An argument that one might still find frequently about premodern Arabic historiographical and biographical writing, despite all recent findings to the contrary, is that they are derivative and repeat much of what other authors have said before. This argument has, in fact, been made towards a larger segment of premodern Arabic literature and has been rebuked in a number of other fields, as well. In this post, I will argue that one aspect might actually be understood better by comparison with current social media practice.Continue reading
Ibn Tulun is usually perceived as an inherently local author with a decidedly local readership, that is before the late 19th century. And while the global distribution that emerged around 1900 has been addressed occasionally here before and by other scholars, this piece will question the general assessment of Ibn Tulun’s earlier reception as exclusively local, which might very well have been cemented only in the last century. Continue reading
How many manuscript copies were produced of any given texts? How many were circulating at any given time? When were they lost, discarded or destroyed? How often are the works penned on their pages cited in other texts by the same or different authors? These questions lie at the very heart of our epistemology and are usually subsumed under the term ‘survival bias’. Continue reading
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