Tag Archives: Ahmad Taymur

One step further into Ahmad Taymūr’s library

Last year, I spoke about some of the difficulties in researching the private library of Aḥmad Taymūr, which has been housed in the Egyptian National Library for almost ninety years now. Since October, I have been working on this collection more systematically, particularly during an archival visit in Cairo. What follows results mostly from my findings there.

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The Library of Ahmad Taymur

How is Ahmad Taymur, the Egyptian bibliophile and ‘gentleman scholar’ who received an obituary in the Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft upon his death in 1930, still awaiting his own study? Joseph Schacht praises in said obituary Taymur’s outstanding knowledge of Arabic literature, his altruistic support of “European scholarship”, and him as the “creator of the most important private library in the orient” (p. 255). The Russian Arabist Krachkovsky mentions similar qualities of Taymur in his autobiographical work Among Arabic Manuscripts. Nonetheless, when Taymur appears at all in more recent publications, he appears mostly as a side-character to someone else who is deemed worthy of a study.

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A whole Majmūʿa copied? MS Majāmīʿ 315

In March, I returned to the Dār al-Kutub in Cairo and spent a whole week with their collection. Ibn Ṭūlūn’s name pops up very often in the different collections of the Dār al-Kutub. The earliest acquisitions are certainly found in the Taymūriyya Library, whereas the general collection seems to have made a bulk order of Ibn Ṭūlūn autographs only by the early 1930s.

Aḥmad Taymūr did not only acquire “originals”, however; he also created copies. One modern way of bridging the gap between both was photography, and Taymūr made ample use of it to create facsimiles of autographs. At literally the same time, he also hired copyists to ensure he had personal copies of Ibn Ṭūlūn texts. One of the most intriguing one is MS Majāmīʿ 315 because it is not a copy of one text but rather of an entire multiple-text manuscript. Continue reading