POSTPONED: A. S. Yahuda and Islamic Manuscripts

Date
Jun 1, 2021, 9:00 amJun 3, 2021, 3:00 pm
Event Description

This event has been postponed to 2022. More information on the project and updates here: https://yahuda.princeton.edu/

A. S. Yahuda and Islamic Manuscripts: A Symposium

A. S. Yahuda (1877–1951) was among the twentieth century’s most influential collectors and dealers in Islamic manuscripts. Although he played a central role in shaping several of the world’s major Middle Eastern manuscript collections, his impact is little known today. This workshop will explore Yahuda’s collecting and collections, both for their own sake and as a window onto a fascinating and tumultuous period in the history of knowledge and of power relations among the Middle East, Europe and the United States.

Born in Jerusalem to a religious Jewish Iraqi family, Yahuda studied in Europe with Theodor Nöldeke and Ignaz Goldziher, and then assumed a faculty position at the Lehranstalt für die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin (1905–14). The University of Madrid then appointed him in 1915 as the world’s first incumbent of an endowed chair in Judaic studies, a position he held until 1922. In 1945, he took up his last academic post, at the New School for Social Research in New York City. 

Between 1922 and 1945, Yahuda had no academic post. It is to this period that we owe his manuscript collecting. Yahuda sold thousands of Middle Eastern manuscripts to the Princeton University Library and the National Library of Medicine (formerly the U.S. Army Medical College), and fewer but no less important manuscripts to the University of Michigan Library, the Chester Beatty Library, the British Library and Dropsie College (now the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania). The largest group of his manuscripts — an estimated 5,100 volumes — he sold to the collector Robert S. Garrett (1875–1961) on behalf of Princeton University, where they are now housed. On his death, Yahuda bequeathed his remaining collection (including Islamic, Jewish and Latin manuscripts and rare books), as well as his personal archive, to the National Library of Israel. Among these were the archive of Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign and Isaac Newton’s theological writings. 

By 1900, the great European collections of Middle Eastern manuscripts had already been established by bequests in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Yahuda was known for his deep knowledge and extraordinary eye for rare material in a period when many collectors and libraries assumed the region’s riches to be depleted or inaccessible. At least 8,000 manuscripts passed through his hands, putting his collecting on par with those of the greatest Egyptian collectors and dwarfing some of the main European collections. 

Yahuda’s network of contacts, from the Middle East to South Asia and Europe, remains unmapped. He acquired complete or nearly intact libraries from important Muslim scholars of the 16th–19th centuries (among them Imām Shāmil, leader of the Dagestani resistance movement against the Russian Empire). As Garrett Davidson has recently demonstrated, volumes that Yahuda collected can be traced back to the personal libraries of Ibn ʿAsākir, Ibn  ʿAbd al-Hādī, Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī, al-Suyūṭī and Ibn Ṭulūn. There are also an impressive number of manuscripts from Ottoman and earlier royal collections. Reconstructing the provenance of the manuscripts would yield unparalleled information about the history of libraries and the mobility of knowledge in the medieval and modern Middle East. There is also the controversial question of how Yahuda exported manuscripts from the region, which holding institutions are increasingly willing to confront with transparency.

Yahuda’s personal and institutional contacts, and the sheer number and quality of manuscripts he acquired, make him a key figure in the modern history of the manuscript trade and of the Middle Eastern book. This workshop is a first step toward reconstructing his network and the libraries he purchased. We anticipate that this project will yield precious evidence for the afterlives and trajectories of medieval texts; for the collecting habits of scholars and institutions in the medieval and early modern Middle East; for the shape, history and coherence of modern collections of Middle Eastern manuscripts; and for the transfer of knowledge and dispersal of cultural heritage from the Middle East.  

This workshop will take place via Zoom on June 1–3, 2021. It will bring together scholars working on Yahuda as a collector and librarians from institutions holding Yahuda collections. The workshop will emphasize Yahuda’s Islamic (and Islamicate) manuscript acquisitions and sales, with additional contributions on his non–Middle Eastern collecting, on his network of contacts and competitors, and on the history of the manuscript trade.

 

Program 

All times are Eastern Daylight Time (GMT-5). There are separate registration links for each day of the symposium. 

 

Tuesday June 1, 2021 | Collections & Institutions 

Register for Day 1  


9:15–9:30 | Opening

Marina Rustow | Why a Symposium on A. S. Yahuda? 

