Bibliotheca Arabica – News

5 August 2021: Boris Liebrenz Speaks at the Yahuda Collections Symposium

Boris Liebrenz | Abraham Yahuda and the Globalisation of the Middle Eastern Manuscript Market 

“The manuscript business of Abraham Yahuda could be framed as part of a long tradition through which thousands of volumes from the Middle East ended up in western European and North American libraries. Since the seventeenth century, travelers, consuls, merchants, soldiers, and scholars were able to assemble significant collections of such artefacts. The question of where, through whose agency, or by what means they acquired their libraries is the subject of much recent scrutiny and not always easy to answer.

And yet, when looking at his predecessors, one thing immediately stands out: there was hardly anyone even remotely as successful as Abraham Yahuda. Which begs the fundamental question of how he was able to amass such unparalleled treasures.
An analysis of manuscript notes is unlikely to bring any concrete results in this regard, but reveals general trends in the local and trans-regional book markets. Expectedly, the Yahuda section of Princeton’s Garrett collection reveals many overlaps with the books collected by earlier dealers. At the same time, it will be argued that his activities mark a new stage in how manuscripts were collected in both the Middle East as well as Western Europe and North America.

This talk will build on the cataloguing of provenance data for some of the major European collectors of Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman manuscripts up to the nineteenth century. Based on this source material, it will explore what sets Yahuda’s collecting apart from that of earlier periods and where he reflects trends in the manuscript market of the broader region.


26 July 2021: Nadine Löhr "An Almost Forgotten Contribution to the Arabic Tetrabiblos"

On 26 July Nadine Löhr will speak on the  International Congress of History of Sciences and Technologies (Prague) about marginal and interlinear glosses in the Arabic Tetrabiblos manuscripts

Symposium (Part 2/3) The Greek and medieval Ptolemy (CHAMA) - ID 92

Symposium organizer: Benno van Dalen (Germany), Nathan Sidoli (Japan)

Chair: Benno van Dalen (Germany), David Juste (Germany)

An Almost Forgotten Contribution to the Tetrabiblos


Nadine Löhr
Bibliotheca Arabica, Saxon Academy of Sciences, Leipzig, Germany

Abstract text

This talk looks back at the beginnings of the history of the Arabic Tetrabiblos in 9th-century Baghdad and reconstructs, based on manuscript notes, Thābit ibn Qurra’s (d. 901) comments on the text. The study of the early transmission of the treatise has been plagued by a severe lack of data. According to the current state of research, the Tetrabiblos was first translated by ʿUmar ibn al-Farrukhān al-Ṭabarī (d. 815). Another version probably based on a lost translation by Ibrāhīm ibn al-Ṣalt goes back to Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq (d. 873). Individual manuscripts of this version contain quotes attributed to Thābit ibn Qurra, mostly in the form of annotations, in the margins of all four books. Some of the scribes even mention Thābit, contrary to popular opinion, as a revisor of Ḥunayn’s version of the Tetrabiblos. Historical biographical sources such as Ibn al-Nadīm, on the other hand, do not mention any corrections by Thābit but acknowledge his glosses to the first book. Other sources, like Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa, mention a complete, but apparently lost commentary (Kitāb fī tafsīr al-arbaʿa) by Thābit. Thābit’s remarks are not transmitted in any derivative works: neither al-Battānī’s nor ʿAlī ibn Riḍwān’s renowned commentary includes references to Thābit. A close examination of the extant Arabic manuscripts of the Tetrabiblos with focus on marginal notes will give a better understanding of Thābit ibn Qurra’s contribution. This examination seeks to reconstruct parts of the lost text, to understand its purpose and to illuminate the circumstances of its fading prominence.

14 April 2021: Bibliotheca Arabica Webinar Hosted by the Institute for Advanced Study

Wednesday 14 April 6 PM CET Bibliotheca Arabica – A Digital Home for the Arabic Manuscript Tradition

The webinar, featuring Verena Klemm, Boris Liebrenz, and Thomas Efer, is hosted by the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Historical Studies (Near Eastern Studies).

