Printing Arab Modernity

Book Culture and The American Press in Nineteenth-Century Beirut


During the nineteenth century, the American Mission Press in Beirut printed religious and secular publications written by foreign missionaries and Syrian scholars such as Nāṣīf al-Yāzijī and Buṭrus al-Bustānī, of later nahḍa fame. In a region where presses were still not prevalent, letterpress-printed and lithographed works circulated within a larger network that was dominated by manuscript production. In this book, Hala Auji analyzes the American Press publications as important visual and material objects that provide unique insights into an era of changing societal concerns and shifting intellectual attitudes of Syria’s Muslim and Christian populations. Contending that printed books are worthy of close visual scrutiny, this study highlights an important place for print culture during a time of an emerging Arab modernity.

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Hala Auji, Ph.D. (2013), State University of New York at Binghamton, is Assistant Professor of Islamic Art at the American University of Beirut.
"In den häufigeren Studien zur „fin-de-siècle nahda period“ (S. 131) werden bestenfalls nur die Titel der frühen ADB-Bücher genannt; Auji aber holt sie als Objekte aus der Versenkung. Damit verleiht sie einer bislang nur schemenhaft wahrgenommenen Frühphase der Nahḍa Konturen. Geschickt kombiniert Verf. Objektbeschreibungen mit Inhaltsanalysen, bio-bibliografischen Daten und historischen Exkursen. Die enge Begrenzung des analysierten Buchkorpus erweist sich als vorteilhaft. Der kunstgeschichtliche Zugang zum Thema bringt Erkenntnisgewinn und eignet sich zur Nachahmung. Hala Aujis Buch schließt eine Lücke in der Bibliothek zur nahöstlich-arabischen Druckgeschichte. Nahḍa- Spezialisten sollten es unbedingt lesen. Empfohlen sei es aber auch Arabisten, Historikern, Kunstgeschichtlern, Missionswissenschaftlern, Buchforschern und Bibliothekaren mit Interesse an arabischer Buchkultur im Zeichen des Aufbruchs der arabisch-islamischen Welt in die Moderne.
Dagmar Glaß in Orientalistische Literaturzeitung, 114(2), 2019
"This book makes a welcome and timely contribution to studies in modern Islamic art and on book culture and printed books in particular which constitute growing areas of inquiry in the field... Art historians interested in East-West encounters, non-Western print cultures and technologies and those specializing in Middle East visual culture would benefit greatly from Printing Arab Modernity’s methodology and framing of visual materials. Printing Arab Modernity connects the interests of various other specialists of history broadly including experts on Arab civilization (e.g. literature, intellectual history, modern nationalisms, etc.), Ottomanists and historians of Syria and Lebanon. Bibliographers, especially those specializing in incunabula, will likewise both appreciate and welcome this work. Printing Arab Modernity not only bridges disciplines in its approach and appeal but also mediates different yet related perspectives by joining together the interests and expectations of publisher, author, and reader in a meaningful dialogue."
Yasemin Gencer in Nineteenth Century Art Worldwide, Spring 2018.
"This monograph by Auji (American Univ. of Beirut, Lebanon) offers a case study of the growth of mechanical printing in the Muslim Middle East. The author challenges the traditional narrative of the spread of printing in the Arab world, which focuses on the late-19thcentury period known as the Nahda or "Awakening." Instead, she emphasizes the mid-19th century, when publishing houses founded by Western missionary groups such as Beirut's American Press published both missionary and secular works, coexisting with the traditional scribal model even as they helped transform the production and layout of the Arab codex… The work is fully referenced and illustrated with numerous examples of published works from this period… Recommended for collections with a strong focus on Arab and Middle East studies; the history of writing, printing, and the book; and the history of Christian mission activities."
D. Durant in Choice, June 2017 Vol. 54 No. 10.
All interested in the history of Arabic printing and manuscript practices, and anyone concerned with American Foreign Missions, and the artistic, intellectual, and political developments in nineteenth century Beirut.
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