Al-Falāḥa al-muntakhaba

Not much is known about the author of this treatise who, according to Ṣāliḥīyah (1984, p. 572), died in AH 797/1394-5 AD. Both the author and title are given with several variations. According to the latter (Ṣāliḥīyah 1984, p. 572), the author’s name is Ṭaybughā al-Jariklamishī al-Tumārtamurī, while Attié Attié (1969, p. 249) has Ṭaybaghā or Ṭayboghā al-Gariklamishī, and Aḥmad Bik (1944, p. 109) gives Ṭaybughā al-Jarkasī al-Tumādtamurī. The name is also on occasion written Taybughah. The Arabic spelling of his personal name aybughā reflects an attempt to represent the sounds of Mamluk ay-boghā “poulain-taureau” or “foal-bull”, while the morphophonemic pattern of another attested Mamluk name tümän-tämür (literally “dix mille fer/s”, “ten-thousand iron”, Arabicized tumān-tamur) and the often occurring element –tämür/tamur in personal names make it plausible that his nisba is to be read as al-Tamār-Tamurī (cf. Sauvaget, 1950, pp. 44, 51). Given that Sauvaget’s list of Mamluk names does not mention a Tumār-Tamur (or Tumād-Tamur, which appears in Aḥmad Bik, 1944, p. 109) and that some handwritings exhibit occasional similarity between the Arabic letters dāl, rā and nūn in their isolated forms, it may well be that the nisba is actually to be identified as al-Tumān-Tamurī, which is written in Arabic as two words, featuring an unconnected nūn; moreover, it would fit the fact that a Mamluk nisba generally reflected an individual’s patron and that this specific nisba is actually attested.

The title of the work is given as Al-Filāḥa al-muntakhaba, ‘Selected agriculture’, by Ṣāliḥīyah (1984, p. 572) and as Al-Falāḥa al-muntakhaba by Attié Attié (1969, p. 249). However, according to Aḥmad Bik (1944, p. 109) the title is Kitāb al-filāḥa al-muntija, ‘The Book of successful/fruitful agriculture’, or, in full, Kitāb al-filāḥa al-muntija fī ilāḥ al-ar wa-al-zurūʿ wa-ghars al-ashjār wa-tadbīrihā wa-ʿilāj adawātihā wa-arf al-mahālik ʿanhā wa-dhikri mā fīhā min al-manāfiʿ wa-al-maḍārr li-abnāʾ al-bashar wa-tarkīb al-shajar wa-akl al-thimār wa-tajwīdihā wa-ghayr dhālika min al-manāfiʿ wa-al-khawāṣṣ wa-dhikr al-azmina wa-al-fuṣūl al-arbaʿa, ‘The Book of successful/fruitful agriculture in regards to improving soil and seeds, planting and managing trees, curing their diseases, averting perils from them, and mentioning the benefits and harms that lie in them for human beings, grafting trees, eating fruits and improving them and other useful and special things, and mentioning the times and the four seasons’.

The clearly Mamluk character of Al-Tamār-Tamurī’s name, his description as Circassian, and his clear association with Egypt as shown by his use of the Coptic calendar and description of the cultivation of plants native to Egypt, indicate that the author must have been a 14th century Burjī Mamluk of Circassian origin, who seems to have lived and written in Egypt. According to Attié Attié (1969, p. 249) he spoke “the language of the rich landowner” and knew Syria as well as Egypt.

In addition to the usual source texts – i.e. the ‘Nabataean agriculture’ and the ‘Byzantine agriculture’ – Al-Tamār-Tamurī seems to have made use of personal experience and observations, as he makes clear in the introduction where he states his purpose in the following passage: “And when I had acquainted myself with Ibn Waḥshīyah’s book on agriculture, the ‘Byzantine agriculture’ (Filāḥat al-Rūm) and others, and had sown, planted and gained experience, I was given insights into beneficial, wondrous and strange things the like of which a rational person should not neglect. Thus I wished to compose for myself and for whomsoever God wishes a compendium that encompasses all that is necessary for the one who has longing for and interest in this occupation, which is the most meritorious of occupations”. However, Attié Attié (1969, p. 249) claims that Al-Tamār-Tamurī’s own personal contribution was rather meagre, making the treatise little more than an abridgement of Ibn Waḥshīyah’s ‘Nabataean agriculture’, although the present work is noteworthy in that it is the first agricultural work to discuss the cultivation of bāmya/bāmiyah/bāmiyā (okra, Hibiscus esculentus), even if it refers only once to the botanist Ibn al-Bayṭār in this matter and otherwise ignores his explanations of its medical benefits and his quotation of Abū al-ʿAbbās al-Nabātī’s description of this plant.


Al-Tamār-Tamurī’s introduction is followed by a chapter on the preferred types of soil for cultivation, the conditions that need to be fulfilled in order to improve them, and how to make uncultivated land productive. The second chapter discusses the different kinds of water, such as flowing water, water from springs and wells, rain, snowmelt, stagnant water, and the water of the Nile, especially the silt deposited during the river’s flooding.

