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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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Plurality and Diversity: The Profile of a Medieval Library

Plurality and Diversity: The Profile of a Medieval Library

Chapter:
(p.102) 3 Plurality and Diversity: The Profile of a Medieval Library
Source:
Medieval Damascus: Plurality and Diversity in an Arabic Library
Author(s):

Konrad Hirschler

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474408776.003.0004

The third chapter discusses one of the most intriguing aspects of this document, its system of ordering books. Our knowledge of medieval library systems has hitherto been confined to small collections and thus rudimentary systems or incomplete information in narrative sources. The chapter shows the highly-developed system for organising books according to three parameters, alphabetical order of titles, size of the books and their themes. In contrast to the highly philosophical schemes of how to organise and hierarchise the various learned branches of knowledge (such as those by al-Ghazali and al-Kindi) this library gives a very different insight into how knowledge was organised on a practitioner’s level. The organisation of the library, in addition to several other features of the catalogue, allows also an understanding of the spatial organisation of the library (the actual building was destroyed in the early 20th century). We do not have any study of the spatial aspects of a medieval Arabic library yet and the chapter offers the first exploration of this theme.

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

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