9:30–11:00 | The Book Trade 

Chair: Raquel Ukeles

Garrett Davidson | Notes on the Origins of the Princeton Yahuda Collection and its Acquisition This paper, part of a larger work on the history of the Princeton University Collection of Islamic Manuscripts, began when I was a Friends of the Princeton University Library Research Fellow. As I was surveying the hadith manuscripts in the collection I found myself fascinated by the question of the origins of the collections and how they came to live there. Based on the archival sources held at Princeton, the National Library of Israel and elsewhere, this paper studies A.S. Yahuda as a collector examining his methods and tracing the most recent trajectories of the manuscripts in the collection and its arrival at Princeton.

Allyson Gonzalez | Provenance at the Limits of Cultural Pluralism, or, How to Act Like an Intermediary: Professor A.S. Yahuda and the International Trade of Manuscripts, Rare Books, and Objects The Jerusalem-born scholar Abraham S. Yahuda (1877-1951) helped to shape the international trade of manuscripts, rare books, and objects during the first half of the twentieth century. This talk examines Yahuda’s role as an important intermediary in the circulation of these objects, while pointing to a broader culture of trading between scholars, academic institutions, and private and national repositories. Through an up-close study of several of Yahuda’s major transactions, this talk offers a picture of how the scholar created flexible networks for moving objects across borders during a period of modern European and American imperialism. At the same time, it also points to the impact of interconnected relations between scholars and major buyers across decades.

Dagmar Riedel | Codependency in Codicology: Descriptive Cataloguing and the Book Trade Abstract to come

11:30–13:00 | The Collections and Their Shape (1) 

Chair: Deborah Schlein

Stephen Greenberg | A.S. Yahuda and the Army Medical Library: Life During Wartime In 1940, with Europe already at war and the United States just beginning preparations for its inevitable entry into that conflict, the U.S. Army Medical Library (predecessor of the current National Library of Medicine) found the time and money to purchase from Abraham Yahuda a collection of 63 volumes containing 130 titles. This purchase is the bedrock of the NLM collection of Arabic and Persian medical manuscripts. The presentation will provide a historical context for both the library and the purchase, and explore how, with war looming for the library, it was able to commit almost a quarter of its acquisitions budget for the fiscal year 1940–41 to the Yahuda purchase.

Evyn Kropf | Agent and Architect: Yahuda's Role in Developing the Islamic Manuscripts Collection at the University of Michigan In the summer of 1925 while still based in Heidelberg, Abraham Shalom Yahuda offered to the British Museum a collection of more than 230 Arabic, Turkish and Persian manuscripts belonging to his brother -- Isaac Benjamin Shlomo Ezekiel Yahuda, a dealer of books and manuscripts who had for many years supplied institutions and individuals (notably Ignaz Goldziher) from his base in Cairo. Though the Museum had been acquiring from the Yahuda brothers for years, on this occasion they declined the purchase and a colleague there brought the offer to the attention of University of Michigan professor Francis Wiley Kelsey -- a respected classicist and archaeologist who was actively expanding the university’s holdings in antiquities, papyri and manuscripts. A.S. Yahuda redirected his offer to Kelsey and the resulting acquisition further defined the core of what would become the University’s Islamic Manuscripts Collection. A.S. Yahuda would go on to even more actively and successfully gather and place notable manuscripts in many other institutions and private collections, independent of his brother’s agency. In turn, the manuscripts of the Yahuda purchase would remain among the most significant preserved at Michigan. Reflecting on the nature and extent of A.S. Yahuda’s manuscript sourcing and dealing in the mid-1920’s, this paper explores his approach to negotiating the acquisition and establishing the significance of the collection of manuscripts placed at Michigan -- as fashioned with respect to the collecting interests of the Museum and University, as recognized by the University’s representatives, and as demonstrated in subsequent decades of teaching and study.

Stefan Litt | The Non-Islamic Components of A. S. Yahuda's Collection at the National Library of Israel A. S. Yahuda's strong focus on collecting Islamic manuscripts eclipses, to some extent, his other significant fields of interest. His bequest at the National Library of Israel comprises one-of-a-kind materials that Yahuda amassed during his lifetime or purchased on specific occasions. Most prominent are the collections of Isaac Newton's theological papers, more than 1,000 documents from the Napoleonic era, about 260 Hebrew manuscripts, about 40 Christian manuscripts and historical documents, and a small number of rare Western and Hebrew incunables. Many of these items form the core of the special collections within the Humanities Collection at the National Library. The lecture will shed light on selected items and on their acquisition history.

