Francesca Bellino

Francesca Bellino received her PhD from Florence University, Philology Department, in 2005. Her dissertation focused on legendary maghazi literature and, more specifically, on the textual tradition of the Futuh al-Yaman, known also as Ghazwat Ra’s al-Ghul, by Abu al-Hasan al-Bakri (thirteenth cen.?). She taught Arabic literature and language in Turin University from 2007 to 2016. She is currently visiting fellow at the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. She has written on various genres of the so-called popular literature of the post-classical period, such as legendary maghazi literature, epics, Islamic legends (in part. Moses, Tamim al-Dari, Cain and Abel) and stories of the Arabian Nights collection (in part. Sindbad the Sailor and Uns al-Wujud and al-Ward fi al-Akmam). She also has carried out researches on geographical literature and encyclopedism and translated into Italian al-Qazwīnī’s Cosmography. She is currently writing a monograph on the Seven Travels of Sindbad the Sailor with a comparative critical edition of the Arabic, Garshuni and Neo-Aramaic versions.

Embassies and exchanges of letters and gifts in the Seven Travels of Sindbād the Seafaring Merchant: interferences between Adab and Arabian Nights

In 1922, Paul Casanova published an article in which he attempted a textual analysis of the Seven Travels of Sindbād in view of the information arising from the manuscripts preserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris. He reviewed a number of episodes, examining sources and any references in Arabic literature, with particular attention on the embassy of Sindbād the Seafaring Merchant to the king of the island of Serendīb and the exchange of letters and gifts with the caliph Hārūn al-Rashīd. Casanova had identified the precursors of this episode described between the sixth and seventh travel in some passages of al-Mas‘ūdī’s Murūǧ al-ḏahab. Before him, already De Goeje (1889) and Chauvin (1904) had focused on this episode, which only appears in the oldest, independent, drafting of the Seven Travels of Sindbād, arguing that it would characterize the so-called “A-redaction” (i.e. a redaction of the story not incorporated into the frame of the Arabian Nights and therefore not divided into nights). 

This paper attempts to analyze the episode of the embassy of Sindbād to the king of Serendīb on the basis of new textual evidence. On the one hand, it considers the episode of the embassy with the exchange of letters and gifts in the context of adab literature. Indeed, some other authors such as al-Ǧāḥiẓ and Ibn ‘Abd al-Rabbih convey this same episode but referring to different figures. On the other side, recently discovered manuscripts of the Seven Travels of Sindbād allow to reconsider this episode in the context of the textual history of the story itself.