The book at hand is quite distinguished, in that it draws together a variety of disciplines in different fields of knowledge and the arts. Its main topics are the biographies of eminent personalities and intellectuals in the various scientific and humanistic sciences, as well as political figures and men of power with a connection to the region of Aleppo, whether by residence, or simply in transit. The book covers various fields of knowledge, including the religious sciences, narrations of Prophetic tradition (Ḥadīth), and works of literature, presented in prose or poetry. It features descriptions of towns and the countryside, especially the area situated to the north of the Levant, and it documents a long period of Islamic history.
The benefit and importance of this book is apparent for historians, due to the originality of its content, and as a unique source of considerable information and accounts that are not found elsewhere and also because of the methodology adopted in the criticism of narrations and texts to establish the correct information regarding events and facts.
The author of this book, Kamāl al-Dīn Ibn al-‘Adīm, was among the most eminent historians of his time. He is one of three aides, who contributed - directly and indirectly - to the smuggling of manuscripts and their rescue from loss and damage following the events witnessed by the area during the Mongol invasion of the mid-seventh century Hijrī. Indeed, Ibn al-‘Adīm, Yāqūt al-Ḥamawī, and al-Wazīr Jamāl al-Dīn al-Qafṭiy, copied and included in their authored works long parts and numerous excerpts from books, literary works, and diaries - in the field of biographies especially - that were lost at the time; thus, they brought them back to light and informed the following generations of their subject matter and content.
This edition benefited from the remnants of the author’s handwritten originals; namely, the copy that accompanied the author in the last days of his life during his residence in Cairo. Within the study prepared by the editor, we find notes stating that this represents only one third of the book; later copies have been used to help making choices, resolving the problematic elements, and filling the gaps wherever text was absent.