 

Wednesday June 2, 2021 | Libraries & Translocations 

Register for Day 2

9:30-11:00 | The Collections and Their Shape (2) 

Chair: Luke Yarbrough

Yusuf al-Uzbeki | نفائس المخطوطات العربية من مجموعة يهودا المقدسية – Treasures of the Arabic Manuscripts from the Yahuda Collections in Jerusalem The total number of Arabic manuscripts that remained in Yahuda’s possession before his death amounted to 1134. He donated them to the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem (now the National Library of Israel), along with rare publications and various documents, his archive of his writings, and his scientific and literary papers. The number of titles in the manuscripts is about three thousand. This paper will detail them as follows: 10% are in Persian, Turkish and Caucasian languages. Nearly 400 manuscripts are not mentioned by Brockelmann. About a third of the books were written between the third and tenth centuries AH. A good number of them are distinguished by features such as being unique manuscripts or copied close to the date of their authors. Finally, there are more than 100 luxury Qurʾāns.

Ofir Haim | Provenance of the Safavid and Qajar Manuscripts in the Yahuda Collections at the NLI and Princeton Among the numerous manuscripts preserved in the Yahuda collections at the National Library of Israel and Princeton University, a substantial portion appears to have been produced in Safavid and Qajar Iran. Written in Arabic and Persian, these manuscripts belong to a wide array of genres, notably Qurʾanic sciences, Shiʿite worship and poetry. Due to the lack of any record indicating the provenance of these manuscripts, it remains unclear how Yahuda gained access to these manuscripts. In this paper, I present several case studies regarding the history of these manuscripts and their possible geographical distribution. Particular attention is paid to notes, seals and marginalia in the manuscripts. Moreover, through Yahuda’s personal archive, I attempt to trace his contacts who were involved in the acquisition of these manuscripts. Based on these findings, I suggest the last location of the manuscripts before being sold to Yahuda.

Torsten Wollina | Phantom of the Library: The Yahuda Collection in Heidelberg Why has the Yahuda collection in Heidelberg gone under the radar for the last eighty years? In the second half of the 1920s, Yahuda was involved in several bulk sales of manuscripts, e.g., to the University of Michigan Library and the Chester Beatty Library. Those sales are well attested from correspondence, archival sources and references to Yahuda in the manuscripts’ reference numbers. This is not the case for his Heidelberg collection. In this talk, I will make the case that there is a Yahuda collection in the University Library in Heidelberg by tracing my own encounter with it through the library’s catalogue, and will then assess its size based on an accession list, accession numbers in manuscripts and bibliographical annotations specific to Yahuda manuscripts found, e.g., in the University of Michigan Library. Second, I will offer some preliminary hypotheses as to why Heidelberg, of all German libraries, has a Yahuda collection, and why it remains unknown. In this section, I will rely on Yahuda’s correspondence (or lack thereof) and draw connections between his activities in the manuscript trade and his scholarly undertakings.

11:30–13:00 | Translocations

Chair: Marina Rustow

Boris Liebrenz | Abraham Yahuda and the Globalisation of the Middle Eastern Manuscript Market "The manuscript business of Abraham Yahuda could be framed as part of a long tradition through which thousands of volumes from the Middle East ended up in western European and North American libraries. Since the seventeenth century, travelers, consuls, merchants, soldiers, and scholars were able to assemble significant collections of such artefacts. The question of where, through whose agency, or by what means they acquired their libraries is the subject of much recent scrutiny and not always easy to answer.

And yet, when looking at his predecessors, one thing immediately stands out: there was hardly anyone even remotely as successful as Abraham Yahuda. Which begs the fundamental question of how he was able to amass such unparalleled treasures.

An analysis of manuscript notes is unlikely to bring any concrete results in this regard, but reveals general trends in the local and trans-regional book markets. Expectedly, the Yahuda section of Princeton’s Garrett collection reveals many overlaps with the books collected by earlier dealers. At the same time, it will be argued that his activities mark a new stage in how manuscripts were collected in both the Middle East as well as Western Europe and North America.

This talk will build on the cataloguing of provenance data for some of the major European collectors of Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman manuscripts up to the nineteenth century. Based on this source material, it will explore what sets Yahuda’s collecting apart from that of earlier periods and where he reflects trends in the manuscript market of the broader region.

