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Publications about the Middle Eastern collection

An overview of our exhibition catalogues and research monographs on the Middle Eastern collections.

Prophets, Poets and Scholars: Exploring the Collections of the Middle Eastern Library of Leiden University, Leiden University Press [in preparation]

In anticipation of the opening of the new Middle Eastern Library of Leiden University, a team of editors and authors from Leiden and beyond are preparing a special volume to celebrate its rich and multifaceted Oriental holdings. Topics range from the Ancient Near East, the material and conservational aspects of Oriental manuscripts, the classic literary heritage of the Islamic Middle East in languages such as Arabic, Ottoman Turkish and Persian; Berber languages, Jewish writerly culture in Hebrew and Aramaic, Middle Eastern Christianity, the fascinating but often controversial world of Western Orientalism, and western influences in the twentieth-century Middle East. With more than 300 full-colour illustrations. 

Kasper van Ommen, “Tous mes livres de langues estrangeres:’ het oosterse legaat van Josephus Justus Scaliger in de Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden”, Unpublished doctoral thesis Leiden University, 2020

Kasper van Ommen, 'Tous mes livres de langues estrangeres:’ het oosterse legaat van Josephus Justus Scaliger in de Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden, Unpublished doctoral thesis Leiden University, 2020

Freely available through the Leiden University Repository of Doctoral Theses. 

In 1593 the eminent scholar Josephus Justus Scaliger (1540-1609) arrived in Leiden to accept the position as honorary professor in Latin language, antiquities and history. Scaliger had taken a part of his library, including many Oriental books and manuscripts, with him to Leiden. In 1609 Scaliger bequeathed by testament the part of his library to Leiden university that consisted of ‘[…] tous mes livres de langues estrangeres, Hebraics, Syriens, Arabics, Aethiopiens, lesquels livres sont contenus dans le Catalogue que i’ay adiousté a la copie latine de ce mien testament […]’. The governors of the university acknowledged the importance of this bequest, immediately recognized the potential of this collection of rare printed books and manuscripts and realized that this collection could make a substantial difference in acquiring a prominent position amongst the other European universities that were competing for scholarly supremacy during the seventeenth century. The governors stressed the importance of compiling a catalogue of the bequest, but subsequent catalogues from the period 1612-1674 all provide an incomplete overview of the bequest. In this thesis Scaligers bequest containing all his printed Oriental books is reconstructed and presented for the first time.  

Karin Scheper, The Technique of Islamic Bookbinding: Methods, Materials and Regional Varieties, Brill 2019

Available for library members through UBL Catalogue. 

The Technique of Islamic Bookbinding is the first monograph dedicated to the technical development of the bookbinding tradition in the Islamic world. Based on an assessment of the extensive oriental collections in the Leiden University Library, the various sewing techniques, constructions and the application of covering materials are described in great detail. A comparative analysis of the historic treatises on bookbinding provides further insight into the actual making of the Islamic book. In addition, it is demonstrated that variations in time and place can be established with the help of distinctive material characteristics.  
Karin Scheper’s work refutes the perception of Islamic bookbinding as a weak structure, which has generally but erroneously been typified as a case-binding. Instead, the author argues how diverse methods were used to create sound structures, thus fundamentally challenging our understanding of the Islamic bookbinding practice.  
Karin Scheper has been awarded the De La Court Award 2016 by The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences for her study of the bookbinding tradition in the Islamic world. 

Luitgard Mols and Arnoud Vrolijk, Western Arabia in the Leiden Collections: Traces of a Colourful Past, Leiden University Press 2016

Freely available through OAPEN.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Dutch diplomats, scholars and travellers assembled unique collections in Jeddah, Mecca and Medina. The Dutch presence in Arabia, where they established a consulate in Jeddah, was intimately connected with the supervision of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca from the Netherlands East Indies, present-day Indonesia. Notable guests at this consulate included the formidable Dutch Islamicist Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje, visiting Arabia in 1884-1885. With the invaluable help of local Muslims, Dutch collectors tried to capture the essence of what they regarded as an ‘authentic’ Oriental culture in a period when Arabia was already looking towards modernity. These extensive collections are now preserved at the Leiden Museum of Ethnology and Leiden University Libaries. Together, they allow a glimpse into a colourful and vibrant society. 

