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Medieval Damascus: Plurality and Diversity in an Arabic Library

Medieval Damascus: Plurality and Diversity in an Arabic Library: The Ashrafiya Library Catalogue

Konrad Hirschler
Copyright Date: 2016
Pages: 512
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  • Book Info
    Medieval Damascus: Plurality and Diversity in an Arabic Library
    Book Description:

    This book discusses the largest and earliest medieval library of the Middle East for which we have documentation - the Ashrafiya library in the very centre of Damascus - and edits its catalogue.

    eISBN: 978-1-4744-0878-3
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature, Religion
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations (pp. vi-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction (pp. 1-16)

    This is the story of a medieval Arabic library. Positioned in the centre of seventh-/thirteenth-century Damascus, part of an educational institution and endowed by members of the political and social elite there is nothing too unusual about the Ashrafīya library. In many ways it is a run-of-the-mill library of which dozens probably existed in Damascus and hundreds more in the various Syrian and Egyptian cities. Yet this library differs in one significant way from all of its counterparts: its catalogue has come down to us. Library catalogues do not sound like the most exciting documents we can lay our hands...

  6. 1 The Making and Unmaking of a Medieval Library (pp. 17-59)

    The Ayyubid period was one of extensive building activity during which many cities of Syria and Egypt were substantially redeveloped. Damascus was at the very centre of these activities and the city continually witnessed the erection of new edifices, especially educational institutions. The patrons of these ‘constructions of power and piety’ belonged mostly to the military and political elites.¹ Al-Malik al-Ashraf was no exception and when he passed away in 635/1237 he had prominently inscribed himself into the urban texture of Damascus. His most visible legacy was two Dār al-ḥadīths, institutions dedicated to the study of the Prophetic tradition, which...

  7. 2 Organising the Library: The Books on the Shelves (pp. 60-101)

    With its large library collection the Ashrafīya had to have some system of how to arrange and organise its books. This was paramount for two reasons: first, space was – as we will see below – a scarce resource in such an endowment and the books had to be stocked in an efficient way to avoid unnecessarily wasting it. Perhaps even more importantly a collection holding more than 2,000 books had to provide some reliable system to retrieve specific titles in order to be of any use to its librarian and readers. Smaller collections could afford the luxury of organising...

  8. 3 Plurality and Diversity: The Profile of a Medieval Library (pp. 102-132)

    We have seen who put the books on the Ashrafīya’s shelves and how these books were organised; the present chapter will now turn to the books themselves. The Ashrafīya catalogue provides the first opportunity for scholarship to access and gain an insight into the thematic profile of a large-scale medieval Arabic educational library and this discussion centres on just that: what kind of texts were available and what the library’s thematic profile tells us about its function within the literary topography of a medieval Middle Eastern city. Until now scholarship has not recognised the originality and breadth of the collection...

  9. 4 The Ashrafīya Catalogue: Translation and Title Identification (pp. 133-441)

    This chapter presents the data contained in the Ashrafīya catalogue in a standardised form. The central challenge in preparing this list, and in working with medieval book lists and catalogues in general, is the identification of titles. In many cases this is a straightforward endeavour, as titles are given with a reasonable degree of detail and are sufficiently well known: an entry such asAdab al-dīn wa-al-dunyā(On Conduct in Religious and Worldly Matters) by al-Māwardī is unequivocal and requires no further research.¹ Easily identifiable titles are especially found whenever al-Anṣārī provides the author’s name, which is the case for...

  10. Plates (pp. None)
  11. 5 The Ashrafīya Catalogue: Edition (pp. 442-467)

    The Ashrafīya catalogue has been preserved in a unique manuscript in the Fatih collection in Istanbul, presently housed in the Suleymaniye Library (Fatih 5433, folia 246b–270a). Fatih 5433 is a multiple-text manuscript with texts that, judging from the binding, were most likely bound together in the Ottoman period. The shared characteristic of these texts is that they are all linked with Damascus and that they were all composed in the late Ayyubid/early Mamluk period. The manuscript thus starts on folia 1b to 53b with an anonymous summary of the chronicleThe Mirror of Times(Mirʾāt al-zamān) by the Damascene...

  12. Bibliography (pp. 468-490)
  13. Index of Subjects (pp. 491-495)
  14. Index of Titles (pp. 496-508)
  15. Index of Authors (pp. 509-520)
  16. Index of External Categories (pp. 521-526)