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SOAS scholar wins Fellowship from British Academy

19 March 2014

Dr Konrad Hirschler, Reader in the History of the Near and Middle East at SOAS, University of London has been awarded a Mid-Career Fellowship from the British Academy for 2014/2015.

The scholar will spend his Fellowship on a project that will be centred on a unique document, the earliest Arabic library catalogue. This catalogue documents the holding of an endowment library in the Ashrafiya mausoleum in 13th-century Damascus with over 2,000 books.

Dr Hirschler’s project will reconstitute the holding and organisation of this medieval library, giving insights into the broad range of subject areas covered and into premodern concepts of how to organise such a large collection.

Konrad Hirschler Fellowship pic

Illustration of a seventh/thirteenth- century library, possibly in Syria

Dr Hirschler said: “Although the Arabic-speaking lands were, compared to other world regions, arguably the most bookish cultures during the Middle Period (c. 1000-1500), there exist very few documents that inform us in detail about book production, book trade and book holdings. I am delighted to receive this Fellowship from the British Academy and look forward to working on the project.”

The project's results will make it possible to set the history of the book in a comparative perspective with other societies bordering the Mediterranean. At the same time the project reconstructs an important part of the region's cultural heritage. This is currently of particular importance as the political turmoil of recent years has led to the theft of numerous artefacts and the destruction of historical sites.