Universiteit Leiden

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Arabic Studies

Summer School 2024

Philology and Manuscripts from the Muslim World

Date: 19 August - 30 August 2024
CostsTuition cost will be 600 euros.
Level: The course is meant for graduate students (MA and PhD) and researchers.
Language: English. Non-native speakers are required to have a command of English equivalent to at least TOEFL 550.
There are two scholarships to cover the tuition for students who don't have access to funding from their home institutions or otherwise. To be considered for this scholarship, please provide an official letter from your institution stating that they cannot provide the tuition fee. 


This summer school is for graduate (MA and PhD) students and researchers who have an interest in handwritten materials, editing, and the tradition of editing in the Muslim world. It offers theoretical lectures as well as hands-on practice with samples from the world-famous collections of the Leiden University Library.

Over the course of two weeks, specialists from Leiden University and beyond will provide instruction on issues of editing, paleography, conservation and other material aspects of oriental manuscripts. They will also speak about philology, literacy and orality and the transmission of knowledge in the Islamic manuscript culture, presenting case-studies from various parts of the Muslim world. Participants can use this information to practice their skills in producing a sample critical edition of a manuscript of their choice, under the supervision of experts.

Since the first contributions of scholars such as Scaliger, Golius and Warner, the Leiden University Library has housed one of the most important collections of oriental manuscripts in Europe. It includes thousands of Arabic, Persian and Ottoman manuscripts, not only from the historic heartlands of Islam but also from Asia, al-Andalus and Africa. Each participant will have full access to this collection as well as other library services.


Graduate (MA and PhD) students and researchers who have an interest in handwritten materials and text editing are encouraged to apply for participation in the summer school. Applications should include:

  • A letter of motivation specifying what research language(s) the applicant masters;
  • A curriculum vitae;
  • If you are a non-native speaker of English: a certificate testifying command of the English language (TOEFL 550 or equivalent).

The deadline for applications is Wednesday May 1, 2024. Participants will be informed about the selection by Friday May 3, 2024. 

Applications should be send to: a.p.c.hooft@hum.leidenuniv.nl

For questions please email: a.p.c.hooft@hum.leidenuniv.nl

About the instructors

Prof. dr Gabrielle van den Berg teaches with exceptional enthusiasm on the cultural history of Central Asia and Iran at Leiden University. She works on the Persian manuscript tradition, in particular the Shahnama tradition, in the framework of several research projects.

Dr Dorrit van Dalen’s research is based on manuscripts from West and Central Africa. She has also written on the cultural history of a crucial ingredient of ink, gum Arabic. She created and co-edits Mouse&Manuscript. 

Dr Renate Dekker has expert knowledge of Coptic manuscripts and ostraca of Leiden University, which she uses to get a grip on the history of Egypt in the first centuries of Islam, from the Coptic point of view. She is now part of the project Lived Time in Late Antique Egypt at the University of Amsterdam.

Dr Said Reza Huseini research as a Fellow at King’s College, Cambridge focuses on the forging of political ideologies. His dissertation investigated the Early Islamic Conquests of Bactria/Tukharistan by studying Bactrian, Arabic, Sogdian and Middle Persian documents. He is also a gifted calligrapher.

Angela Isoldi is completing a dissertation at Radboud University (Nijmegen) on water management in Mamluk Cairo. In the past years she has studied dozens of waqf documents. She passes her knowledge of them onwards, with much insight in the field of manuscript studies.  

Prof. dr Arianna D’Ottone Rambach is professor of Arabic Language and Literature at Sapienza University of Rome. She teaches palaeography and codicology. She is one of the scholars who have disclosed the collection of the Qubbat al-Khazna in Damascus, and is also interested in Islamic art, coins and papyri. 

Dr Kate Pukhovaia, Marie Curie fellow in Leiden and assistant professor at Utrecht University, is a much acclaimed investigator of state-building under Ottoman rule and of the strategies of the Zaydi imamate that succeeded in ruling Yemen’s extremely complex society for centuries. Leiden manuscripts are among her most important sources. 

Dr Marijn van Putten is a leading scholar on the history of the readings of the earliest Qur’ans. He teaches in Leiden and is head of the research programme The Canonisation of the Quranic Traditions. His work is inspired by rare knowledge of the intricacies of very early versions of the Arabic script. 
D. Karin Scheper is book conservator at Leiden University Libraries and author of the award winning The Islamic Bookbinding Tradition.

Prof. dr Petra Sijpesteijn is professor of Arabic at Leiden University.  Her research focuses on the early Islamic conquest. Papyri are her favourite source. The lives and motivations of ordinary people are her favourite theme, to share knowledge widely is one of her own main motivations.  

Dr Elke Spiessens conducted highly original research amongst the Uyghurs in China and in the diaspora. She is specifically interested in Islamic knowledge transmission amongst the Uyghurs, including the rich Uyghur manuscript tradition.

Dr. Arnoud Vrolijk is Curator of Oriental Manuscripts & Rare Books and Interpres Legati Warneriani at Leiden University Libraries. He has published extensively on the Leiden collections and the history of oriental scholarship in the Netherlands. 



Monday 19 August

14.30     Welcome by Kurt de Belder, Director of Leiden University Libraries
15.00 Introduction to the Library

Tuesday 20 August

8.30-10.30 Exploring & Editing. (Dr Dorrit van Dalen)
10.30-12.30 Material features of manuscripts from the Islamic lands. (Dr Karin Scheper)
All afternoons: Students work individually on a manuscript of their choice in the Special Collections Reading Room. (Petra Sijpesteijn and Dorrit van Dalen)

Wednesday 21 August

9.00-11.00  Transmission & Variance. (Dr Dorrit van Dalen)
11.00- 13.00   Very early scripts and earliest Qur’ans. (Dr Marijn van Putten) 

Thursday 22 August 

9.00-11.00 Colophons & Practice palaeography (Dr Dorrit van Dalen) 
11-13  Ownership notes and power in the Moghul empire. (Dr Reza Husseini)

Friday 23 August 

9 -11 Students present their plan for a sample edition.  
11-13 Coptic manuscripts and Christian art under Muslim rule. (Dr Renate Dekker)

Monday 26 August 

9-11  Ownership notes and social history in Yemeni manuscripts. (Dr Kate Pukhovaia
11-13 Commentary, the oral&written in African manuscripts  (Dorrit van Dalen)

Tuesday 27 August 

9-11 The Leiden collection of oriental manuscripts. History of acquisition, including some of         the highlights. (Dr Arnoud Vrolijk)
11-13 Encrypted Arabic: Qur'anic Manuscripts and Beyond. (Prof. dr Arianna D’Ottone)  
17-18:30 Walking tour Historic references to Islam in Leiden, with Birte Kristiansen.


Wednesday 28 August 

9-11 Reading waqf documents. (Angela Isoldi)
11-13 Reading papyri.  (Prof. dr Petra Sijpesteijn)

Thursday 29 August 

9-11  Canonical texts from Persia.  (Prof. dr Gabrielle van den Berg)
11-13 The manuscript tradition of the Uyghurs in China (Dr Elke Spiessens)

Friday 30 August 

9-13 Students present manuscript of their choice.
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