Author: Torsten Wollina

Into Ibn Ṭūlūn’s Endowed Library (Part 2)

One earlier post has outlined several obstacles in assessing Ibn Ṭūlūn’s book collection in contrast to the books he himself authored. Together with Merlis Emre, a master student of Konrad Hirschler, I revisit this question here, complicating the differentiation between books Ibn Ṭūlūn owned and arguably read, and those he…

Collecting: Where is its place in scholarly biographies?

One thing that has frustrated me for a while now is how most collectors of Arabic manuscripts are portrayed in biographical entries. To be more succinct, while the collections are usually mentioned, this often happens as an afterthought. According to such biographical entries, everything else a collector did in their…

Ruminations on publishing pre-print

An argument that one might still find frequently about premodern Arabic historiographical and biographical writing, despite all recent findings to the contrary, is that they are derivative and repeat much of what other authors have said before. This argument has, in fact, been made towards a larger segment of premodern…

Vanity Post 1: News and Rumours, 2014

Over the last three weeks or so, I was without a working a computer. And even now that a new one has arrived I am struggling to get into some sort of routine with backup passwords and other obstacles. That being said, my access to sources and literature is somewhat…

Arabic Manuscripts in Trinity: The Huntingdon Collection (part 2)

In my last post I introduced the Arabic manuscripts beqeathed to Trinity College Library in the seventeenth century by Robert Huntingdon, provost of the College from 1683-92. I also conveyed that the later treatment of these materials by librarians – the physical placement of them on shelves – shows that…

Of what a biographer approves: The case of Akmal al-Din Ibn Muflih

This short post revolves around a short biography of Akmal al-Din Ibn Muflih, a somewhat elusive figure of early Ottoman Damascus. He was Ibn Tulun’s most visible student; that is, his handwriting is found in many of his teacher’s autographs. Yet, little substantial information can be found on him in…

How the Ottomans won over Damascus: A graphic short story

A while back, a book chapter of mine was published in the volume The Mamluk-Ottoman Transition. Continuity and Change in Egypt and Bilād al-Shām in the Sixteenth Century, edited by Stephan Conermann and Gül Şen. In this I investigated architectural policies of the Ottoman sultan Selim immediately following his occupation of…

A horrific crime—at an ominous time

The criminal underworld of medieval Damascus is certainly not my field of expertise. But as for the contemporary audience of Ibn Ṭūlūn’s chronicle Mufākahat al-Khillān, these stories also draw the attention of current readers. This short post relates one such instance from Damascus at the end of the Mamluk period{1}.…

Towards a History of Ibn Tulun’s corpus

While much of what has been published here, has been more or less concerned with the topic of this post’s title, today it will get much more “personal”. More concretely, this post gives a list of all those people I could identify as having engaged with the corpus at one…

The Crustacean Returns: A possible context for Ibn Tulun’s observations

April 2018 saw the publication of a post on Ibn Ṭūlūn’s excursus on freshwater crustaceans indigenous to Syrian bodies of water. At the time, I could not give that much context on the meaning of this passage upon which I came in a biographical dictionary. Having recently ventured into some…

The Library of Ahmad Taymur

How is Ahmad Taymur, the Egyptian bibliophile and ‘gentleman scholar’ who received an obituary in the Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft upon his death in 1930, still awaiting his own study? Joseph Schacht praises in said obituary Taymur’s outstanding knowledge of Arabic literature, his altruistic support of “European scholarship”, and…

Comes a man from the East

Ibn Tulun’s chronicle Mufākahat al-Khillān contains a curious anecdote, in which a man from “the lands of Ḥasan Bāk” comes to Damascus and just takes over the Kujujāniyya Khānqāh, which was in the hands of one of the most powerful men in town, the Shāfiʿī chief judge Shihāb al-Dīn Ibn al-Farfūr. [Rajab 892]…

Sufis in war: an update

In my article “Between Beirut, Cairo, and Damascus: Al-amr bi-al-maʿrūf and the Sufi/Scholar Dichotomy in the Late Mamluk Period (1480s–1510s)” I proposed that several groups named in the sources as Sufis could have resembled paramilitary groups. They were viewed as cohesive bodies of men exactly because they would act as…

Aḥmad Ḥasībī-zādeh and Ibn Ṭūlūn MTMs

Last year, my article on different modes of transmission of Ibn Ṭūlūn manuscripts was published in the Journal of Islamic Manuscripts. One figure that was ostentatiously involved in the certification of the manuscripts Chester Beatty Library, MS Ar. 3101 and Staatsbibliothek, MS Landberg 704, I could not identify by that time.…

A First Global Distribution of Ibn Tulun manuscripts?

Ibn Tulun is usually perceived as an inherently local author with a decidedly local readership, that is before the late 19th century. And while the global distribution that emerged around 1900 has been addressed occasionally here before and by other scholars, this piece will question the general assessment of Ibn…

How important was Ibn Tulun’s uncle Yusuf?

The funding period of the research cluster Dyntran: Dynamics of Transmission draws to a close very soon. The exchanges in this cluster have proven influential on my research since its inception in 2015. The focus on the social and especially familial contexts of writing has become a core element of…