document:

Rosenfeld was a very engaged researcher, disputing very much, often with good arguments, but occasionally a little too engaged. He disputed the "Nayp document 1371" in Spain, and he also disputed, that the Italian "naibi" came from Spain. ....


... Rosenfeld thinks, that the Catalan Nayp is a modified form of the French poetical word "naif", which means "echt, legitim", something like "true, legitime" in English. As the wordbook is a text for the use of poets to find their rimes, the poetical naif-Nayp has some right to be the true explanation.
In the following snippets Rosenfeld opposes the opinion, that the Italian "naibi" word would be part of a word import from Spain. Rosenfeld is very resolute in this question (he calls the opinion "absurd"), if his ideas are right or not I can't say.



Generally I would think, that playing cards entered Europe at more than one opportunity (possibly not only few), but most of these imports naturally didn't lead to that, what is known as "Invasion of the Playing Cards". I can imagine 2 possibly independent strong lines of developments, one leading to that, what was called Naibi and later Latin-suit decks, and another more creative development, which took place around the capital of the emperor, Prague, with some stronger participation of Nuremberg artists.

Re: 2016 Pratesi note on Islamic cards

mikeh wrote:Another thing is that Ettinghausen seems to be implying that Egypt under Mamluk rule did not have woodcuts, but only painted cards.
Michael Dummet in The earliest Spanish playing cards from Journal of the Playing-Card Society, also wrote:
"The cards discovered by Wintle are not themselves Islamic cards, because they are printed from woodblocks, whereas the medieval Islamic world never adopted printing in any form, I think I am right in saying."

Both are mistaken.

Block-printing was used most extensively on textiles, but was also used to print on paper (more rarely on papyrus or vellum). I recall several early Arabic authors make mention of the use of block-printing, including two from Andalusia (one from the 12th century, the other from the 13th). Also from Andalusia is a woodcut block with name of town and date -- Almeria 750 (1349-1350), speculated to have been used to stamp import documents. Printed paper money was (unsuccessfully due to popular objection and passive refusal to its use) introduced for a short period in Iran in the 13th century. Also in the 13th century we have examples of block printed pilgrimage scrolls from the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.* The greatest use of block-printing on paper, from examples we have, seems to have been used for the printing of talismans, dating from 900CE to 1450 CE, most of the examples we have are from Egypt, including many from Fursat Nr. Cairo (where the cards were also found). All examples are prior to 1450, not sure why this is but printing was prohibited by the Ottoman Sultân Bayezid-î Velî (3 December 1447 – 26 May 1512).

Knowledge of block-printing in medieval Islamic regions has been known about and reported in the west since 1895, but apart from a few treatments since has been largely ignored or overlooked. At least Thiery Depaulis seems to know better and has written about it.

* Damascus and other towns in Syria was also the main source of paper in Europe from the early 12th century and right up to the 14th century (by which time Europe had enough paper factories to supply its own needs). One of the earliest paper makers in Europe, Jean Montgolfier, learnt the paper making process while he was a prisoner in Damascus, and established a paper factory at Vidalon on the French side of the Pyrenees in 1157.

** Most of the above is as I recall it, I will follow up and dig up some references.

edited to add references: ... istik_.pdf ... t-printing

Thierry Depaulis: “Documents imprimés de l’Egypte fatimide: un chapitre méconnu de l’histoire de l’imprimerie,” Bulletin de la Société Archéologique, Historique et Artistique Le Vieux Papier pour l’étude de la vie mœurs d’autrefois 349 (July 1998), p.133–136

“Medieval Arabic Ṭarsh: A Forgotten Chapter in the History of Printing,” in Journal of the American Oriental Society 107, no. 3 [1987]: 427-38

Basil Gray “Islamic Charm from Fostat,” in The British Museum Quarterly 9, no. 4 [1935]: 130-31
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: 2016 Pratesi note on Islamic cards

SteveM wrote:The greatest use of block-printing on paper, from examples we have, seems to have been used for the printing of talismans, dating from 900CE to 1450 CE, most of the examples we have are from Egypt, including many from Fursat Nr. Cairo (where the cards were also found)...
"Several Arabic texts written between the tenth and fourteenth centuries contain passages
which can be understood as referring to a process which, I would argue, is block printing. Perhaps
the earliest and certainly one of the more obscure and more suggestive passages of these
appears in the Fihrist, a bio-bibliographic work composed in Baghdad at the end of the tenth
century by Ibn al-Nadm (d. 385/995 or 388/998) and constituting a catalog of books known
(by its author) to have been written in Arabic up to his time. In chapter (maqlah) eight, devoted
to magicians and sorcerers, Ibn al-Nadm relates that he received a report about certain
magicians (sirn) in Egypt who had, among the tools of their trade, stamps (khawtim).

... Misar ibn Muhalhil al-Khazraj al-Yanb, known as Ab Dulaf (. ca. 952 CE). A poet familiar with an amorphous community of petty thieves, magicians, professional beggars and practitioners of the shady arts known collectively
as the Banū Sāsān, Abu Dulaf composed a panegyric poem on that group. The text of the poem and a translation into English were published in a study of the Banū Sāsān by C.E.Bosworth.

"In his ‘Qadah Ssnyah,’ Ab Dulaf, too, alludes to the production of amulets or charms that involves carving (ar) a matrix of some sort. He writes, “And of our number is the one who engraves a pattern [Tarsh] for mass-producing amulets, without shaping them individually and without smoothing them down.” These matrices—‘Tarshes’—were used to create the amulets...

"...Finally, what may be the most intriguing—yet tenuous—allusion to printing activity in the
medieval Islamic world occurs in the account of one Abd al-Ram al-Jawbar, a thirteenth
century dervish, alchemist and traveler who, like the two Iraqi poets introduced earlier, was
also familiar with the Banū Sāsān. Sometime between 1232 and 1248, at the behest of his patron,
the ruler of an area in what is today southeastern Turkey, al-Jawbar recounted the various
ruses employed at that time by some of the shadier elements of society against the gullible
and unsuspecting. In this book, he relates a very intriguing episode which, while not explicitly
describing printing, points to a possible use of printing by one segment of the populace.

"Al-Jawbar writes that he once encountered someone claiming to be an itinerant holy man.
Preaching on a street corner to a sizeable audience, this man proclaimed that he had a special
connection with Allah. To prove that he could intercede on behalf of his listeners and that
his intercession would be heard by Allah, he distributed to the assembly small pieces of paper
upon which was written in musk and rose water the most powerful name of Allah. He then
gathered up these pieces of paper and, holding them in his hands, he intoned a prayer over
them; then as he opened his palms, the pieces of paper rose skyward, bursting into flames.
This, said the holy man to the enthralled group, was proof that the prayers had found favor with Allah. The people immediately rushed forward to purchase great numbers of the remaining copies of the prayer.

"Although the account differs slightly in the two versions of the text I have read, the point
I want to make here is that this seems to me to be a most appropriate occasion to use printed
texts. On the one hand, the production of large numbers of handwritten copies of talismans
seems to be too laborious an undertaking for something that was intended to be destroyed, at
least in part. On the other, mechanical reproduction of a large number of simple texts like the
ones described by al-Jawbar makes such an undertaking almost efficient, even by modern standards."
Moreover, the fact that the story concerns a member of the Banū Sāsān, a group known to be associated with block printing activity, makes such a conclusion very tempting."

From Enigmatic Charms by Karl Shaefer (link in previous post).

That printing was associated with the Medieval Islamic underworld places it amongst those most likely to frequent, and cater to, those forbidden places - the taverns, brothels and gambling dens.
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

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