Kitab al-I'tibar (Arabic: كتاب الاعتبار, The Book of Learning by Example) is the autobiography of Usama ibn-Munqidh, an Arab Syrian diplomat, soldier of the 12th century, hunter, poet and nobleman.
The book was first discovered in 1880 in the Real Biblioteca del Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Madrid, Spain). It exists as 134 folios with the first 21 pages missing and is considered a copy of a copy of the original made in July 1213. However it remains the only version available to date.
Hartwig Derenbourg (1844-1908) was the first to mention the manuscript it in his three volumes book "Les manuscrits arabes de l'Escurial" (1884-1903) and his book "Ousama ibn Mounkidh, un émir syrien" (1889) when he studied, transcribed and published the work. Philip K. Hitti (1886 – 1978) added to his work in his publication "An Arab-Syrian Gentlemen in the Period of the Crusades: Memoirs of Usamah ibn-Munqidh", with the latest edition published in 2000 by Columbia University Press.
Usamah's autobiography is part of the literary genre known as adab which aims at "pleasing, diverting and titilating" its readers, as well as instructing them. Philip K. Hitti, in the introduction to his translation, describes the work as superior to other Arabic biographies. According to him, It gives us a glimpse into Syrian methods of warfare, hawking and medication, and ushers us into the intimacies of Moslem court life as well as private home life.. It also offers an insight into the mindset of Arabic knights as they interacted with the crusaders as friends, fought against them as enemies and on matters of religion and politics.
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