Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Disclosing Arabic Papyri from the Leiden University Library

Leiden University is famous for its library’s large collection of Oriental manuscripts. Part of this collection is a group of 104 Arabic documents written on papyrus and paper (Or. 8264 and 12885). These documents date from the 7th through 10th century CE and cover a wide range of subjects (private life, administration, commerce, law, religion and scholarship) which are generally not treated in later composed narrative sources. As such, they not only form an indispensable source for social and cultural history, but they are also the only contemporary source for the formative centuries of Islam. Historians of the early-Islamic Near East agree on the importance of documents such as those kept at Leiden University Library.

2016 - 2017
Petra Sijpesteijn

These documents remain uncatalogued and, with the exception of a few,1 none of them have been published. Access to this important collection is difficult and remains limited to a few scholars affiliated to Leiden University. Over the last years, Petra Sijpesteijn and Jelle Bruning (LIAS) have worked through the documents making a provisional catalogue and selecting documents for publication. Plans for an online publication of the catalogue, including images, have been discussed with Leiden University Library. Now, a consorted effort is needed to make the next step.

With the help of Research Trainees, we will realize these plans. The trainees will be part of a small research group consisting of the applicants and Jelle Bruning. They will provide metadata and descriptions in order to finalize the catalogue and will assist in making the catalogue available online. Further, each trainee will prepare an edition and historical contextualization of at least one document. The trainees will become acquainted with (1) the scholarly discipline of papyrology and (2) the social history of early Islam, (3) gain experience with online publishing and dissemination, and (4) will prepare a scholarly publication.

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