Chapter three is dedicated to the topic of air, dealing with the benefit air has on animals and plants. It is followed by a chapter on the times for planting and sowing according to the months of the lunar year. Al-Tamār-Tamurī discusses the Coptic Calendar used in Egypt as well as the seeds and plants that are particular to each month. According to Aḥmad Bik (1944, p. 109) this is a rather lengthy chapter, making up the bulk of the work and covering, inter alia, the planting of olive trees and grafting citrons onto them, which “produces a delicate citron similar to an olive, the colour of which is between red and yellow”. He also discusses how to grow and pollinate palm trees, how to cultivate pomegranates, apples, quinces, pears, apricots, peaches, almonds, figs, sycamores, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, citrons, lemons, bitter oranges, myrtles, castor-oil plants or Palmae Christi, laurel trees, jujubes, mountain ash trees, carob trees, lotus trees, bananas, Melissa (?), evergreen cypresses, tamarisks, barberries (Berberis vulgaris), different kinds of plums (ijjāṣ, barqūq), drumstick trees (Cassiae fistulae), different kinds of acacia trees (arabica, gummifera), evergreen oaks (Quercus ilex), chestnut trees, and oaks (qarw?). The author concludes by explaining how to grow different flowers and herbs, such as violets, various kinds of roses – including how he managed to produce black and blue roses –, water lilies, narcissi, jasmines, mercury plants (Mercurialis), irises, marsh mallows, chamomiles, and different kinds of aromatic plants, including mint.

The final chapter is dedicated to the topic of grafting trees in general (see Aḥmad Bik, 1944, pp. 109, 110). As Attié Attié notes (1969, p. 249) the treatise accurately describes the author’s own experience of two different types of grafting, namely cleft grafting and shield budding.

Published Editions & Translations

No critical edition is known to exist.


  • Cairo, Dār al-Kutub no. 19 Numrah Khāṣṣah (special number) 4245 (Cf. Ṣāliḥīyah, 1984, p. 572)
  • Cairo, Dār al-Kutub no. 20 Numrah Khāṣṣah (special number) 2446 (Cf. Ṣāliḥīyah, 1984, p. 573)
  • Cairo, Dār al-Kutub no. 22 Zirāʿah (Cf. Ṣāliḥīyah, 1984, p. 572)
  • Cairo, Dār al-Kutub no. 24 Zirāʿah (Cf. Ṣāliḥīyah, 1984, p. 572)
  • Cairo, Dār al-Kutub no. 29 Zirāʿah taymūr (Cf. Ṣāliḥīyah, 1984, p. 572)
  • Cairo, Dār al-Kutub no. 37 Zirāʿah (Cf. Ṣāliḥīyah, 1984, p. 572)
  • Cairo, Dār al-Kutub no. 103 Zirāʿah ṭalaʿat (Cf. Ṣāliḥīyah, 1984, p. 572)
  • Cairo, Dār al-Kutub no. 219 Zirāʿah (Cf. Ṣāliḥīyah, 1984, p. 572)
  • Cairo, Dār al-Kutub no. 489 L (lām) (Cf. Ṣāliḥīyah, 1984, p. 572)
  • Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, no. 2805; manuscript is anonymous, but author clear due to identity of text with other Paris mss. of this treatise. Cf. Attié Attié, 1969, 249; Ṣāliḥīyah, 1984, p. 573.
  • Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, no. 2807. Cf. Attié Attié, 1969, 249; Ṣāliḥīyah, 1984, p. 573.
  • Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, no. 2808. Cf. Attié Attié, 1969, 249; Ṣāliḥīyah, 1984, p. 573.
  • Pakistan, Institute for Islamic Research, 63 Majmūʿ Alif (Cf. Ṣāliḥīyah, 1984, p. 572; no city name given)
  • Leiden, University Library, Or. 1184, Folios 1-62 (= CCO no. 1290), without any author mentioned, but according to Attié Attié, 1969, 250, this is a copy of the present work. According to Witkam, 2006-2007, vol. 2, pp. 58, 59, the manuscript is a collective volume of Arabic texts, executed on paper, “copies by Sjahin Candi, who worked for Jacobus Goelius (1596-1667)”, which seems to indicate that the copy must date from the 17th century CE. (Cf. also Voorhoeve, 1980, p. 437).


Bik, ʿĪsā Aḥmad (1363/1944). Tārīkh al-Nabāt ʿinda al-ʿArab. Cairo: Maṭbaʻat al-Iʻtimād.
Attié Attié, B. (1969). ‘Les manuscrits agricoles arabes de la Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris’. Hespéris‑Tamuda 10 (3),  pp. 241-261.
Sauvaget, J. (1950). ‘Noms et Surnoms de Mamlouks’. Journal Asiatique 238, pp. 31-58.
Voorhoeve, P. (1980). Handlist of Arabic Manuscrits in the Library of the University of Leiden and other Collections in the Netherlands. Leiden: Brill.
Witkam, J.J. (2006-2007). Inventory of the Oriental manuscripts in Leiden University Library (25 volumes). Leiden: University Library.