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The treatise survived to the modern era in two known copies. One copy was probably made in the fifteenth century and was used by Bernhard Moritz for his 1898 Būlāq print edition (Abū ‘Uthmān [sic] al-Nābulusī, Ta’rīkh al-Fayyūm wa-bilādihi, ed. by Bernhard Moritz [al-Qāhira: al-Maṭbaʿa al-ʾAhliyya, 1898]). The location of that manuscript is now unknown. A copy of it was made in Cairo in 1897 in connection with Moritz’s edition (Cairo Dār al-Kutub 1594). Since the original was lost, we know nothing about the circumstances in which it was made, and whether it was the fiscal elements or the historical and literary aspects which attracted the attention of a Mamluk-era copyist.

We know more about the second copy, Ayasofia 2960, made in the middle of the sixteenth century and presented to Jānim min Qaṣrūh, an amir who served as the inspector of Royal Dikes (kāshif al-jusūr al-sulṭāniyya) in the Fayyum and al-Bahnasā under the Ottoman administration. As shown by Wakako Kumakura, the treatise was copied in the context of an Ottoman tax survey of twenty-seven Fayyumi villages made in 923/1517–18, the first year of Ottoman rule in Egypt.[1] The copy of this Ottoman survey is found immediately following al-Nābulusī’s treatise (fols 172v–175v). The 27 villages included in the Ottoman survey are those which at the time of the Ottoman conquest paid at least some of their taxes to Dīwān al-Dhakhīra, the bureau managing assets under the direct control of the last Mamluk sultans.[2]

The Ayasofia copy of the Villages of the Fayyum contains 171 folios, written in multiple types of ink — usually names of villages and categories of taxes appear in red or grey. Names of villages are also written in a more stylized calligraphy than the rest of the text. There are catch words at the bottom left, and a few marginal notes added by later readers. The Ayasofia manuscript was derived from the same Mamluk-era copy used by Moritz, or from a shared source, as is demonstrated by a pattern of similar copyist mistakes found in both MP and AS.

Moritz’s printed edition is far more reliable, with fewer copyist mistakes and no omissions. This is in part because the Mamluk-era manuscript available to him, now lost, was of superior quality compared to the sixteenth-century Ottoman one. This is attested by the Dār al-Kutub manuscript, copied in 1897 from the Mamluk-era manuscript, which is largely in line with Moritz’s edition.

[1] Wakako Kumakura, ‘Tax Survey Records of the First Year of the Ottoman Rule in Egypt, Contained in the Ayasofia Manuscript with Fakhr al-Dīn ʿUthmān al-Nābulsī’s Taʾrīkh al-Fayyūm’, Journal of Asian and African Studies, 89 (2015), 79–118 (in Japanese, with edited Arabic text).

[2] On Dīwān al-Dhakhīra, see Daisuke Igarashi, Land Tenure, Fiscal Policy and Imperial Power in Medieval Syro-Egypt (Chicago: Middle Eastern Documentation Center, 2015).