Only recently, I finished reading Nelly Hanna’s 2004 monograph “In Praise of Books”. Honestly, while the book raises some interesting questions, it has not aged all that well.
But first, what is it about? It is less about the books mentioned in the title and more about “A cultural History of Cairo’s Middle Class, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Century” as the subtitle clarifies. In this context, Hanna argues that the written word became more important than it was before, and that it now began to reach well beyond the academe of the time, namely the ʿulamāʾ circles. 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