This short study looks into the mind of the Ayyubid intellectual Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi, also known as al-Labbad, who was born in Baghdad in 1162 and died there in 1231–32 at the age of 69. The focus of this article is his famous book Kitāb al-Ifāda wa’l-iʿtibārfi’l-umūr al-mushāhada wa’l-ḥawadith al-muʿāyana bi-arḍ Miṣr (The Book of Instruction and Admonition on the Things Seen[mushāhada] and Events Recorded[muʿāyana] in the Land of Egypt), which, as I argue, is al-Baghdadi’s clear manifestation of his “change of mind” in the fields of scholarship and methods of learning. It seems that a turning point in al-Baghdadi’s academic career occurred during the time he spent in Egypt and, perhaps even and more importantly, in front of the antiquities of Pharaonic Egypt. His descriptions of the pyramids, Sphinx, and huge sculptures of ancient Egypt demonstrate al-Baghdadi’s progressive method of looking at and interpreting nature and thus of rewriting history.
Setting a group of medieval carved ivory horns in the specific artistic and historical context in which they were manufactured, used and re-used, this book presents a mine of information for the study of medieval history.
The first chapters explore such technical aspects as the cutting and carving of oliphants, and also the broader issues of the morphology of ivory and its availability in the Mediterranean basin in the Middle Ages. On the basis of specific carving methods and varying vocabulary of motifs, the oliphants are organized into groups and their probable sites of production are suggested.
The core of this volume, however, is the attempt to place them in their specific historical context. The purpose of their mass-production, namely their patronage and original function, is explored, but also their reception and new functions in the church treasuries of Latin Europe is broadly discussed.