Stefan Schorch | ‘A Well-Educated Occidental’: Some Insights into the Intellectual Background of A. Sh. Yahuda's Dealing with Samaritan Manuscripts Although a few Samaritan manuscripts came into European collections already in the seventeenth century, it was not before the 1870s that some libraries outside the Samaritan community were able to create collections large and multifarious enough to provide a representative overview of Samaritan literature. Starting in the early nineteenth century, A. Sh. Yahuda became a key figure as a dealer of Samaritan manuscripts. The presentation will provide a general conspectus of his activities in this regard, together with an analysis of their historical context and intellectual background.

Konrad Hirschler | A Case Study of Manuscript Translocations: A. S. Yahuda and the Ibn ʿAbd al-Hādī Collection This paper takes the example of a corpus of manuscripts that had a stable trajectory from the late medieval period to the early 20th century in order to discuss A. S. Yahuda’s role on the manuscript market. The Ibn ʿAbd al-Hādī Collection was endowed in Damascus in the late Mamluk period and is today the largest extant corpus of medieval manuscripts in the Syrian National Library. In contrast to other medieval collections, the Ibn ʿAbd al-Hādī Collection has thus had an outstandingly stable trajectory. Yet, there are several manuscripts that have left the original corpus over the centuries and became part of library collections around the world. These translocated manuscripts took a different trajectory from manuscripts of other medieval collections in the region; most notably, these translocations occurred relatively late. Among them is a highly visible cluster that goes back to the trading activities of one individual, A. S. Yahuda, which is today in the National Library of Israel, Princeton University Library and the Chester Beatty Library. This cluster raises the question why A. S. Yahuda played such a salient role in this specific case.

13:30–15:00 Roundtable: The Yahuda Project 

Moya Carey, Evyn Kropf, Sam Thrope, Torsten Wollina | Facilitator: Marina Rustow

 

Thursday June 3, 2021 | People & Networks 

Register for Day 3

9:00–11:00 | Correspondence 

Chair: Evyn Kropf

Moya Carey | “Am offered Cufic house”: Sales, Swaps and Codewords in A.S. Yahuda’s exchanges with A. Chester Beatty In April 1927, T. W. Arnold (Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of London’s School of Oriental Studies) introduced Abraham Shalom Yahuda to the Irish-American mining magnate and collector Alfred Chester Beatty (1875–1968). Over the following decade, Yahuda would sell Beatty over 1,000 Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Hebrew and Syriac manuscripts, as well as early printed books. The two friends also swapped and gifted manuscripts from their respective collections. These had usually been sourced from private library collections across Syria, Palestine and Egypt, such as the important early Umayyad Qurʾān (CB Is 1404), bought directly from an “old noble family” in Fuʿah (northeast of Idlib, in Syria): “am offered Cufic house,” Yahuda wrote to Beatty in March 1928, using their preferred codeword, “house,” to refer to the Qurʾan manuscript. In 1950, Beatty departed London for Dublin, and on his death in 1968, his extensive collection of Asian and European art transferred to the people of Ireland. This paper will review the Beatty-Yahuda relationship via the Chester Beatty archive correspondence for the years 1927–28.

Ahmed El Shamsy | Fitting In/Passing As: Selling Arabic Books and the Economy of Respectability The many complex and interlocking elements of A. S. Yahuda's identity included a dual professional role: he was not only an Orientalist scholar but also a businessman who bought and sold Arabic books, especially manuscripts. In his private and public writings, Yahuda displays a keen awareness of the tension between his self-presentation as a Western scholar and his active involvement in the lucrative manuscript trade. His attempts to keep these two facets of his identity separate have led to curious splits in the way he is perceived in contemporary scholarship, depending on the aspects of his life under examination.

Yuval Evri | Return to the Jewish Eastern Essence: Snapshot into Avraham Shalom Yahuda’s Intellectual World through One Letter from His Personal Archive Avraham Shalom Yahuda and his older cousin David Yellin remained in correspondence for decades, from the day Yahuda left to study in Germany in 1896 until Yellin’s death in 1941. Yahuda and Yellin’s personal archives contain copies of hundreds of letters exchanged over the course of the years. My paper will focus on one letter sent by Yahuda from his home in Germany to David Yellin in Jerusalem in the twilight of 1899, three years after the young Yahuda emigrated from Jerusalem to Europe and began his studies at the universities of Germany. Relocating from Jerusalem to Germany back then was no simple matter for a young man, who had to leave his community and familiar surroundings and move to an almost totally alien environment, and this much is clear from Yahuda’s own writings. In this letter Yahuda levels fierce criticism at the “Russian maskilim,” centering on an encounter between new representations and labels of identities and cultures, of “Europeanness” and “Sephardiness,”. It also captures an important moment in Yahuda and Yellin’s personal history and in the history of ethnic relations between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews.

