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This article is mainly based on the impressive work of Fr. Dr. Nasser AlGemayel on Maronite Copyists and their works, especially from his contribution on the Jebbet Bcharri Copyists during the Ottoman period published in the Accounts of the Third Congress on Jebbet Bcharri History - National Committee of Gibran - 2005 - p. 158-212

Kfarsghab seems to have been a very active center for Maronite copyists during the five hundred years of the Ottoman rule from the 16th to the 20th Century. The 18th and the 19th Centuries represented the high period of the copying activities. 21 villages of Jebbet Bcharri Region have had copyists among their natives. Fr. AlGemayel referenced 731 manuscripts copied by natives of the villages of the Jebbet Bcharri Region. 

Copying Activity in Kfarsghab

44 manuscripts were produced by copyists from Kfarsghab. They represent 6% of the referenced total. This is more than the relative demographical weight of Kfarsghab in the Jebbet Bcharri Region (Kfarsghab 330 males / Region 10,000 males =  3.3%).

Three factors could explain this important production:

  • most of the manuscripts are of a religious nature. The higher number of Men of God in the Kfarsghab population gave Kfarsghab a major advantage, (On this subject, see our article Priests from Kfarsghab ),

  • the existence of a school in Kfarsghab as early as 1800 must have contributed to this production. In the different surveys conducted in the Mutassarifiah period (1861-1915), 30 schoolboys were counted in Kfarsghab on a total of 160 for the region of North Bcharri, which represents 19% of the total (1),

  • the location of Kfarsghab in the neighborhood of two important monasteries, i.e. Qozhaya and Mar Sarkis, as well as being in the middle of two of the most traditionally active intellectual centers of Ehden and Bane must have played a role. Since the creation of the Maronite College in Italy in the late 15th Century, Ehden and Bane have regularly sent to the College many of their illustrious sons, who later led the Maronite Church or became scholars in different European countries. In fact, we observe the same important production of manuscripts in both villages, those from Ehden alone represent 36% of the 731 manuscripts referenced by our author in Jebbet Bcharri.
copyists from Kfarsghab

Manuscripts % of total production
Ehden 267 36%
Hasroun 159 22%
Baz'oun 50 7%
Kfarsghab 44 6%
Bcharri 36 5%
Bane 32 4.5%
BqaaKafra 29 4%
Total Jebbet Bcharri 731  
Location of the manuscripts

Most of the manuscripts executed in the Jebbet Bcharri Region are currently found outside the region. Only 350 manuscripts are kept in 33 villages of Jebbet Bcharri, either in churches or in private custody.

In Kfarsghab, our author has referenced 14 manuscripts kept in the churches, that's to say 4% of the total manuscripts still existing in Jebbet Bcharri.

How copyists worked?

A sponsor, generally a wealthy man or woman, would order a manuscript from a copyist. The sponsor pays all expenses related to paper, ink, binding, ... He or she would also pay a small compensation to the copyist. Once the manuscript finished, it is then offered to a church or a monastery as a vow, usually for the rest of the souls of the parents of the sponsor. Works were rarely ordered for private use. 

This sponsoring activity has favored the production of manuscripts and contributed in spreading education and creating an important heritage. This heritage is today in danger as most of the manuscripts are badly preserved, sometimes stolen and sold in auctions, ... We hope that actions will be taken to preserve this important heritage of the Maronites. 

copyists from Kfarsghab
from a manuscript of 1899 by Khalil Gibran

copyists from Kfarsghab
from a manuscript of 1748 by Fr. Ibrahim Jilwan, the tutor of Deacon Hanna son of Fr. Youssef AlBahri, from Kfarsghab

The oldest manuscript copied in Kfarsghab

In his contribution to the 3rd Congress of the History of Jebbet Bcharri, Fr. AlGemayel referenced several copyists from Kfarsghab, the oldest manuscript being from 1754 done by Father Ibrahim Jilwan with the assistance of Deacon Hanna son of Fr. Youssef AlBahri from Kfarsghab. Father Jilwan from Smar Jbeil was a noted copyist of that time. Having said that, we can suggest that Deacon Hanna was tutored by Fr. Ibrahim Jilwan, who most probably was living in the neighboring monastery of Qozhaya which belonged till the end of the 17th Century to the Jilwan family. 

Now who is this Deacon Hanna? It is interesting to note that the sheikh of Kfarsghab at that time, as attested in the Tripoli court records, was a certain Hanna Ibn Mansour, called also AlBahri. Most of the sheikhs of that time were ordained deacons allowing them to have religious as well as political power. It is highly possible that Deacon Hanna was the sheikh of Kfarsghab at that time. (On this subject, see our article Sheikhs of Kfarsghab in the 18th Century )

Below, you will find names of copyists from Kfarsghab.

(1) - in Dr Abdallah AlMallah - Nahiyat Bcharri during the Mutassarifiah period (1861-1915) - Published in the Accounts of the 3rd Congress on Jebbet Bcharri History - National Committee of Gibran - 2005 - p. 443

Copyists from Kfarsghab (to be completed)

Name date of Manuscript Comments
Deacon Hanna son of Fr. Youssef Al Bahri 3 July 1754 Reesh Qoryan copied by Fr Ibrahim Jilwan AlSamrani with the participation of Deacon Hanna son of Fr. Youssef AlBahri from the village of Kfarsghab  
Elias Isthanteen 4 August 1819 Concise history of Mount Lebanon of AinTourini, Elias Isthanteen participated in copying the first manuscript of this book.
Ibrahim son of Ishaq son of Ibrahim Moubarac 26 April 1887 Tafseer Bawa'ith wa sawaghit alshahim copied by Ibrahim son of Ishaq son of Ibrahim Moubarac from Kfrasghab
Father Youssef Moubarac 10 January 1933 Prayer Book copied by Father Youssef Moubarac from Kfrasghab and offered to Kfarsghab emigrants living in Easton, Pennsylvania (see below)

Father Youssef Moubarac (1867 - 1950)

To the right, you can see a photo of the explicit of the prayer book copied by Father Youssef Moubarac in 1933 and offered to the Kfarsghab natives living in Easton, Pennsylvania. 

You will find below the English translation of the text as it appears in the French version in Youakim Moubarac, Pentalogie Antiochienne / Domaine Maronite - Volume V - page 568 - 569 - year 1984 - editor Cenacle Libanais - Beirut - Lebanon 

With the help of God, the copy of this blessed book (Mubârak) was finished by the care of the priest Youssef Mubârak of Kfarsghab in North Lebanon, on the 10th of January 1933 DC. The copyist offered it to the dear sons of his village who live in Easton, Pennsylvania, in the United States of America. He wishes that a good memory would be kept of him and of his father and mother, on behalf of whoever recite or listen [to the prayers of this service]. He would also like to be excused by whoever find any error or omission there, because only the Lord is perfect. From the depths of his heart, he wishes finally that by the favour of God the aforesaid sons of his village withdraw the highest benefit for their souls, by listening to the prayers full of devoutness of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and that they come back in their fatherland in good health and full of success. May God listen to their prayers and answer them!

copyists from Kfarsghab
Explicit of a prayer book copied by Fr. Youssef Moubarac from Kfarsghab in 1933 and offered to the natives of his village living in Easton, Pennsylvania

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