From March 25th to 29th 2019, I enjoyed learning a lot about a specific aspect of manuscript culture in the Islamicate world in the workshop “Codicological and Paleographical Aspects of Islamic Manuscripts, with a Special Focus on Manuscript Notes”. The workshop was organized by Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Freie Universität Berlin and Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation (London), and was hosted by Staatsbibliothek Berlin. This was an advanced training course designed for individuals who had already participated in an introductory course. I had recently attended such a course: “7. Alfried Krupp-Sommerkurs für Handschriftenkultur” in September 2018 in Leipzig. Having been equipped with the necessary fundamental knowledge about manuscript culture in the Islamicate tradition, in Berlin we attended theoretical lectures about manuscript notes and used manuscripts from the extensive collection of the Oriental Department of the Staatsbibliothek Berlin in several practical sessions.
|Fig.1: Christoph Rauch giving us an overview of sample manuscripts from various collections held in the Orientabteilung. (Photo by Shahrzad Irannejad)|
|Fig. 2: Participants hard at work deciphering engagement notes, supervised by Konrad Hirschler. (Photos by Shahrzad Irannejad) |
During the next days, Konrad Hirschler focused on transmission notes, with one session of theory and three hands-on sessions with intensive group activities. We had to read various tradition and audition notes and decipher the teacher, the number of participants, the reader, the scribe as well as the date and the place of the note and collect all the information in a shared document. As an online tool, we were introduced to Onomasticon Arabicum to check the names of individuals. In one session of theory and three hands-on sessions, Boris Liebrenz (Leipzig) shared his extensive experience about manuscript notes. He covered seals, birth and death notes, miscellanea (recipes, accounts, historical notes, biographies, autobiographicals, fatwas, poetry, fawā’id). He discussed some tools and strategies necessary in dealing with seals and notes, including familiarizing oneself with the formulae of each category of notes, looking for repetition of notes, signatures and seals, inspecting notes carefully with good light, and finally systematic collection and complete transcription of notes and seals. Furthermore, he introduced us to several of the currently available online tools: Chester Beatty Seals Database, one for seals; and the Refaiya database in Leipzig, the digital database of Staatsbibliothek Berlin, the database of Forschungsbibliothek Gotha der Universität Erfurt which provide tools for searching through manuscript notes (Manuskriptvermerke), and a Prototype for a database for oriental manuscripts and people, hosted by the University of Leipzig.
3: Participants reporting their findings regarding notes and seals in a
session supervised by Boris Liebrenz. (Photo by Shahrzad Irannejad) |
Anne Regourd, codicologist and papyrologist, walked us through waqf notes by focusing on those in Ethiopian Qur’ans. She also introduced us to the world of papers of the Islamic Manuscripts, and we inspected the papers, watermarks and countermarks on several sets of manuscripts under her supervision. Christoph Rauch reviewed the various types of collation marks and what things to take notice of. Friederike Weis (Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Berlin) introduced us to the fascinating world of supposed “Signatures” in Miniatures and gave us hints on how to try to discern reliable signatures from the otherwise. We were lucky enough to see amazing samples from the treasures kept at the Orientabteilung of the library. Fortunately for the artworks and unfortunately for us, we were not allowed to take pictures during this session. Last but definitely not least, Olly Akkerman (Freie Universität Berlin) gave us a glimpse of the world of social codicology by discussing manuscripts as objects that have a social role. As a case study, she introduced us to the social role the manuscripts held in the manuscript treasury play for the Bohra community in Gujarat. In an intriguing hand-on session, we split into several groups to reconstruct the several social lives of a “mystery manuscript” and reported to each other.
|Fig. 4: Shahrzad Irannejad reporting the findings of her group. (Photo by Luca Farina)|
All in all, apart from a good overview of such codicological aspects as papyrology, the workshop gave us great insights into how manuscript notes, like ownership notes, and reader entries and collation statements, can serve as valuable sources for social and historical research, beside the actual content of the manuscript.
Fig. 5: Participants discovering exciting watermark examples. (Photo by Shahrzad Irannejad)