Egyptian National Library and Archives in Cairo
The Egyptian National Library and Archives in Cairo where a rare 14th century manuscript has been returned. Image by Ashashyou via Wikimedia Commons.

Link to licence

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The manuscript titled Summary of the science of history by Mohammed bin Sulaiman Masood Al Kafiji, known as Mohiuddin Al Kafiji, was formerly in the collection of the Egyptian National Library and Archives but disappeared in the 1970s.

Dating from the 14th century, it is considered an important and early study in historical theory. Al Kafiji was born in modern-day Iran but is thought to have travelled to Jerusalem and then to Cairo.

The Egyptian National Library and Archives reportedly spotted the manuscript online in a sale taking place in April. Contacting Bonhams through Egypt’s embassy in London, the library was able to show documents to prove it was the same manuscript that had previously been in its possession.

After talks with the vendor, a deal was secured to ensure the safe return of the item to the Cairo library, with the auction house handing over the manuscript to the library last month.

In a press conference earlier this week to announce the return of the manuscript, Egypt’s Minister of Culture Inas Abdel-Dayem thanked Bonhams for agreeing to help in the negotiations with the manuscript’s owner.

While Bonhams would not reveal anything about how the vendor had acquired it or what level it had been estimated, a spokesman for the auctioneers said: “Bonhams was delighted to be of assistance in helping the owner restore this important manuscript to its rightful home.”

Further recoveries

Since June, Egyptian authorities have also succeeding in retrieving ancient Egyptian artefacts from both France and Italy.

In a separate development, the Thai embassy in Washington, DC recently secured the return of a group of a dozen ancient artefacts from a private American collector. The items relate to the prehistoric civilization in Thailand's northeastern province of Udon Thani.

Thai culture minister Vira Rojpojchanarat said the country has been gathering evidence to make claims over other items, including works in a number of US museums.