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Bibliotheca Arabica – A Digital Home for the Arabic Manuscript Tradition
Arabic literatures are usually studied as purely creative products, a body of texts disembodied from their material life. Bibliotheca Arabica, in contrast, focusses on the context, the production, transmission, and reception of the manuscripts that for centuries carried the works we study today. Knowing what was copied, read, endowed, or owned when, where, and by whom, offers new perspectives on this immensely rich tradition. However, such a research agenda requires the collection, cross-reference, normalization, and visualization of widely diverse data created over more than one and a half millennia.
The long-term perspective of the Academy Program offers a unique environment to tackle such an ambitious task for an extended period. Over 18 years, the collection of data culled from biographical dictionaries, catalogues, and original manuscript research will enable sharply focused studies (the fate of single books or libraries) as well as broader overviews (literary trends and centers). The project’s database as a combination of bio-bibliography and manuscript reference, including a systematic collection and edition of manuscript notes, will provide a versatile tool not only for our own research agenda, but for the field as a whole.
This presentation will offer an overview of the scope, progress, and challenges of Bibliotheca Arabica, illuminated through exemplary case studies of libraries and marginal commentaries. It will showcase the database tools that are being developed as the backbone of our analytical endeavor.

The webinar, featuring Verena Klemm, Boris Liebrenz, and Thomas Efer, is hosted by the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Historical Studies (Near Eastern Studies) and Digital Scholarship@IAS.

Apr 14, 2021 12:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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Verena Klemm
@Leipzig University / Saxon Academy of the Sciences and Humanities
Principal Investigator for the Bibliotheca Arabica project, is professor at the Institute of Oriental Studies at Leipzig University, a post she has held since 2003, and a member of the Saxon Academy of Sciences since 2017. She obtained her doctorate in Islamic Studies from the University of Tübingen in 1988 and her habilitation from the University of Hamburg in 1997, with a thesis on the discourse of literary commitment in the Middle East. Dr. Klemm is author of several works in the field of modern literature as well as in Šīʿī and Ismāʿīlī Studies. She is the director of several research projects related to the Oriental Manuscripts collection at Leipzig University Library, among them the Rifāʿīya, a private library from Ottoman Damascus, hosted in Leipzig since the 19th century.
Boris Liebrenz
@Saxon Academy of the Sciences and Humanities
Dr. Boris Liebrenz is a research fellow at the Bibliotheca Arabica project. His publications explore documentary and manuscript sources from several eras. Liebrenz’s second book, Die Rifāʽīya aus Damaskus: Eine Privatbibliothek im osmanischen Syrien und ihr kulturelles Umfeld (Leiden: Brill) was awarded the Annemarie Schimmel Research Prize in 2017. Recent projects include an edited volume The History of Books and Collections through Manuscript Notes (special issue of the Journal of Islamic Manuscripts, 2018), and a forthcoming edition and study of an Aleppine weaver’s notebook (with Kristina Richardson). After postdoctoral positions in Bonn, Berlin, and New York City, Liebrenz is working at the Bibliotheca Arabica project on the micro-historical sub-project Libraries between the Mamluk and Ottoman Era.
Thomas Efer
@Leipzig University / Saxon Academy of the Sciences and Humanities
Dr. Thomas Efer is a research fellow at the Bibliotheca Arabica project and also a lecturer at the University of Leipzig, where he is member of the Natural Language Processing group (Chair: Prof. Dr. Gerhard Heyer). He studied telecommunication informatics and computer science in Leipzig and received his PhD for his work “Graph Databases for the Text-Oriented E-Humanities.” His research interests lie in data and knowledge representation for the Digital Humanities as well as the development of algorithms, research portals, and analytics tools for supporting scholarly work processes. His current focus lies in the exploration of possibilities for employing graph databases in the Digital Humanities. Within the Bibliotheca Arabica project he is building back-end and front-end technology for data management, curation, analysis, and presentation. He has worked in interdisciplinary projects, together with scholars from various disciplines.