Friday, October 9, 2020

Cataloguing the Khalidi Library in Jerusalem

By Joshua Mugler
Pages (scribe Ali ibn Ali al-Bahnasi) from a biography of the Prophet Muhammad (detail; 1511), by Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Qastallani. Khalidi Library, Jerusalem
At the end of a day of work, I’ll often tell my partner about some of the more interesting manuscripts I have catalogued. I might mention, for instance, an Arabic text about the legality of tobacco usage. ‘For or against?’ she might ask me. ‘I don’t know, I didn’t read it.’ So it goes with cataloguing: I read the beginning and end of thousands of manuscript texts, only enough to determine what the text is, hardly ever stepping into the middle. The interior is for some later researcher, whenever they might come across it. This sense of externality can be even more pronounced when working with digitised manuscripts. [More
Members of the Khalidi family outside the newly opened library (c. 1900), with (in white) Sheikh Taher al Jazaireh, founder of the Zahiriyya library in Damascus. Photo: Library of Congress