Rana Mikati | Sibling Rivalry: The French Correspondence Between the Yahuda Brothers This paper examines the correspondence between A. S. Yahuda and his older brother Isaac Ezekiel Yahuda (1863–1941). The letters between the two brothers, written in French, span the last years of World War I. In addition to revealing the tense and worsening relationship between the two brothers, these letters illuminate Isaac’s struggle to keep his business in Cairo and the family’s in Jerusalem afloat during the war years. Deeply personal, this correspondence also opens a window unto the Yahuda brothers' communal and international entanglements.

11:30–13:00 | Networks 

Chair: Garrett Davidson

Celeste Gianni | Looter or Lover of Learning? The Case of Paul Sbath’s Collection and the Manuscript Trade in the Middle East at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century This paper looks at the transactions, local actors and logistics involved in the sale of Middle Eastern manuscript collections at the beginning of the twentieth century. It focuses on the sale of the manuscript collection of the Syrian Catholic priest Paul Sbath (Aleppo, 1887–1945), regarded by some as one of the most controversial collectors of the twentieth century due to the mysterious circumstances in which he obtained and consolidated his library of 1,325 manuscripts that he partly sold to the Vatican library in 1927. Sbath’s deal with the Vatican is a good example for understanding the wider world of manuscripts in which Yahuda was also active. Through a close study of the negotiations around the acquisition of Sbath’s manuscripts by the Vatican and the protagonists involved in the transaction, the paper discusses Sbath's conflicting roles as both manuscript dealer and scholar willing to preserve and promote the Arab Christian heritage through his work as editor and cataloguer of manuscripts between Aleppo, Jerusalem, and Cairo in the period 1911–45.

Ali Gibran Siddiqui | Abraham Yahuda's Indian Acquisitions in the Princeton Persian Collection In 1942, the Princeton University Library, after lengthy negotiations with the noted scholar and manuscript collector Abraham S. Yahuda, purchased 5000 rare Arabic, Persian, and Turkish manuscripts for a sum of $ 65,000. While negotiating for a suitable price, Yahuda stressed that he had collected these rare works, many of which were parts of private libraries, in cities that were significant centers of Islamicate literary and documentary cultures including those in India. By attempting to trace the journey of Yahuda’s Indian manuscripts through a study of relevant colophons, waqf notes, ownership stamps, signatures, and Yahuda’s personal correspondence, this paper will raise important questions about the origins, provenance, and modes of acquisition of these works.

Ricardo Muñoz Solla | On Abraham S. Yahuda's Dealing Networks in Spain: The Case Study of the Palomares Collection This paper will briefly give some notes about the dealing networks that Yahuda developed during his stay in Spain. Among other examples of acquiring original manuscripts and epigraphic evidence about Jewish and converso history based on his Spanish correspondence, I will focus my attention on the opportunity he had to adquire the inquisitorial collection of Francisco Palomares.

13:30–15:00 Roundtable: Next Steps 

Facilitators: Will Noel and Raquel Ukeles

 

Speakers

Moya Carey (PhD SOAS, University of London, 2001) is the Curator of Islamic Collections at the Chester Beatty in Dublin. Her research primarily addresses the visual culture of Iran (particularly manuscripts, metalwork and carpets) and the history of collecting in the Middle Eastern region. She is currently working on a joint project with Dr. Mercedes Volait about architectural salvage in late nineteenth-century Cairo. Her studies include Persian Art: Collecting the Arts of Iran for the V&A (2017), and “Appropriating Damascus Rooms: Vincent Robinson, Caspar Purdon Clarke and Commercial Strategy in Victorian London,” in À l’orientale – Collecting, Displaying and Appropriating Islamic Art and Architecture in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, ed. F. Giese, A. Varela Braga and M. Volait (2020).

Garrett Davidson is an assistant professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the College of Charleston. He primarily works on medieval Islamic intellectual history and manuscript cultures. He is the author of Carrying on the Tradition: A Social and Intellectual History of Hadith Transmission Across a Thousand Years (2020).

