An unusual Qur'an manuscript, written from memory by Ayub bin Suleyman (Job, son of Solomon), a former slave, originally from the kingdom of Foota (modern Senegal), who had escaped from his owners in Maryland and made his way to England Probably England, dated AD 1733 on last page(2)
Lot 137*
An unusual Qur'an manuscript, written from memory by Ayub bin Suleyman (Job, son of Solomon), a former slave, originally from the kingdom of Foota (modern Senegal), who had escaped from his owners in Maryland and made his way to England Probably England, dated AD 1733 on last page(2)
Sold for £21,250 (US$ 35,860) inc. premium
Auction Details
An unusual Qur'an manuscript, written from memory by Ayub bin Suleyman (Job, son of Solomon), a former slave, originally from the kingdom of Foota (modern Senegal), who had escaped from his owners in Maryland and made his way to England Probably England, dated AD 1733 on last page(2) An unusual Qur'an manuscript, written from memory by Ayub bin Suleyman (Job, son of Solomon), a former slave, originally from the kingdom of Foota (modern Senegal), who had escaped from his owners in Maryland and made his way to England Probably England, dated AD 1733 on last page(2) An unusual Qur'an manuscript, written from memory by Ayub bin Suleyman (Job, son of Solomon), a former slave, originally from the kingdom of Foota (modern Senegal), who had escaped from his owners in Maryland and made his way to England Probably England, dated AD 1733 on last page(2) An unusual Qur'an manuscript, written from memory by Ayub bin Suleyman (Job, son of Solomon), a former slave, originally from the kingdom of Foota (modern Senegal), who had escaped from his owners in Maryland and made his way to England Probably England, dated AD 1733 on last page(2)
Lot Details
An unusual Qur'an manuscript, written from memory by Ayub bin Suleyman (Job, son of Solomon), a former slave, originally from the kingdom of Foota (modern Senegal), who had escaped from his owners in Maryland and made his way to England
Probably England, dated AD 1733 on last page
Arabic manuscript on European watermarked paper, 223 leaves, 21 lines to the page written in a personal, cursive script in black ink, three dots between verses, catchwords, flyleaves with an English account of Job's life and journeys, probably written in the 18th Century, further notes in English and Latin by Samuel Chandler and William Smith, and a pen and ink portrait of Job, brown morocco gilt, cover decorated with a blind-tooled diaper pattern, doublures and flyleaves of marbled paper, bookplate of Dr and Mme. Bodichon, Blandford Square, in good condition, 192 x 136 mm.; and Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Ahmad, better known as Ibn Maryam al-Malifi al-Madyuni al-Tilmasani, Kitab al-Bustan fi akhbar al-auliya' wa'l-'uluma', a dictionary of the scholars of Tlemcen, with an index, copied by the scribe 'Abdullah bin Jinan bin Muhammad bin Moulay Ahmad bin Moulay 'Abdul-Rahman bin Musa al-Sharif, North Africa, probably Morocco, dated Saturday 25th Rabi' al-awwal 1315/24th August 1897, Arabic manuscript on European watermarked paper, 200 leaves, 17 lines to the page written in maghribi script in black ink, significant sentences, words and dates picked out in red, green and yellow, catchwords, headings written in red, in good condition, brown morocco with blind-tooled central medallions and inner borders, faded, with flap
164 x 129 mm.(2)

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Private US collection since the early 1960s; formerly in another Californian private collection.

    The account of Job's journey in the flyleaves (possibly written by William Smith) runs thus:

