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Near East Collection: Islamic Book and Bookbinding

Exhibits from the Near East Collection at Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library & Yale University Library

Exhibit "Islamic Book and Bookbinding"

Samples of contemporary binding

Despite the spread of technology, publishing houses have used Arabic calligraphy to give their product a unique character. The bibliographic information is rendered in ornate calligraphic style on the cover, while the short forms of the author and title are indicated on the spine; usually stamped and gilt. From the 1990s, Arab publishers, particularly in Lebanon, have added aesthetic and practical features to multivolume works. Often, these works show the bibliographic information stamped across the spines of the entire set, thus allowing an easy identification of the work once it is placed on the shelf.

The displayed examples consist of:

1) A single volume modern work on the history of Lebanon from 1110 to 1291 by Umar Tadmuri, published in Lebanon in 1997.

2) A 1994 two-volume edition from Libya of a medieval work on Islamic law, Kitab al-Hasil min al-mahsul fi usul al-fiqh, by the Syrian Shafiite Siraj al-Din al-Urmawi (d. 1283), showing the repetition of the short bibliographical information on the spine.

3) A 15 volume edition of Jami` al-usul fi ahadith al-Rasul, by al-Mubarak ibn Muhammad ibn al-Athir (d. 1209), an Iraqi scholar of Hadith (Sayings of Prophet Muhammad), published in Beirut in 1998, showing the bibliographical information stamped across the full set.