The Book in Mamluk Egypt and Syria (1250-1517)

Scribes, Libraries and Market


This book is the first to date to be dedicated to the circulation of the book as a commodity in the Mamluk sultanate. It discusses the impact of princely patronage on the production of books, the formation and management of libraries in religious institutions, their size and their physical setting. It documents the significance of private collections and their interaction with institutional libraries and the role of charitable endowments (waqf ) in the life of libraries. The market as a venue of intellectual and commercial exchanges and a production centre is explored with references to prices and fees. The social and professional background of scribes and calligraphers occupies a major place in this study, which also documents the chain of master-calligraphers over the entire Mamluk period. For her study the author relies on biographical dictionaries, chronicles, waqf documents and manuscripts.

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Doris Behrens-Abouseif is Professor (emerita), SOAS, University of London. From 2000 to 2014 she held the Nasser D. Khalili Chair of Islamic Art and Archaeology at SOAS. Her list of publications covers a wide range of subjects from the early period to the 19th century with focus on Egypt and Syria: history of Islamic architecture and urbanism, cultural history, concepts of aesthetics, material culture and the decorative arts.
"The Book in Mamluk Egypt and Syria is highly informative and makes use of all the available information, clearly a product of serious research and passion for the author’s subject. It is also a product of love for the book itself and for bibliophiles, full with all sorts of interesting stories and remarks..."

Sotiris S. Livas, in: Journal of Oriental and African Studies 28 (2019)

“[…] it is a comprehensive summary of our existing state of knowledge, and paints a lively and entertaining picture of lives lived among books in Mamluk Egypt and Syria.”

Paul Auchterlonie, University of Exeter in: Journal of the American Oriental Society, Volume 141, No. 4 (2021).
Acknowledgments Figures Note to the Reader
1 The Legacy  1 The Classical Heritage  2 The Fatimid and Ayyubid Legacies
2 Mamluk Libraries  1 Patronage of the Mamluk Book  2 A Palace Library?  3 The Libraries of Religious Institutions  4 The Librarians in Religious Institutions
3 Private Libraries and Endowments
4 Book Circulation and Storage  1 Borrowing Practices  2 The Size of Libraries  3 The Size of Books  4 The Physical Setting
5 The Market  1 Location and Environment  2 Dealers and Publishers  3 Value, Prices, and Fees
6 The Mamluk Scribe: Background and Formation  1 Terminology and Definition  2 Writing and Copying  3 From Oral to Written Books and Back  4 Books from the Barracks
7 The Mamluk Master Calligraphers  1 The Art and Practice of Calligraphy  2 Teaching Writing and Calligraphy  3 The Social and Cultural Contexts  4 Calligraphers and Craftsmen  5 Calligraphers and the Aristocracy
8 The Chain of Mamluk Calligraphers  1 The Syrian School  2 The Egyptian School
Bibliography Index
All interested in the history and culture of the Mamluk sultanate, the culture of the Islamic book, Islamic history and medieval cultural and social history.
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