The Arabic Book

The Arabic Book

Copyright Date: 1984
Pages: 226
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  • Book Info
    The Arabic Book
    Book Description:

    This long-awaited translation of Johannes Pedersen's Danish work Den Arabiske Bog (1946) describes in vivid detail the production of books in medieval Islam, and outlines the role of literature and scholarship in Islamic society.

    Originally published in 1984.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5637-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-2)

    The long-overdue publication ofThe Arabic Bookin an English translation is matter for celebration. The work was written before its time and has yet to be superseded. It deals with a subject that of its very nature touches upon every branch of Islamic studies, though it cannot be said to belong principally to any single one of them. This wide-ranging relevance made such a work a natural task for one of the polymaths of Islamic studies. At the same time, it sufficiently explains why earlier scholars were so chary of attempting to cover the same ground. The author compresses...

  5. ONE Writing and Books in Arabia before Islam
    (pp. 3-11)

    The arabic book owes its origin to Islam, and this has given it a character that it has retained. This does not mean, however, that written records were unknown in the Arabian peninsula before the coming of the Prophet around the year 600 (his emigration from Mecca to Medina, the starting point of the Muslim calendar, took place in a.d. 622). From information brought back by Niebuhr’s expedition from Yemen, where it had sojourned in 1762-1763, it was known in Europe that there were inscriptions with a distinctive script in southern Arabia. During the course of the 19th and 20th...

  6. TWO The Qur’ān and Arabic Literature
    (pp. 12-19)

    Arabs use the same term,kitāb, to denote both a book and any other piece of writing, short or long, whether a letter, inscription, document, or anything else. If they speak of “the book,”al-kitāb, that is, the book in its truest sense, they mean the Qur’ān. In no other religion does the book play such a role as it does in Islam. Every word found “between the two covers” is literally the word of God: therefore it is eternal and uncreated, and therefore a miracle of linguistic perfection.

    Muḥammad had no very profound acquaintance with the Jewish and Christian...

  7. THREE Composition and Transmission of Books
    (pp. 20-36)

    The starting point and center of the prodigious literary activity that developed in Islamic lands was the mosque. People did not merely foregather for religious services: the government’s public announcements were made in the mosque; judicial proceedings were held there; and, most notably, every aspect of the intellectual life of Islam was cultivated in the mosque. Education took place in the mosque, where the teacher sat surrounded by a circle (ḥalqa) of young people, drilling them in the knowledge required of a Muslim; but it was not mere instruction alone that went on. In the mosque scholars of distinguished reputation...

  8. FOUR Scribes and Booksellers
    (pp. 37-53)

    In scarcely any other culture has the literary life played such a role as in Islam. Learning (‛ilm), by which is meant the whole world of the intellect, engaged the interest of Muslims more than anything else during the golden age of Islam and for a good while thereafter. The life that evolved in the mosques spread outward to put its mark upon influential circles everywhere. Princes and rich men gathered people of learning and letters around them, and it was quite common for a prince, one or more times a week, to hold a concourse (majlis), at which representatives...

  9. FIVE Writing Materials
    (pp. 54-71)

    Ibn al-Nadīm gives in his work a survey of the materials used by various peoples for writing on. Apart from stone and metal, which were used for inscriptions “for eternity,” he mentions wood, bark, the leaves of trees (especially palm), silk, skin, parchment, papyrus, and finally paper.¹ In the days when the Qur’ān was coming into existence, Arabs used to avail themselves of the bones of camels, sheep, and asses, as well as thin white stones and potsherds, as we have already seen.

    Most of these materials are of little interest for our present purpose. Wood was used for tablets,...

  10. SIX Arabic Script; Calligraphers
    (pp. 72-88)

    We already know something of the prehistory of the Arabic script, since we have seen that it evolved quite naturally from an Aramaic type, whereas it is not clear what the background was before Islam of the creation of a universal Arabic script of the southern Arabian type. In the Islamic literary world much attention was paid to the script and its history.¹

    The Persian-born historian al-Balādhurī (d. 892), who lived at the court of Baghdad, concludes his work on the Islamic conquests (Futūḥ al-buldān, “The Conquests of the Lands”) with a passage about script, and from the tenth century...

  11. SEVEN Book Painting
    (pp. 89-100)

    There is a wide and characteristic difference between the relationship of Muslims to calligraphy and their relationship to pictorial art. Calligraphy was created by Islam itself, inspired by its veneration for the Divine Book: it was an applied art that developed in harmony with literature, attaining its pinnacle, like the latter, in the ninth to thirteenth centuries; it reached out too into other art forms, being employed not only in book production but also in other handicrafts—in ceramics, metalworking, wood carving, and glassmaking, and notably in architecture. Pictorial art was not a Muslim invention; on the contrary, it was...

  12. EIGHT Bookbinding
    (pp. 101-112)

    Writings on papyrus sheets took the form of long strips, which were rolled up for storage. Parchment writings in roll form exist too, but there is no evidence in the Muslim tradition of book rolls having been used in ancient times.¹ Nevertheless, in the Heidelberg papyrus collection there is in fact an Arabic book roll, 183 cm in length, of the mid-ninth century.² Qur’āns in roll form appeared occasionally in very much later times. This form of book is somewhat rare in Islamic literature, however, and is something of a curiosity in subsequent ages. The general book form is the...

  13. NINE Libraries
    (pp. 113-130)

    The unexampled flowering of the art of book production in Islam was due in no small degree to the ardent interest taken in books by men of wealth. Literature enjoyed such universal esteem that it was natural for those who could afford it to take some share in it and work for its advancement. We have already seen how important princes were to authors, and a number of them founded considerable libraries. Al-Qalqashandī says that there were three great libraries in Islam: the ‛Abbāsid one in Baghdad, the Fāṭimid one in Cairo, and the Spanish Umayyad one in Córdoba.¹


  14. TEN Printed Books
    (pp. 131-142)

    When the art of book printing began to come into use in Europe in the middle of the fifteenth century, Muslim culture had passed its zenith, and no movement was to be perceived in the literary world capable of stimulating interest in novel methods of book production. It was another three or four hundred years before the Muslims took up the art that in Europe had made possible the dissemination of a new culture and the growth of a new body of literature. Even then it was only with reluctance that the Muslims adopted this European invention.¹

    Nevertheless, a number...

    (pp. 143-160)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 161-175)
    (pp. None)