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Worlds to Discover: Manuscripts from the Muslim World

Internationally renowned scholars discuss research of manuscripts covering different languages, regions, cultural and religious traditions and periods.

Maqamat Hariri

The Muslim world produced tens of thousands of manuscripts on any imaginable topic – from travel logs and geographical descriptions to accounts of talking trees and great walls that keep monstruous enemies away; from historical accounts about kings and prophets to explanations for the presence of the natural and built surroundings; from veterinary sources and treatises on horsemanship to poetry in which horses complain about heavy riders, and from sophisticated scientific astronomical and medical treatises to instructions on how to turn stones into gold and where to find the source of life. So many of them have been preserved that most of them have hardly been studied and some of them have not even been identified as they lie in libraries, museums and private collections around the world.

But these manuscripts contain a treasure of information on the world where they were produced, circulated and used and on the people who interacted with them as authors, scholars, copyists, teachers, illustrators, book binders, calligraphers, students in the past but also up to our time. Even though they are centuries old, these books are still a source of joy to and a well of information for readers and scholars today as they were in the past.

To celebrate the upcoming opening of the Middle East Library the department of Middle East Studies in cooperation with the Scaliger Institute organises a two-year lecture series on Manuscripts from the Muslim world (September 2022-July 2024). Internationally renowned scholars are invited to discuss recent and ongoing research of individual manuscripts, textual traditions and practices, material and technical features of manuscripts covering different languages, regions, cultural and religious traditions and periods. Not just the manuscripts themselves, but also the activity of collecting them, past and present, in the Muslim world and outside it are also topic of discussion. What do we actually mean when we talk about a manuscript collection? At each lecture a Leiden scholar is paired to a guest speaker to provide a commentary and start the discussion. But we don’t want to just talk about the collection, we want you to experience it, so whenever possible samples from the Leiden Oriental Manuscript collection will be used as illustrations for the talks. Together these lectures aim to provide a taste of the rich and diverse manuscript tradition in the Muslim world and of the most recent scholarly approaches to this material.

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