The Transmission of Ibn Saʿd’s Biographical Dictionary "Kitāb al-Ṭabaqāt al-kabīr"

Ahmad Nazir Atassi


This article develops the concepts and tools for the systematic study of the mechanics of survival for medieval Islamic books. These concepts and tools are then applied to studying the history of the earliest extant biographical dictionary of the Islamic tradition: Ibn Saʿd’s Ṭabaqāt. First, the book’s transmitters and their historical contexts are investigated using a large number of transmission chains. Then, conclusions are extracted from this data concerning the book’s authorship, the survival process of its many versions, and the trajectories of its geographical diffusion at different phases of its long life.

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