Arnoud Vrolijk and Richard van Leeuwen, Arabic Studies in the Netherlands: A Short History in Portraits, 1580-1950, Translated by Alastair Hamilton, Brill 2014

Available for library members through UBL Catalogue. 

Arabic is the only living language to have been taught in Dutch higher education for more than four centuries. Practical usefulness, however, has been a prerequisite from the start. Knowledge of Arabic was to promote Dutch interests in the Muslim world, or to help refute Islam. As a cognate of Classical Hebrew, the study of Arabic served as an ancillary science to Biblical studies. Nevertheless, many Arabists such as Thomas Erpenius and Jacobus Golius rose to international distinction. With more than 110 colour illustrations from the Leiden Oriental collections, Arabic Studies in the Netherlands. A Short History in Portraits, 1580-1950 by Arnoud Vrolijk and Richard van Leeuwen will help the reader to gain insight into a fascinating aspect of Dutch intellectual history. 

Arnoud Vrolijk, Jan Schmidt and Karin Scheper, Turcksche Boucken: The Oriental Collection of Levinus Warner, Dutch Diplomat in Seventeenth-Century Istanbul, Translated by Beverley Jackson and David McKay, Lecturis 2012

Available for library members through UBL Catalogue.

Levinus Warner (c. 1618-1665) studied Oriental languages in Leiden and left for Istanbul in 1644. In 1655 he became the diplomatic representative of the Dutch Republic in the Ottoman Empire. Turcksche Boucken shows how Warner coped with the difficulties of being a Dutch diplomat in a turbulent period. As a private individual  he wholeheartedly embraced his Turkish surroundings and built up a large collection of Middle Eastern manuscripts. Levinus Warner died childless, in Istanbul, in 1665. He bequeathed his entire collection to the University of Leiden. Warner’s precious legacy permanently established Leiden’s reputation as a centre of Oriental scholarship. The authors Arnoud Vrolijk, Jan Schmidt and Karin Scheper are attached to the University of Leiden. 

Arnoud Vrolijk and Kasper van Ommen (eds.),  'All my Books in Foreign Tongues': Scaliger’s Oriental Legacy in Leiden, 1609-2009, Catalogue of an Exhibition on the Quatercentenary of Scaliger’s Death, (Leiden University Libraries, 2009)

Available for library members through UBL Catalogue.

Catalogue of an exhibition at Leiden University Library of the Oriental legacy of Joseph Justus Scaliger (1540-1609). In 1593 the famed ‘universal scholar’ Scaliger moved to Leiden to become a professor without teaching duties at the young university. From an early phase in his career he was attracted toward Oriental studies, and largely concentrated on these studies during his stay in Leiden. His extensive knowledge of languages such as Hebrew and Arabic found its practical application in his chronological studies. By freeing the study of Oriental languages from the constraints of religious discourse he was influential in shaping the identity of Leiden University as a centre of liberal learning. 

Arnoud Vrolijk and Hans van de Velde, Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje (1857-1936): Orientalist, Catalogue of an exhibition on the sesquicentenary of his death, (Leiden University Library 2007)

Available for library members through UBL Catalogue. 

Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje (1857-1936) studied Oriental languages in Leiden. In 1884 he travelled to Jeddah, then still part of the Ottoman Empire. He converted to Islam and travelled onwards to Mecca, where he stayed for six months to observe the daily life of the pilgrims and the local population. After his return to Leiden in 1885 he recorded his experiences in his 2-volume work Mekka, enriched by two separate volumes of plates. In 1889 his renown won him a position in the colonial administration of the Netherlands East Indies as adviser on Arab and Muslim affairs. In 1906 he returned to Leiden to become professor of Arabic. His career was largely dedicated to fostering permanent ties between the Indonesians and the Dutch under the umbrella of Dutch colonialism, a process for which he coined the term ‘Association’. The futility of his endeavour was demonstrated soon after his death by the Japanese occupation of the Indies and, after the Second World War, Indonesian independence. 

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