Interdisciplinary Centers, Units, and Projects

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  • Publication
    Manuscripts of Sir Thomas Phillipps in North American Institutions
    (2017-10-31) Burrows, Toby
    The manuscript collection of Sir Thomas Phillipps was almost certainly the largest private collection ever assembled. Its dispersal during the century after his death in 1872 scattered his manuscripts into public and private collections around the world. These included many collections in North America, several of which now count former Phillipps manuscripts among their greatest treasures. This paper examines the extent to which Phillipps manuscripts are now held in institutional collections in North America and traces the history of their acquisition.
  • Publication
    Will that Surrogate Do?: Reflections on Material Manuscript Literacy in the Digital Environment from Islamic Manuscripts at the University of Michigan Library
    (2017-06-06) Kropf, Evyn C
    The widespread dissemination of digital surrogates for Islamic manuscripts certainly has the potential to impact scholarship both positively and negatively. Realizing a positive impact is contingent on the accessibility and quality of the digital surrogates and the training extended to the scholars working with them. Indeed, while manuscript digital surrogates have the potential to enhance access for those scholars who might otherwise neglect manuscript evidence, they may also enable neglect of material qualities and with them the essential historical context for the content of a codex. This is particularly concerning for the field of Islamic manuscript studies for which so much codicological and palaeographical groundwork is yet to be conducted and ample training in material manuscript literacy is still lacking. Perhaps surprisingly, our experience with manuscript digital surrogates at the University of Michigan has demonstrated that even “materially distant” digital surrogates can actually enhance understanding of manuscript features, including appreciation for material aspects, and help advance the codicological projects of Islamic manuscript studies. The key is introducing basic material manuscript literacy via exposure to physical artifacts and relying on the surrogates as tools for descriptive training.
  • Publication
    Provenance in the Aggregate: The Social Life of an Unremarkable Arabic Manuscript Collection
    (2019-10-25) Love, Paul
    This is a biography of a collection of eleven Arabic manuscripts at the library of the Università degli Studi di Napoli L'Orientale (UNO). These manuscripts do not contain otherwise unknown or even rare texts, since the titles in the collection exist in dozens of manuscript copies in northern African libraries in addition to printed editions. While the bulk of their content may be known to historians, the objects themselves have led rich social lives that merit attention. Like many biographies, however, the story of these objects suffers from a lack of detail. In this article, I suggest that if approached in the aggregate, the long-term provenance of Arabic manuscript collections like this one have a fascinating story to tell about their social histories. Even in the absence of every detail, these objects have much to say about the multiple and overlapping historical contexts through which they have moved. I begin by showing how these manuscripts at the UNO started their lives as Italian papers, situating them in the world of maritime and terrestrial trade that linked the northern and southern coasts of the Mediterranean from the 17th-20th centuries. I then demonstrate how the production and circulation of these texts speaks to widespread intellectual networks of a Muslim minority community and its manuscript culture in the Maghrib during the 18th and 19th centuries when the Ottoman empire attempted to exercise influence over the region. Finally, I show the ways in which these manuscripts were participants in the process of European (specifically, Italian) colonization and colonial knowledge production in northern Africa at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. By placing the aggregated biographies of the manuscripts in dialogue with the history of the broader Mediterranean world, I show how Arabic manuscript collections like this one have much to offer historians.