Yuval Evri is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Kings College London. His research focuses on the cultural history of Palestine/Land of Israel at the turn of the 20th century focusing on Sephardi/Arab-Jewish culture and thought. His recent book, titled The Return to Al-Andalus: Disputes Over Sephardic Culture and Identity Between Arabic and Hebrew, was published by Magnes press in 2020.

Celeste Gianni currently works as Cataloger of Arabic Manuscripts at HMML (Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, Saint John’s University, Minnesota). Prior to joining HMML, she held a research position at the University of Oxford as Research Associate in Arabic Manuscripts, focusing on the collection of Paul Sbath at the Vatican Library. Gianni earned her PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, with a thesis entitled, “Poetics of the Catalogue: Library Catalogues in the Arab Provinces during the Late Ottoman Period.”

Allyson Gonzalez (PhD Brandeis University) is a postdoctoral fellow affiliated with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as well as an upcoming Postdoctoral Fellow at the Selma Stern Center for Jewish Studies in Berlin-Brandenburg. Having taught at Yale University and Florida State, Gonzalez has served as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar to Israel (2019–20) and was one of two recipients of the New Voices in Jewish Studies from Fordham and Columbia University (2018–19). A former Pulitzer Prize finalist as the lead writer of her newspaper team, Gonzalez is completing a book-length project that examines public Jewishness in modern Spain.

Stephen Greenberg, MSLS, PhD, AHIP is a rare book librarian, historian, teacher, writer, and photographer. For the last twenty-nine years, he has worked in the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, where he currently serves as head of the Rare Books and Early Manuscripts Section. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland (College Park) and the Catholic University of America.

Ofir Haim is a Fulbright postdoctoral fellow at the Princeton Geniza Lab. His current project explores the social order of pre-Mongol eastern Iran through the lens of its Jewish minority based on the so-called “Afghan Geniza.” He was one of the editors of Efraim Wust's Catalogue of the Arabic, Persian and Turkish Manuscripts of the Yahudah Collection of the National Library of Israel, volume II (Leiden: Brill, 2020).

Konrad Hirschler is Professor of Islamic Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin. Over the last years, he has primarily worked on the history of reading, of the book and of libraries in the Syrian lands with an emphasis on social contexts and material cultures. His main current project is concerned with a private book collection from fourteenth-century Jerusalem.

Evyn Kropf is a librarian and curator at the University of Michigan Library where she partners with other colleagues to ensure that collections of manuscripts and other materials are preserved and accessible for scholarship, appreciation and inspiration long into the future. As a specialist of Islamic codicology and Arabic manuscript culture, her particular interests include writing material (especially paper), structural repairs, reading and collecting practices of the Ottoman era as well as the significance of pictograms and other visual content for Sufi knowledge transmission.

Boris Liebrenz is a senior research fellow at the Bibliotheca Arabica project (Saxon Academy of the Sciences and Humanities, Leipzig). His main research focuses on the history of manuscripts, libraries, and reading in the Islamic world, the topic of his second book, Die Rifāʿīya aus Damaskus (Leiden 2016), which won the Annemarie Schimmel Forschungspreis in 2017.

Stefan Litt is Curator of General Humanities at the National Library of Israel. His current research focuses on the Western incunables at the NLI.

Rana Mikati is an assistant professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern History at the College of Charleston. Her research interests include the cultural and intellectual history of the eastern Mediterranean in the early medieval period, the history of early Islamic frontiers, warfare, and Islamic archaeology.

Ricardo Muñoz Solla (PhD. in Hebrew Philology) is Associate Professor at Salamanca University in the Department of Jewish and Aramaic Studies. Currently he is carrying out a research about the history and development of Jewish Studies in XXth century Spain. He combines research on medieval Spanish Jewry and converso identities with contemporary approaches to Jewish Hispanism. Among his latest publications can be highlighted: "Olga Bauer y Zenobia Camprubí: Historia de una amistad" Revista de Literatura, CSIC (2020) and "El redescubrimiento de Maimónides en la primera mitad del siglo XX", Et amicorum. Estudios en honor a Carlos Carrete Parrondo, Salamanca 2019. He is also coeditor in-chief of the Series The Iberian Religious World (Brill Publishers).

