Mingana, Alphonse, 1881-1937

Alternative names
Birth 1881-12-23
Death 1937-12-05

Biographical notes:

Mingana was born near Mosul, Iraq, and was educated at the Seminaire St Jean, Mosul, where he trained for the priesthood, studying Turkish, Persian, Kurdish, Latin, French, Arabic, Syriac, and Hebrew. He was ordained in 1902 and spent the next ten years studying and teaching at the Seminary. In 1913, following a dispute with the authorities, he left Mosul and travelled to England, settling in Birmingham, where he was befriended by the orientalist and biblical scholar James Rendel Harris. He spent the next two years living with Harris and at Woodbrooke College, where he met his wife, Emma Sophie Floor, a student from Norway. They married in 1915 and had two children. In the same year, Mingana moved to the John Rylands Library, Manchester to work as a curator of Oriental manuscripts; his catalogue of this collection was published in 1934. He made several journeys to the Middle East in the 1920s in search of manuscripts, financed by Edward Cadbury. In 1932, he returned to Birmingham to work as Curator of these manuscripts, the Mingana Collection. He died suddenly in 1937, just before the third volume of his catalogues was published.

From the guide to the Alphonse Mingana, Papers of, 1886-1970, (University of Birmingham, Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections)

Epithet: theologian and orientalist

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000613.0x00038d

Alphonse Mingana (1878-1937) was born in the region of Mosul in about 1878. He was educated at the Syro-Chaldean seminary in Mosul, and ordained priest in the Chaldean Church. From 1902-1910 he was Professor of Syriac at Mosul. His wide scholarly output included many editions of hitherto unknown Syriac and Arabic texts. Though his interest was mainly in Eastern Christianity, his considerable knowledge of Islam enabled him to lecture on Islamic history and literature as well. In 1913, on the invitation of J. Rendel Harris (the first Principal of Woodbrooke College, Selly Oak, Birmingham), Mingana came to England and spent two years at Woodbrooke where he met and married his wife, a Norwegian student ay ther college. In 1915, he was appointed to the John Rylands Library, Manchester as curator of oriental manuscripts, where he stayed until 1932. During these years he came to know Dr Edward Cadbury at whose expense he travelled to the Middle East to purchase manuscripts. In 1924 and 1925 he travelled through the regions of Iraq, Syria and Palestine and in 1929 went to Sinai and Upper Egypt. Many of the manuscripts were bought from monasteries and private libraries in these regions. In 1932, Mingana returned to Birmingham and was appointed curator of the collection named after him. He began the task of cataloguing the manuscripts and also edited and translated some of the more important ones which appeared in the a series Woodbrooke Studies and in various journals. While at Selly Oak, Alphonse Mingana acted as Lecturer and Instructor in Oriental Languages and in Islam. This work continued after his death when a Lectureship in Islamic Studies was set up. One of the holders of this lectureship was James W. Sweetman. Mingana's name has also been enshrined in the title of the Mingana Symposia which has been held every three years since 1990 on the theme of Arab Christianity and Islam.

Reference: Publicity leaflet about the Mingana Collection: text by L-A Hunt, 1997.

From the guide to the Mingana Collection of Oriental Manuscripts, 1000 - 1799, (Birmingham University Information Services, Special Collections Department)


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  • Mysticism Islam
  • Theology
  • Language and languages
  • Research
  • Islamic law
  • Church history
  • History Religious aspects Islam
  • Eastern churches History
  • Library collections
  • Manuscripts


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