Posted by on Jul 21, 2016 in Library | Comments Off on SYRIAN LIBRARIES


Following are the most famous Syrian libraries known to us:
1. The library of the monastery of Qartamin. This library contained many books, to which mar Simon Zaytuni (d. 734) added one hundred and eighty volumes.1 Following his steps, his nephew David and John, the metropolitan of Qartamin’s Monastery (998-1034), as well as his nephew, the monk Immanuel, adorned it with seventy volumes of parchments written in his own hand. In 1169 two monks, Gabriel bar Batriq and his brother Elisha, together with Moses of Kafr Salt, restored two hundred and seventy volumes.2
2. The library of Zuqnin Monastery. This contained many valuable books, as has been mentioned in the life story of Matta the ascetic.
3. The library of the Church of Amid. Mar Mari III, metropolitan of Amid, collected significant volumes which were moved to Amid after his death in 529.3
4. The library of Talada’s Monastery. Some of its books are preserved in the British Museum numbering 740 books, including the selected hymns of Mar Isaac, transcribed about 570. The monks of this monastery took possession of the books of Jacob of Edessa after his death in 708.
5. The library of Mar Dawud (David) Monastery. We had two monasteries of this name, one situated south of Damascus near Busra, also called the Monastery of Hina, the second, in the city of Qinnesrin, mentioned in the second half of the sixth century. Both monasteries are mentioned in the Syriac Documents4 (pp. 164, 171 and 440). The library in question belongs to one of them. Among its books, it contained the book of Philalethes, by St. Severus of Antioch, finished in the time of its Abbot Daniel in the sixth or the seventh century. This work is preserved in the Vatican Library (MS. 139).
6. The library of St. John’s Monastery in Beth Zaghba, mentioned three times in the Syriac Documents (pp. 163, 171 and 182) in the time of Paul the Abbot. Of its books only an old copy of the New Testament, written in 586, survives, at the Bibliotheca Laurenziana.
7. The library of St. John of Nayrab, believed to be one of the monasteries near Aleppo. One of its volumes, in the British Museum (MS. 730), contains the letters and discourses of Mar Philoxenus of Mabug; their transcription was finished in 569.
8. The library of St. Moses in al-Nabk’s mountain. British Museum MS. 585 contains the last volume of the writings of John Chrysostom, finished in the middle of the sixth century.
9. The library of Mar Daniel in Kafrbil, in the province of Antioch; the transcription of its works, done by a priest named Moses in 599, is preserved in the British Museum (MS 71).
10. The library of Mar Cyriacus near Tal al-Maqlub. Of its manuscripts only three survived, two in the British Museum (MSS. 52 and 53), transcribed in 616 and 617, and the third in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, MS. 72, finished in 720.

11. The library of al-Amud’s Monastery, mentioned in 638 in the Book of the Maymars (Hymns) of Mar Jacob of Saruj, in the time of Abbot Simon. Its contents survive in the Vatican (MS. 251).
12. The library of the Monastery of Mar Matta. Its manuscripts were increased in the seventh century, particularly the valuable ones which gained fame around the year 800. One of these manuscripts contained the Book of the Six Days, written in 822 by Jacob of Edessa, now extant at the Chaldean library in Mosul, transferred from the library at Diyarbakr. In 1298 this library contained the complete writings of Bar Hebraeus, as is mentioned in the Berlin MS. 326. But it was pillaged by the Kurds in the middle of the fourteenth century. Only a portion of it remained in the middle of the sixteenth century, and its contents were again scattered in 1845; after that date it possessed only about sixty manuscripts.
13. The library of the Monastery of the Syrians in Egypt. This monastery, which became widely famous in the seventh century, harbored a library to which its Abbot Father, Moses of Nisibin (907-944), added two hundred and fifty of the most valuable books and the rarest and oldest manuscripts after his trip from Egypt to Baghdad, which took six years and ended in 932. Among those who took care of the arrangements of this library and the binding of its books was the eminently learned monk Barsoum of Marash, some time after 1084. Barsoum was still living as a priest in 1122 (cf. British Museum MS. 323, Bibliotheque Nationale, MS. 27). I have read in some commentaries that fifteen camel-loads of books were found in this monastery after the pillage of Edessa, Amid, Melitene and other cities. In 1624 the priest Tuma (Thomas) of Mardin counted the books of this Monastery, which amounted to four hundred and three volumes (cf. British Museum MS. 374). So this was the most famous of all the Syrian libraries, as well as the most ancient of the libraries of the world.5 From the middle of the seventeenth century to the middle of the nineteenth, its books found their way into the libraries of the Vatican, Paris, Petersburg, and especially London, which was enriched by these books and so vaunted its stock of Syriac manuscripts over that of the other libraries.6 Also, there was a library of Syriac books in the Monastery of Anba Bula, mentioned after the time when Constantine I was the Abbot of Dayr al-Suryan in the eleventh century (cf. book of Isaac of Nineveh, British Museum MS. 695).
14. The library of the Monastery of Aspholis in Ras al-Ayn, to which Constantine, the bishop of this monastery, as well as the city of Mardin, donated books in the year 724 (British Museum MS. 24).
15. The library of the Monastery of Mar Barsoum, collected after the monastery became a patriarchal seat at the end of the eighth century. Athanasius VI (1129), a collector of the most valuable books, used to carry with him loads of them wherever he traveled. Michael the Great adorned this library with his numerous and magnificent manuscripts. Further, Joseph of Amid, metropolitan of Hims, mentioned in the Lives of Saints, which he finished in 1196, that this library lacked nothing except this book (British Museum MS. 960).
16. The library of the Monastery of Atanos; this monastery was established by Athanasius al-Naal (the cobbler), metropolitan of Miyafarqin, near Talbsam in the province of Ras al-Ayn in the middle of the eighth century. This monastery produced fifteen bishops from 740 to 1042. A certain Anastas has been mentioned as its librarian (British Museum MS. 943).

17. The Library of the Monastery of St. John Qurdis, in the city of Dara. To this library Lazarus, Bishop of Baghdad, donated the book attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite, shortly after the year 824 (British Museum MS. 625).
18. The library of Mar Hananya (known as Dayr al-Zafaran) Monastery, situated east of Mardin. Its books were collected by Mar Hananya, metropolitan of Mardin in the last decade of the eighth century. It was renewed and reorganized by Yuhanna (John), bishop of Mardin (d. 1165). After the Monastery became a patriarchal seat, its books were increased to over three hundred in number.
19. The library of the Monastery of Bar Jaji. Since its establishment the Anba Yuhanna, disciple of Marun, undertook to have many of its books transcribed by skillful scribes and monks, and thus enriched this library from 990 onwards.
20. The library of the Cathedral of Melitene. To this library John X, Bar Shushan (d. 1072), added his valuable manuscripts.
21. The library of St. Mark’s Monastery, known as Dayr al-Suryan, in Jerusalem. Its books were collected at the end of the fifteenth century. A good number of them are remnants of the library of the Monastery of Magdalene (which existed from the eleventh through the fourteenth centuries). The number of its Syriac manuscripts was increased to more than three hundred and fifty volumes.
22. The Library of Qanqart’s Monastery, near Diyarbakr, collected in the second half of the twelfth century. Its books were increased by Bishop John of Amid in 1203 (cf. The Churches of Basibrina and St. Thomas in Mosul).
23.The library of the Church of the Two Apostles in Edessa was collected in later times and contained a group of the books which had belonged to the Monastery of Mar Abhai in Karkar, after it was deserted. These books, which are presently at Aleppo, number about one hundred and thirty.

– Mor Ignatius Aphram Barsoum