Edinburgh University | Information Services | Gallery Homepage | Search
Gallery of Benefactors - Edinburgh University Library

Al-Biruni - Chronology of the World

Al-Biruni - Chronology of the World

Double click on the thumbnails
to view the full-size images

Shelfmark: Or MS 161

Robert Blair Munro Binning

Member of the Madras Civil Service

The third son of David Monro of Softlaw (who by deed of entail assumed the surname and arms of Binning), by his second wife Isabella Blair, Binning enjoyed a career as an administrator in the East India Company Service in Madras. He was an enthusiastic linguist in Arabic, Persian and Hindi, in the pursuance of which he collected historic manuscripts and other examples of the use of these languages, and published "A grammar, with a selection of dialogues and familiar phrases, and a short vocabulary in modern Arabic" edited by Fletcher Hayes, in 1849. He travelled in the Cape of Good Hope and in Syria, the Holy Land, Arabia and Egypt in 1845-1847, but had to quit his post for health reasons in 1850. For the next two years he travelled again, in Ceylon and Persia, which he described in his published "Journal of two years' travel in Persia, Ceylon, etc.", (2 volumes, London, 1857).

Robert Binning assembled a collection of about 140 Oriental manuscripts, which he presented to two Edinburgh institutions in 1877. Of these MSS, one is now among the Library's rarest and most valuable, the exquisitely illustrated MS Or 161, "Al-Asar al-Baqiyah 'an al-Qurun al-Khaliyah" (The chronology of ancient nations and their history) by Abu al-Raihan al-Biruni (AH 707, AD 1307). Another is a portfolio of 29 Indian miniature paintings of which one in particular, which portrays an elephant fight, has become well known. They are listed in "A descriptive catalogue of the Arabic and Persian manuscripts in Edinburgh University Library", by Mohammed Hukk and others (1925).

Binning originally presented part of his collection to New College, Edinburgh where they were catalogued by Robert Bertram Serjeant in "A handlist of Arabic, Persian and Hindustani MSS of New College", Edinburgh (London: 1942). They were transferred to the Main Library, where they rejoined the other part of the collection, after the Library of New College, which had become the Faculty of Divinity in the University in 1929, became part of Edinburgh University Library in 1962. He bequeathed to New College Library (where they are still held) a selection of language notebooks, the four-volume journal of his 1845-1847 travels in Africa and the Middle East, and a volume of original botanical watercolours of plants in Malacca from his library.

Friends of EUL | Recent Donations | Islamic & Middle Eastern
1500-1699 | 1700-1799 | 1800-1899 | 1900-1949 | 1950-1999 | 2000-

Unless explicitly stated otherwise, all material © The University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh University Logo