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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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Organising the Library: The Books on the Shelves

Organising the Library: The Books on the Shelves

Chapter:
(p.60) 2 Organising the Library: The Books on the Shelves
Source:
Medieval Damascus: Plurality and Diversity in an Arabic Library
Author(s):

Konrad Hirschler

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474408776.003.0003

The second chapter discusses the thematic profile of the books held in the Ashrafiya. The teaching in this institution was focused on Koran recitation and its patron al-Ashraf has been depicted in modern scholarship as a rather narrow-minded Sunni ruler. Consequently, one might expect a run-off-the-mill diet of books emanating from a small number of disciplines. The chapter challenges such assumptions and shows that books relating to disciplines such as Koran, ḥadīth and even law are small in number. Rather we find a broad range of topics covered, including the antique knowledge (e.g. Aristotle and Galen), medicine, pharmacology, pre-Islamic poetry, theology and mirror for princes. This is also reflected in the content of those works that were held in multiple copies: the library’s most popular book were the Maqāmāt by al-Ḥarīrī with 15 copies. The chapter is also challenge dominating assumptions about madrasa-libraries with regard to sectarian issues (the library had many Shiite works) and issues of high culture vs low culture (it contained many ‘low-culture’ works).

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

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