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This article approaches early-modern biographical literature, in particular the centenary biographical dictionary of Muḥammad Khalīl al-Murādī, titled Silk al-durar fī aʿyān al-qarn al-thānī ʿashar as an integrated source. The article argues that as a biographer, al-Murādī relied heavily on poetry, not simply for its literary value, but as a historical tool, a primary source, whose contents provided the reader with direct access to the historical figures in question. This approach to the Silk allows the biographical dictionary to serve not simply as a historical reference, as it often does, but as a reflection of the cultural moment it emerged from. The poetry within the Silk, when read as a historical source, affords insight into the history of the self, of self-fashioning, and of the mentality of the learned community of eighteenth-century Ottoman Syria, and Damascus in particular.

Open Access
In: Philological Encounters