Ya’qub Sarkis

Alexander Svoboda’s postcard, titled L’arche de Ctésiphon, près Bagdad

In 1929, a disgruntled and divorced Alexander Richard (later Alexander Joseph) Svoboda left Baghdad for Istanbul, leaving his father’s diaries with an unnamed Catholic priest who later turned them over to Ya’qub Sarkis (1876-1958), an important amateur historian from Baghdad who wrote extensively on the history of Iraq and amassed a large and rich library. 1

During the time Sarkis held the diaries, he wrote marginal notes in Arabic on them, identifying topics he may have planned to refer to in the articles he was collecting on Iraq Studies. The diaries were kept in Sarkis’ private library, which was later moved to the Jesuit university Dar ul-Hikma (later renamed Baghdad University), until the Jesuits were expelled by the Saddam Hussein regime and the university was nationalized. 2

The contents of the Sarkis library including some of the diaries were moved to the Iraqi National Museum of Antiquities and thence to the National Manuscript Center (Dar ul-Makhtutat) in Baghdad, where most of them they remain to this day. We received poor quality digital images of three diaries (nos. 37,38, 39) from the Center but have been, thus far, unable to get a definitive catalog of all the Svoboda Diaries in their collection.

  1. See the article on “the Baghdad Historian Sarkis” by Abdul-Azia el-Doori at http://www.shaaubmagazine.com/view.1551/المؤرخ البغدادي سركيس
  2. See: Catalogue of the Arabic, Turkish, Persian, and Syriac manuscripts in the Ya’qub Sarkis Collection of the library of Al-Hikma University [Kūrkīs ʻAuwād, Ǧāmiʻat al-Ḥikma (Baġdād) Hizānat Yaʻqūb Sarkīs, (Baghdad: Al-Ani Press, 1966). This catalogue does not contain any of the Svoboda Diaries, which are in English.