William Noel is the John T. Maltsberger III ’55 Associate University Librarian for Special Collections in Princeton University Library. He has led numerous projects to digitize and data-mine pre-modern manuscripts, and has experience in directing complicated, large digital humanities projects such as the imaging, conservation, and transcription of the Archimedes Palimpsest. He likes to talk: he teaches for Rare Book School at the University of Virginia, he delivered the Sandars Lectures in Bibliography in 2019, and he often advocates for open data, as he does in this TED talk.

Dagmar Riedel is a Middle East historian. Her research draws on the material evidence of manuscripts and printed books in Arabic script to explore the transmission of knowledge inside and outside Muslim communities.  She writes a research blog about Islamic Books: https://researchblogs.cul.columbia.edu/islamicbooks.

Marina Rustow is the Khedouri A. Zilkha Professor of Jewish Civilization in the Near East at Princeton University, and director of the Princeton Geniza Lab and of the Program in Near Eastern Studies. Her most recent book is The Lost Archive: Traces of a Caliphate in a Cairo Synagogue (2020).

Stefan Schorch is Professor of Hebrew Bible and Hebrew language at Martin-Luther-Universität Halle–Wittenberg. Among his current major projects are “A critical editio maior of the Samaritan Pentateuch” (5 volumes, of which two have appeared) and an edition, together with translation and commentary, of the Samaritan Arabic “Kitāb al-Ḫilāf” (jointly with Daniel Boušek and Gregor Schwarb), a fourteenth-century treatise about theological and halakhic differences between Samaritans and Jews.

Ahmed El Shamsy is an associate professor of Islamic thought at the University of Chicago. His recent book, Rediscovering the Islamic Classics, examines the transition of classical Islamic literature from manuscript to print.

Ali Gibran Siddiqui is the Leon B. Poullada Postdoctoral Research Associate in Central Asian Studies at the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. As a historian of Islamic Central Asia, he is interested in the economic, political, and social lives of Naqshbandi Sufis in the Timurid and Mughal Empires. His current projects include articles on the Juybari Naqshbandi presence in Mughal India and the role of miraculous dreams and spiritual monopolies in jade production in sixteenth-century Kashgar.

Samuel Thrope is the Curator of the Islam and Middle East Collection at the National Library of Israel. His most recent book, co-translated with Domenico Agostini, is The Bundahišn: The Zoroastrian Book of Creation (Oxford, 2021).

Raquel Ukeles is Head of Collections at the National Library of Israel and served as Curator of the Islam and Middle East collection from 2010 to 2021. She received a BA from Princeton (1993) and an MA and PhD from Harvard (2006) in comparative Islamic and Jewish studies. Her publications span comparative Jewish and Islamic traditions and the history of Islamic manuscripts and Islamic law. She most recently co-edited the first and second volumes of Ephraim Wust's Catalogue of the Arabic, Persian, and Turkish Manuscripts of the Yahuda Collection of the National Library of Israel (2016, 2020).

Yusuf al-Uzbeki was born in Jerusalem in 1977, holds an MA in History of Islamic Sciences from Al-Quds University – Abu Dis (2009), and is a doctoral student at Al-Zaytuna University in Tunis. He has published eleven books and editions of manuscripts, including an edition of Masʾalat ḥudūth al-ʿālam by Ibn Taymiyyah (2012).

Torsten Wollina studied at Jena University and received his PhD from Freie Universität Berlin in 2012. His research focuses on manuscript collections, provenance, and cataloguing. He has been a research associate at the Orient-Institut Beirut and a Marie-Curie Cofund Fellow at Trinity College, Dublin. He is currently working as a researcher at the Staatsbibliothek Berlin on the project "Orient-Digital".

    Sponsored and hosted by the Princeton University Library. 

    Co-sponsors: The Center for Collaborative History, Department of Near Eastern Studies, Institute for International and Regional Studies, Manuscript Rare Book and Archive Studies Initiative (MARBAS), Program in Judaic Studies, Program in Near Eastern Studies, and Public Lectures at Princeton University, and The College of Charleston Yaschik/Arnold Jewish Studies Program.

    Organizing committee   

    • Garrett Davidson (College of Charleston)
    • William Noel (Princeton University Library)
    • Marina Rustow (Princeton University)
    • Emma Sarconi (Princeton University Library)
    • Deborah Schlein (Princeton University Library)
    • Samuel Thrope (National Library of Israel)
    • Raquel Ukeles (National Library of Israel)
    • Eric White (Princeton University Library)
    • Torsten Wollina (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin)