This is a famous anthology of old Arabic poetry compiled by Abu Tammam. Born in around the year 192/807, Abu Tammam was the son of a Christian called Thadhus, but converted to Islam. On his conversion he adopted the name of Aus and invented a family lineage connecting himself to the tribe of Tayyi'. So began a life-long interest and personal identification with Bedouin life and culture, of which the compilation of Kitab al-hamasa was a part.
He was born near Damascus and spent the early part of his life in that city, moving to Cairo amd later to Samarra where he enjoyed the patronage of the Caliph al-Mu'tasim. He travelled several times to visit provincial governors, as the most celebrated panegyrist of his time. On the return from one trip to Nishapur, he was held up in Hamadan by snow. It was while stranded here that he wrote Kitab al-hamasa in the library of Abu'l Wafa ibn Salama.
Kitab al-hamasa is a collection of extracts from Arab poetry of the pre-Islamic period. His claim to fame rests on this collection of poems, many of them celebrating valour in battle and the Bedouin virtues such as courage, hospitality and honour. Some of the most famous jahiliyya poets are represented as well as anonymous poets. He died in around the year 231/846 in Mosul.
Encyclopaedia of Islam, Leiden, 1986, Vol.I, pp.153-5
Brockelmann, C.: Geschichte der arabischen Literatur, Leiden, 1996.I, p.84, SI, pp.134-5.
Sezgin, F.: Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums, Leiden, 1967, II, pp.66-8.
The present manuscript has three inscriptions which give a clue to its dating. The first, on the opening flyleaf is dated 748 (1347-8), the second is on f.61 and is dated Sha'ban 674 (January-February 1276) in Damascus, the third is dated Jumada I 654 (June-July 1256) and is on the final folio. All three are inscriptions by reciters of the poetry recording the train of transmission.
Two other undated copies of the 6th/12th century are in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin (3008 and 3625).