Bibliotheca Arabica: The Past and Future of Arabic Bibliography (Lecture by Boris Liebrenz)

Boris Liebrenz, Saxon Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Leipzig 

Bibliotheca Arabica:  The Past and Future of Arabic Bibliography

In the 17th century, the need for a guide through the vast domains of Arabic literature, a "Bibliotheca Arabica," was voiced repeatedly among Europe’s Republic of Oriental Letters. One who took up the task was Johann Heinrich Hottinger. Based in Zurich, he was hopelessly removed from the necessary sources. Yet what he lacked in information, he made up with a methodology that was strikingly modern. Few dared to follow him down this path into one of the richest of the pre-modern literary traditions. Since great parts of it have remained in manuscript until today, taking stock of Arabic literary heritage and of its physical transmission through specific manuscript witnesses were often two sides of the same coin. Today, new technologies allow us to attempt a new Bibliotheca Arabica in ways that the printed page could not. This comes as scholars start to appreciate manuscripts not as necessary references but as social objects that have fascinating stories to tell. This presentation will show how to make these manuscripts, among them those in Columbia’s libraries, speak to us.

Tuesday, January 22, 6 pm

Butler Library, Room 203

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