was an Assyrian
The Assyrian people are a distinct ethnic group whose origins lie in ancient Mesopotamia...
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...
A Syriacist or Syrianist is a specialist in Syriac language and Christianity. Specifically, British, French, and German scholars of the 18th and 19th centuries who were involved in the study of Syriac/Aramaic language and literature were commonly known by this designation, at a time when Hebrew was...
Oriental studies is the academic field of study that embraces Near Eastern and Far Eastern societies and cultures, languages, peoples, history and archaeology; in recent years the subject has often been turned into the newer terms of Asian studies and Middle Eastern studies...
and a former priest who is best known for collecting and preserving the Mingana Collection
of ancient Middle Eastern manuscripts at Birmingham. Like the majority of Assyrians in Zakho, his family belonged to the Chaldean Catholic Church
The Chaldean Catholic Church , is an Eastern Syriac particular church of the Catholic Church, maintaining full communion with the Bishop of Rome and the rest of the Catholic Church...
. Alphonse was born to Paolus and Maryam Nano, and had seven siblings.
Arrival in England
In 1913 Mingana came to England at the invitation of J. Rendel Harris
James Rendel Harris was an English biblical scholar and curator of manuscripts, who was instrumental in bringing back to light many Syriac Scriptures and other early documents...
, Director of Studies at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre
Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre is a Quaker college based in the Selly Oak area of Birmingham, England.The only Quaker Study Centre in Europe, it was founded by George Cadbury in 1903 and occupies his former home on the Bristol Road. Woodbrooke's first Director of Studies was the biblical scholar J...
, a Quaker Settlement at Selly Oak
Selly Oak is a residential suburban district in south-west Birmingham, England. The suburb is bordered by Bournbrook and Selly Park to the north-east, Edgbaston and Harborne to the north, Weoley Castle and Weoley Hill to the west, and Bournville to the south...
in Birmingham. Mingana remained at Woodbrooke for two years where he met his future wife, Emma Sophie Floor, a Norwegian student. The couple were married in 1915. In the same year Mingana was appointed to the staff of the John Rylands Library
The John Rylands Library is a Victorian Gothic building on Deansgate in Manchester, England. The library, which opened to the public in 1900, was founded by Mrs Enriqueta Augustina Rylands in memory of her late husband, John Rylands...
in Manchester to catalogue the Library's collection of Arabic manuscripts. He lived in Manchester until 1932 during which time his two children, John and Marie, were born. By the time Mingana left John Rylands in 1932 he had risen to the post of Keeper of the Oriental Manuscripts.
The Mingana Collection
In 1924 Mingana made the first of three trips to the Middle East to collect ancient Syriac and Arabic manuscripts. The expedition was sponsored by John Rylands Library and Dr Edward Cadbury, the Quaker owner of the famous chocolate factory at Bournville
Bournville is a model village on the south side of Birmingham, England, best known for its connections with the Cadbury family and chocolate – including a dark chocolate bar branded "Bournville". It is also a ward within the council constituency of Selly Oak and home to the Bournville Centre...
, who Mingana had met through Rendel Harris. A number of the manuscripts he returned with formed the basis of the Mingana Collection at Woodbrooke. Mingana added to the collection with manuscripts acquired on two further trips to the Middle East in 1925 and 1929, both trips were financed solely by Edward Cadbury. In 1932 Mingana moved back to Birmingham to focus on cataloging the collection. The first catalogue describing 606 Syriac manuscripts was published in 1933. A further volume published in 1936 describes 120 Christian Arabic manuscripts and 16 Syriac manuscripts. The third volume, cataloging 152 Christian Arabic manuscripts and 40 Syriac manuscripts was published in 1939, two years after Mingana's death.
The Mingana Collection is housed at Special Collections at the University of Birmingham
where it is available for study. The collection is designated by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council as being of international importance. A major exhibition of manuscripts from the collection entitled Illuminating Faith
was held at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is a museum and art gallery in Birmingham, England.Entrance to the Museum and Art Gallery is free, but some major exhibitions in the Gas Hall incur an entrance fee...
The Mingana Collection is made up of:
- 660 Syriac and Karshuni (Arabic in Syriac characters) Christian manuscripts including church documents, gospels, works on liturgy, lives of saints and homilies. Among the earliest items are a number of important fragments originating from St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai.
- 270 Arabic Christian manuscripts including a fragment of the oldest known text of the Acta Thomae, and a very early copy of the Arabic translation of some works by St. Ephrem.
- 2000 Arabic Islamic manuscripts mainly on religious subjects. There are several copies of the Qur'an, besides two collections of fragments of Kufic Qur'ans, dating from the 8th and 9th centuries AD. Other works include Qur'an commentaries, Hadith, law, literature, science and mysticism.
- Examples of Armenian, Coptic, Georgian, Greek, Hebrew, Persian, Samaritan and Sanskrit manuscripts.
The manuscripts in the collection have proven to be a significant resource for Western scholarship in regards to the Qu'ran and other religious scriptures.
The Virtual Manuscript Room (VMR) project presents full digitized manuscripts from The Mingana Collection of Middle Eastern Manuscripts held at Special Collections in the University of Birmingham. This collection, previously unavailable on the web, has been designated as of national and international importance. As well as high-resolution images of each page, the VMR provides descriptions from the printed catalogue and from Special Collections' own records.
Selected publications by Mingana
- 1934: Catalogue of the Arabic Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, Manchester. 1192 p. Manchester: Manchester University Press