    Job ben Solomon ben Ibrahim was Imam to his Father who was high Priest of Bonda a Town in the Kingdom of Footah of which his grandfather Ibrahim had been both founder and legislator, and it is remarkable that among his laws there is one declaring that no Person who should flee thither for refuge should ever be made a Slave.
    The Father of Job however having two slaves to dispose of sent his son with them to an English ship which had just gone up the Gambia; but the Captain not agreeing to his terms, Job crossed the Gambia and sold the Slaves in the Mandingo Country, where on his return he was seized by a marauding Party, bound and carried off, and sold to Captain Pyke of the Ship already mentioned.
    The Captain, knowing Job, would have allowed him to redeem himself; but, the distance from his Father to whom he wrote for the means not admitting of the messenger's return in less than a fortnight, the Captain who sailed in less than a week carried him to Maryland, where he was sold to a Mr Tolsey who employed him in making Tobacco and taking care of his father.
    Miserable under these circumstances and the perpetual Interruption of his devotions He at length resolved on flight; and accordingly in 1731 escaped to Pennsylvania, where he was taken up and thrown into Prison till reclaimed by Mr Tolsey, who now enquiring into the History of his Slave took him home and treated him with greater kindness than before.
    Job wrote now a letter to his Father, in Arabic, acquainting him with his situation, but there being no direct conveyance at that time to Africa it was sent round by England, where lying for a while in the hands of a Mr Hunt it was seen by General Oglethorpe, who immediately so interested himself in his behalf that he induced Mr Hunt to send for him to England securing by Bond to that gentleman a Sum of Money on his arrival here.
    Mr Hunt accordingly ordered Job to be bought for him, and in 1733 imported him into England in the Character of his Slave, from which however he was soon redeemed by a Subscription and the African Company paying all charges on his account cancelled the Bond which had been given by General Oglethorpe to Mr Hunt, and gave Job his Freedom endorsed in Form under their own Seal.
    Many Persons of Consequence afforded him their Patronage here, the Duke of Montagu in particular; and he was presented to the King and Queen by Mr Hans Sloane who employed him frequently in translating Arabic MSS and inscriptions.
    In 1734 the African Company accomodated him with a Passage in one of their ships bound for the Gambia and he left England furnished with all Instruments of husbandry, and various tools the use of which had made a Principal Part of his Studies here.
    His Father had died in his absence, and one of his Wives had married again, he deeply lamented the former Event and the latter he forgave. He also expressed concern when on his return he found that the King of his Country, whose favor he had enjoyed before, had invaded the Mandingoes and taken a great revenge for his Captivity. His Gratitude was also to be seen in his letters sent back to his benefactors here and the language of affection in which he speaks of the English nation. Tho' a scrupulous Mahometan he had a tolerant Spirit and was rather friendly to Christianity. His docility appeared in his ready attainment of our language and the use of our tools, and his memory from the very MS to which this account is annexed, for it is one of three which he wrote entirely from his unassisted recollection.


    Another note of Smith's reads: This Job when in London used to visit almost weekly at the House of Mr Joseph Smith my great-uncle, who then lived in Cannon Street in the City - anno 1733.

    This remarkable story, with its mercifully happy ending, has, of course, a grim background of human bondage and suffering. Job's initial capture resembles an incident in a picaresque novel of the period, and the callous attitude of Captain Pyke, regarding Job simply as a piece of property to be carried off more or less in compensation for his trouble, is shocking. (Though it should be noted too that Job himself was trafficking in slaves). It seems like sheer good fortune that Mr Tolsey actually enquired into Job's background after his recapture in America - surely many who made the same attempt were not treated with such clemency. The concept of Job as property is emphasised by the fact that despite Mr Hunt's kindness in taking him to England, Job had to be regarded as a slave and redeemed (like a human dividend) in order to get into England. He is even described as being 'imported' into that country (though we should allow for some difference in usage in 18th Century English).

    The kingdom of Foota (otherwise called Fouta Tooro or Fuuta Tooro) was a region on the Senegal river in west Africa, comprising what is now northern Senegal and southern Mauritania. The area had only converted to Islam in the early 18th Century (in which case Job's ability to write out the manuscripts from memory is all the more impressive). In around 1776 the Imamate of Futa Tooro became powerful and in turn provoked the seizing of power by other Muslim groups in west Africa.

    Job's connection with Hans Sloane (1660-1753) is intriguing, and it is noteworthy, given Sloane's interest in botany, that Job left England with 'Instruments of Husbandry', and had spent a good deal of time studying that field. Presumably he was engaged in assisting Sloane with the study of Arabic manuscripts relating to natural history and medicine in particular. At his death in 1753 Sloane bequeathed all his books, prints, drawings, coins and other items to the nation, and these formed the nucleus of the British Museum, which opened to the public in 1759.
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