Beirut 2011, 184 pp., german/english/french text, 15 fig.
Arabic manuscripts abound in notes: readers scribbled notes recording their reading of the text, teachers issued certificates and licences of transmission, owners stated their legal ownership of the manuscript, users praised (or dispraised) the text, copyists added their verses, and endowers set down their conditions – to name but a few of such notes. This copious material represents a unique resource for widening our understanding of Middle Eastern societies, and forms a solid, though seldom used basis for studying a variety of fields, such as social history, history of ideas, economic history, urban history, historical topography, and biographical studies.
This is the first volume that is dedicated to discussing the potential of this source material. It is based on the conference “Notes on manuscripts in Islamic Studies: State of the Art and Future Research Perspectives”, held at the Christian-Albrechts-Universität, Kiel, in April 2007. The twelve contributors, among them the leading researches in this field, discuss case studies that date from the classical period to the 20th century and that originate in the different regions of the Middle East from Anatolia to Yemen and from North Africa to Iraq. The contributions collected in this volume show that the study of manuscript notes has set off to new horizons and that it will enhance our knowledge about societies in the region.
Andreas Görke is a lecturer at the seminar for Oriental Studies of the Christian-Albrechts-University, Kiel.
Konrad Hirschler is Senior Lecturer in the History of the Near and Middle East at SOAS, London.