New Publication on the transmission of Ibn Tulun manuscripts

The Journal of Islamic Manuscripts has just published its newest iteration, a special issue on manuscript notes. The editor Boris Liebrenz is well-known as an authority on this “marginal” topic.

My contribution looks in particular at four manuscripts today held at the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, and traces their historical trajectories from Ibn Ṭūlūn’s original book endowment until their acquisition by Chester Beatty. As has been mentioned before on this blog, Ibn Ṭūlūn’s multiple-text manuscripts share a particular feature, which is their title page which includes a moderately elaborate contents statement. This takes the form of a text block beneath the title and author statements and can be interpreted as a precursor to tables of contents, which would be added more frequently—at least as it pertains to Syria and Egypt—by the 17th and 18th centuries. However, it is certain that Ibn Ṭūlūn penned his himself. In them, he lists all titles to be found in the respective volume.

The article proposes a typology to account for possible alterations of the manuscripts, using notions of extraction, recompilation, and reconstruction. Extraction means the extraction of individual texts from their intended—in this case intended by the author—codicological context. They could then be passed on as individual manuscripts or be recompiled into a different manuscript (as is the case of the manuscript discussed here).

Recompilation is a common feature of the Arabic manuscript tradition. For instance, Ibn Ṭūlūn’s shaykh Yūsuf Ibn ʿAbd al-Hādī owned a host of manuscripts that were compiled, extended, and recompiled several times over (see Hirschler’s working paper). Many of Ibn Ṭūlūn’s manuscripts underwent several instances of recompilation during their history.

Reconstruction is connected to recompilation as it follows the same basic premises. However, it differs from it in that it attempts to recreate “the original”. The article presents one such example which tells an intriguing story of mobility, moving from the ʿUmariyya Madrasa to the household of the important al-Ghazzī family, and thence to another family library in Nābulus. In the 1920s it was photographed in Cairo before it was finally bought by Chester Beatty.

During these movements, additional texts were inserted, bringing the manuscript to such a size that, at one point, it was bound in two volumes. Still, today it appears as Ibn Ṭūlūn compiled it begging the questions when, why and by whom it has been turned into this state once again.

Finally, the article draws from the observations on the Chester Beatty manuscripts conclusions about the wider corpus and about manuscript trade in the 19th and 20th centuries more generally.

New Publication on Narratology in Arabic Historiography

Finally, Mamluk Studies 15: “Mamluk Historiography Revisited – Narratological Perspectives” is out. The edited volume brings together twelve articles on perspectives on specific works or larger clusters of works. My own contribution, “The Changing Legacy of a Sufi Shaykh: Narrative Constructions in Diaries, Chronicles, and Biographies (15th–17th Centuries)”, investigates the development of how knowledge on one specific person was shaped and adapted with growing temporal distance.

The person in question was introduced here in several posts during February 2018: Mubārak al-Qābūnī al-Ḥabashī. The article adds a more cohesive analytical framework to the sources presented on the blog before, and in in itself investigates the early formation of historical writing about his person. It presents and analyses four, mostly chronographical accounts on the same events and argues that each text does generate different meanings from these events.

The methodology is predominantly adapted from Gerard Genette and centers around the notion of “narrative time”, and its three emanations of temporal order, duration, and frequency. The article demonstrates how their application serves in the four accounts by Ibn Ṭawq, In al-Ḥimṣī, and—twice—Ibn Ṭūlūn to create quite divergent narratives out of the same events.

Finally, it complements the sources on Mubārak already presented here and adds accounts from three chronicles on the great clash between Mubārak and the local Mamluk emirs. Through different narrative treatment and contextualization, the retelling of the same event comes to represent divergent motivations of those texts.

Recent Publications: Dyntran Blog and Ottoman Studies 2 (Bonn University Press)

In the course of the last month, two publications of mine came out. The first is my contribution to the blog of the research cluster “Dynamics of Transmission” (DYNTRAN), in which I trace the development of a family network in 15th-/16th-century Damascus and try to show the differences between ‘family’ and those ‘dynasties’ that emerge in the biographical dictionaries of the time.

Dyntran title page
Fig. 1: Dyntran logo

Continue reading Recent Publications: Dyntran Blog and Ottoman Studies 2 (Bonn University Press)