Kitāb al-Hayawān

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The Kitāb al-Ḥayawān (كتاب الحيوان; English: Book of Animals) is an Arabic translation in 19 treatises (maqālāt').

Historia Animalium : treatises 1-10
De Partibus Animalium : treatises 11-14
De Generatione Animalium : treatises 15-19

Medieval Arabic tradition ascribes the translation to Yahya Ibn al-Batriq, but contemporary scholarship does not support this attribution. This Arabic version was the source for the Latin translation De Animalibus by Michael Scot[1] in Toledo before 1217.[2] Several complete manuscript versions exist in Leiden, London, and Tehran),[3] but the text has been edited in separate volumes corresponding to the three Aristotelian sources. The Egyptian existentialist philosopher Abdel Rahman Badawi edited Treatises 1-10 (Historia Animalium) as Ṭibā‘ al-Ḥayawān[4] and Treatises 11-14 (De Partibus Animalium) as Ajzā al-Ḥayawān.[5] Treatises 15-19 (De Generatione Animalium) first appeared in the Aristoteles Semitico-Latinus series in 1971.[6] This series then published Treatises 11-14 in 1979[7] and Treatises 1-10 in 2018.[8]

References in philosophyEdit

The first known mention of the book appears in a text by the Arab philosopher Al-Kindī (d. 850). Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna) seems to have had direct knowledge of the book, as he paraphrased and commented upon the full text in his encyclopedic Al-Shifā’. In Spain, the 12th-century philosopher Ibn Bājja (Avempace) wrote on De Partibus and De Generatione. It has been remarked that one usually finds references to the Historia in the Eastern Islamicate world, while the other two books are generally referred to in the West, and in conformity to this pattern, Ibn Rushd (Averroes), like Ibn Bājja, wrote commentaries on De Partibus and De Generatione (see below), in which he criticizes Ibn Sīnā's interpretations.

References in zoographyEdit

Page from the Kitāb al-Hayawān by Al-Jahiz.

Kitāb al-hayawān was known at least indirectly to several important zoographers including Al-Jāhiz (Kitāb al-hayawān), Al-Mas‘ūdī (Murawwaj al-dhahab), Abū Hayyān al-Tawhīdī (Al-Imtā‘ wa al-mu’ānasa), Al-Qazwīnī (‘Ajā’ib al-makhlūqāt), and Al-Damīrī (Hayāt al-hayawān). They may have known the Aristotelian Kitāb al-hayawān at second hand from Arabic compendiums of selected passages from the book. The only extant compendium is the Maqāla tushtamalu ‘à la fusūl min kitāb al-hayawān, attributed (probably falsely) to Mūsà bin Maymūn (Moses Maimonides), and the Greek Compendium of Nicolaus Damascenus was at least partially available by the 11th century.

In the Christian WestEdit

Finally, Michael Scot’s early 13th-century Latin translation of the Kitāb al-hayawān, De Animalibus, is worthy of mention as the vehicle of transmission into Western Europe. It was alleged by Roger Bacon that Scot "had appropriated to himself the credit of translations which more properly belonged to one Andreas the Jew." This may mean that he had help with the Arabic manuscript, or that he worked fully or in part from a Judaeo-Arabic or Hebrew version. Scot's De Animalibus is available in a partial edition.[9]


  1. ^ Aafke M.I. Oppenraay, ed. De Animalibus: Michael Scot's Arabic-Latin Translation. 3 volumes. Leiden: Brill, 1992-2020.
  2. ^ Emily Savage-Smith, review of Aristoteles Semitico-Latinus. The Arabic Version of Aristotle's Book of Animals: Books XI-XIV of the Kitāb al-Ḥayawān. Isis 72, n° 4 (1981): 679-680.
  3. ^ Aafke M.I. Van Oppenraay. "Avicenna’s Liber de animalibus (‘Abbreviatio Avicennae’): Preliminaries and State of Affairs." Documenti e studi sulla tradizione filosofica medievale 28 (2017): 403, note 7.
  4. ^ ‘Abd al-Rahmān al-Badawī, ed. Ṭibā‘ al-Ḥayawān. Kuwait: Wikālat al-maṭbū‘āt, 1977.
  5. ^ 'Abd al-Rahmān al-Badawī, ed. Ajzā al-Ḥayawān. Kuwait: Wikālat al-Maṭbū‘āt, 1978.
  6. ^ J. Brugman and J.H. Drossaart Lulofs, eds. Aristotle, Generation of Animals. The Arabic Translation Commonly Ascribed to Yaḥyā ibn al-Biṭrīq. Leiden: Brill, 1971.
  7. ^ Remke Kruk, ed. The Arabic version of Aristotle's Parts of Animals: Books XI-XIV of the Kitāb al-Ḥayawān. Amsterdam, Oxford: North Holland, 1979.
  8. ^ L.S. Filius, ed. The Arabic Version of Aristotle's Historia Animalium: Books I-X of the Kitāb al-Ḥayawān. Leiden: Brill, 2018.
  9. ^ Scot, Michael. De Animalibus. Vols 1-3. Leiden: Brill, 1992