A Survey of the Tablets of `Abdu'l-Bahá in the National Bahá'í Archives, Wilmette

By Robert Stockman

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #58
Louhelen Bahá'í School: Davison, Michigan, USA
October 8–11, 2004
(see list of papers from #58)

    `Abdu'l-Bahá addressed thousands of tablets to Bahá'ís in the United States, many of which ended up in the National Bahá'í Archives in Wilmette, either as originals, facsimiles, or copies of translations. While the originals have been collected, microfilmed, and copies sent to Haifa, relatively little work has been done on the translations, which have been assembled into a single master collection of paper originals. Often the translation's date is the most reliable piece of information about when a tablet was revealed, since `Abdu'l-Bahá did not date His tablets until after 1912. The translation sometimes provides clues as to the meaning of the original Persian or Arabic text, since sometimes the translators were aware of context now lost or obscure. No effort has yet been made to match up the translations with the originals. The translations have not even been sent to Haifa for study there.

    This presentation will provide a preliminary assessment of quantities of tablets and translations available, their accessibility, and their value. Dated copies of translations, in particular, are useful in studying the chronological development of themes in `Abdu'l-Bahá's writings, the way `Abdu'l-Bahá dealt with problems in the American Bahá'í community, how He assessed certain changes and developments in the community, and getting a sense of His general modus operandi. The translations provide a quick and relatively easily opened window into aspects of American Bahá'í history that otherwise are hard to assess.

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