In Search of Local Characteristics: Manuscript making in the Islamic world

KRC Research Seminars
KRC Lecture Room, Thursdays, 17:15-18:30 hrs
Convenor: Umberto Bongianino

The study of the physical characteristics of a large number of manuscripts from the Arabic collections in the Leiden University Library has changed our understanding of how these artefacts were made. Some of the constituent parts had previously not been recognized, and were therefore neither described nor taken into account when conservation treatments were required. As a result, the conservation approach of manuscripts from the Islamic world has considerably changed. But the study of the book as a physical object not only serves conservators or the preservation of the artefacts. It has found its own place in the field of manuscript studies and book history. The material and technical aspects help us understand the production and use of manuscripts, and shed light on the cultural context. For manuscripts produced in the vast Islamic world, it is not surprising to find differences between regions and periods of production. However, we still have much to gain by studies focusing on local practices within the Islamic bookmaking tradition, as a recent comparative study of Yemeni manuscripts shows. This talk will present some of these new findings, and explore what we can learn from the material appearance of manuscripts and the more or less subtle differences between regions.