Ɵ Safi al-Din Abd' al-Mu'min ibn Yusuf ibn al-Fakhir al-Urmawi al-Baghdadi, known as 'al-Urmawi', Kitab al-Adwar (Book of Cycles, a treatise on the theory of music) , in Ottoman Turkish, illuminated manuscript on paper [Ottoman territories, dated 1131 AH (1718 AD)]
single volume, complete, 32 leaves plus a contemporary endleaf at each end, single column, 15 lines black stylised naskh script with muhaqqaq influences, some headings and vocalisation in red, gilt head-piece opening the text, numerous diagrams throughout the text heightened in gilt, catchwords throughout, leaves ruled in gilt, a few annotations to the margins in a slightly later hand, some faint water-staining to upper edges of leaves (rarely affecting text), overall a very bright and attractive copy, 205 by 155 mm.; nineteenth-century calf-backed boards with flap, decorative medallion stamped to covers in blind, extremities and spine ends a little rubbed
This treatise is, perhaps, the earliest known text dedicated entirely to the theory and practice of music in the medieval Islamic world. It was compiled by the author al-Urmawi (d. 1294) in the thirteenth century, and explores musical divisions, scales, modes and also describes the workings of practical instruments including the five string lute. The treatise offers a scientific explanation to these theories and is comparable in style to the teachings of Avicenna on the same subject in his Danishnama'i Ala'i (a treatise on logic, metaphysics, music theory and other sciences).
Little is known about the author's early life, but he is thought to have been born in Urmina, given his surname, in the modern-day Azari region of north-west Iran in the year 1216 AD. He travelled to Baghdad in his early life where his skills in calligraphy granted him the role of copyist in the famous library of al-Musta'sim of the Abbasid caliphate (the final Abbasid Caliph, d. 1258 AD). Towards the end of al-Musta'sim's reign al-Urmawi had become a famous musician and thus survived the fall of the Abbasid caliphate, and was supported through the patronage of private families including influential Juvayni family.
The Kitab al-Adwar is one of two notable musical treatises compiled by the author during his lifetime. The second of is the Risalah al-Sharafiyyah fi l'nisbah al-ta'lifiyyah , compiled around 665 AH (1267 AD) and dedicated to his patron in later life Sharaf al-Din Harun Juvayni, focusing on musical intervals. These works have remained integral to the study of music in the Islamic world and have been used consistently since the thirteenth century.