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Medieval Damascus: Plurality and Diversity in an Arabic LibraryThe Ashrafiya Library Catalogue$
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Konrad Hirschler

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781474408776

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474408776.001.0001

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The Making and Unmaking of a Medieval Library

The Making and Unmaking of a Medieval Library

(p.17) 1 The Making and Unmaking of a Medieval Library
Medieval Damascus: Plurality and Diversity in an Arabic Library

Konrad Hirschler

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter firstly traces the foundation of the Ashrafiya in late Ayyubid Damascus. It argues that the library was set up by two principal patrons one belonging to the political elite (the city’s ruler al-Ashraf) and one belonging to the civilian elite (the prominent secretary and son of al-Qadi al-Fadil). Consequently, it is possible to identify three main regional sources from which the books originated: Rather surprisingly, the plundered former Fatimid palace library in Cairo, Northern Mesopotamia where al-Ashraf had spent his early years and the local context of Damascus. The chapter traces in a second part the subsequent development of the library until its dispersal in the early Ottoman period. This chapter is completed by a brief outline of the subsequent fate of some manuscripts originally held in this library, many of which were taken to Istanbul. The two main arguments of this chapter are thus a) thematic, to see this ‘Islamic’ book collection in its specific regional context and b) methodological, to show in what ways the study of individual manuscript notes can give insights into book circulation.

Keywords:   library, Ayyubid, Mamluk, Damascus, madrasa, Islam

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