This work is an early copy of a fascinating treatise on occult sciences and foretelling the future. The author of the present commentary is ‘Abd al-Rahman bin Muhammad bin ‘Ali bin Ahmad al-Bistami al-Hanafi al-Hurufi (d.1454 AD). He was born in Mamluk Antioch and studied in Cairo where he was drawn to the study of Islamic mysticism. He established himself in Ottoman Bursa in around 1420 and there spent the rest of his life as protégé of Sultan Murad II. In his discussion of the author, Norman Housley states that ‘it is there that he completed his major work – Miftah al-jafr al-jami’, a compendium of apocalyptic traditions then current in the [region..]. He predicted the imminent fall of Constantinople [..]. This work soon earned him the reputation of the pre-eminent divinatory master in the Ottoman realm (Norman Housley (ed.), The Crusade in the Fifteenth Century, New York, 2017, p.25). He wrote several treatises on magical letters (huruf) and one on Qur’anic medicine.
Two copies of Miftah al-jafr al-jami’ wa-misbah al-nur al-lami’ are in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin dated 1566 (vol.V, 4232) and 1595 (vol.V, 4212/1). The present work is certainly contemporaneous with the two Dublin copies, if not earlier and can be considered early copy of the work, written within 100 years of the author’s death (see A. Arberry, A Handlist of the Arabic Manuscripts, Dublin, 1962 and C. Brockelmann, GAL, II. 232, S. II. 32). According to Charles Rieu ‘the work is largely made up of extracts from the treatise entitled al-Jafr al-jami’ wa’l-nur al-sati’ also called al-Durr al-munazzam fi’l-sirr al-a’zam by IbnTalha al-Nasibi (C. Rieu, Supplement to the Manuscripts in the British Museum, Hildesheim, 2013, reprint of the 1894 London catalogue, No.828, pp.563-564). An early copy of Al-jafr al-jami’, dated 1254 AD is in Leyden (Or 2832) and another is in the Cambridge University Library (Or 529). Ibn Talha was originally from Nusaybin in Syria. He was a learned jurist who settled in Damascus and died in Aleppo in 1254 AD. He turned to occult sciences towards the end of his life. Al-jafr al-jami’ is recorded amongst others of his works in Al-Zerekly, Al-A'lam, Biographical Dictionary, vol. 6, p.175.
A copy of Al-jafr al-jami' sold as part of the Mohamed Makiya Collection, Christie's South Kensington, 18 April 2016, lot 84 whilst another copy of Miftah al-Jafr al-Jami’ (Kitab durr al-munazzam fi sirr al-a'zam) sold at Christie's, London, 13 April 2010, lot 63.