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A Handbook and Reader of Ottoman Arabic

Esther-Miriam Wagner

II. Reader

16. A clerical letter by Rafael al-Ṭūḵī from the Prize papers collections (1758)1

Esther-Miriam Wagner et Mohamed Ahmed

Texte intégral



  • 1 The letter is part of the box HCA 32/212 in the National Archives. Analyses of this letter were pre (...)


  • 2 Why the nūn was added to this form is not quite clear.





2[Written in the hand of Yūḥannā Marqūryūs al-Farārjī]


  1. With the help of God.
  2. (The letter) should arrive to Girga in Upper Egypt, and be delivered
  3. into the fingertips of the priest Rūks (?) Qudsī by care of the messenger.
  4. In wellness.


3(5) To the Excellency, our brother and beloved in God, the honourable priest Rūks Qudsī—may God prolong his life. (6) After kissing hands, we acknowledge to your respected self that your precious letter reached us (7) on the 20th of the month Ottobre, i.e., the month Baba, in the year 1758, (8) in which you inform us about the arrival of the books that I sent to you, and about (9) your safety, and we were greatly content to hear that. But on the other hand, (10) we were sorry about the death of our brother, the deceased priest ʿAwaḍ—My God’s mercy be upon him, and may God give you consolation (11) and may there be recompense for you, because we cannot offer anything but prayers for him and his welfare (12) from the Creator and peace for his soul. Then we would like to ask you to inform us about the large (13) paintings that belong to us that were in his keeping and about some other books we gave to him (14) in Rome to sell on our behalf. So, please inform us about everything, especially (15) about the paintings, because they belong to the Church’s charitable organisation (waqf) and no one has the right to dispose of them. (16) Finally, we wish you to keep in touch and not delay in (17) doing as you did previously, because for a long time we have received nothing (18) from you but this letter, which reached us this year after a thirteen-month (19) delay. From now on, please do not forget us for such a long period again. (20) Finally, send our greetings to all the brothers who (21) are with you, the beloved in God; the Master Mushraqī al-Bāskī and his family; (22) and to our relatives and to all who are under your protection send our greetings,


23. Your sincere friend
24. Rafael al-Ṭūḵī
25. a priest by God’s grace


26. written on 22nd Hathor
27. of the year 1758
28. of the Lord


4There is a marked difference in register within the corpus of Arabic Prize Papers between letters written by merchants and those written by clerics. The clerical letters overall show more literary forms, such as the future particle sa- and much-increased use of the negation particle lam. These forms are used as stylistic markers of the clerical register and were probably introduced through exposure of the clerics to literary Arabic texts, which led to the development of a particular clerical register.

5At the same time, vernacular, non-literary forms occur in particular sociolinguistic circumstances and we also find phonological and morphological Middle Arabic forms similar to those found in the traders’ correspondence.

6Line 7


7With the imperfect, lam negates the present and with the perfect, past tense forms. The use of lam appears to be related to register in the Prize papers, with clerical writers much more likely to use it than mercantile authors.

8Line 15



1 The letter is part of the box HCA 32/212 in the National Archives. Analyses of this letter were previously included in the linguistic description in Wagner and Ahmed (2017). At the time, the authors gave this letter the siglum NAL 46.5, as the letters had not yet been catalogued by the National Archives.

2 Why the nūn was added to this form is not quite clear.

3 For an extensive discussion of lam in spoken and written varieties of Arabic, see Wagner (2010, 141–50).


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