Please register in advance  here

Arabic literatures are usually studied as purely creative products, a body of texts disembodied from their material life. Bibliotheca Arabica, in contrast, focusses on the context, the production, transmission, and reception of the manuscripts that for centuries carried the works we study today. Knowing what was copied, read, endowed, or owned when, where, and by whom, offers new perspectives on this immensely rich tradition. However, such a research agenda requires the collection, cross-reference, normalization, and visualization of widely diverse data created over more than one and a half millennia.
The long-term perspective of the Academy Program offers a unique environment to tackle such an ambitious task for an extended period. Over 18 years, the collection of data culled from biographical dictionaries, catalogues, and original manuscript research will enable sharply focused studies (the fate of single books or libraries) as well as broader overviews (literary trends and centers). The project’s database as a combination of bio-bibliography and manuscript reference, including a systematic collection and edition of manuscript notes, will provide a versatile tool not only for our own research agenda, but for the field as a whole.
This presentation will offer an overview of the scope, progress, and challenges of Bibliotheca Arabica, illuminated through exemplary case studies of libraries and marginal commentaries. It will showcase the database tools that are being developed as the backbone of our analytical endeavor.

26 March 2021: Stefanie Brinkmann "What’s in Genre? Defining Hadith Commentary"

Lecture: 26 March 2021, 14.00-15.30
Title: What’s in Genre? Defining Hadith Commentary

Starting with the definition of commentary by Eric van Lit, and hadith commentary by Joel Blecher, the presentation sheds a light on the restrictions of these definitions and illustrates problematic issues and border cases for the field of hadith commentary. The presentation is part of the lecture series of the working group “Practices of Commentary” (

19 March 2021: "Of Waqfs and Worms" Boris Liebrenz - Readings in the Khalidiyya

On Friday 19 March 2021 Boris Liebrenz gives a lecture at Columbia University within the series

Libraries in the late Ottoman and post-Ottoman Bilad al-Sham:
The Jerusalem Khalidiyya Library in Context


The lecture "Of Waqfs and Worms: The Khalidiyya Through Its Manuscript Notes" is followed by a commentary by Marina Rustow and a Q&A session.
A recording of the talk is available through the facebook page of the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University


10 March 2021: Boris Liebrenz, Lecture at the Juma AI-Majid Center


This Wednesday 10 March 2021:

Boris Liebrenz will present the Bibiotheca Arabica Project and his work with manuscript notes at the Juma AI-Majid Center for Culture and Heritage

مشروع بيبليوتيكا أرابيكا: نظرة وثائقية الى التراث العربي المخطوط


24 November 2020: Nadine Löhr, Research Discussion "Networks of Lost Arabic Books"

Research Paper Discussion "Off the Record - Networks of Lost Arabic Books"

based on an analysis of the works mentioned in Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa's History of Physicians.

Virtual Forum  Communities of Knowledge Interreligious Networks of Scholars in Ibn Abi Usaybiʿa’s History of the Physicians

Publications for the collective volume: Jews, Christans, and Muslims as Colleagues and Collaborators in the Abbasid Near East

8 October 2020: Prof. Dr. Verena Klemm, Keynote Lecture "Bibliotheca Arabica and Transottomanica"

Evening Lecture (5-7 pm) by Prof. Dr. Verena Klemm at the Opening Workshop of the 2nd project period of the DFG Priority Programme Transottomanica (2020-23), Leipzig.

The Transottomanica research programme can be found here

5 October 2020: "What's in a Seal" Boris Liebrenz on a Conference in Cairo

On Monday 5th October 2020, Boris Librenz gives insights into seals.

Maktabāt al-Shām wa Mir is hosting the conference "Libraries in Syria and Egypt in the Mamluk and Ottoman Periods based on Manuscript Notes", in cooperation with the Freie Universität Berlin and The Institute of Arabic Manuscripts.

The conference recordng can be accessed via here:

Part 1

Part 2


Dr Kirill Dmitriev receives Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award

Our colleague and cooperation partner Dr Kirill Dmitriev (School of Modern Languages, University of St Andrews, UK) has been elected the recipient of a Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation after having been nominated for this award by Professor Verena Klemm (Orientalisches Institut, Universität Leipzig, Germany). The award has been granted in recognition of the award winner’s accomplishments in research and teaching.

In addition, award winners are invited to carry out research projects of their own choice in collaboration with colleagues in Germany. Kirill Dmitriev will conduct collaborative research with Professor Verena Klemm and other colleagues in the research project "Bibliotheca Arabica – Towards a New History of Arabic Literature” based at the Saxon Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Leipzig, Germany. 

In particular, he will focus on innovative aspects in literary and cultural studies in the field of Arabic philology as well as Digital Humanities in the context of his research on the Legend of Barlaam and Josaphat, an outstanding work of world literature with an extraordinary history of transcultural dissemination.

For more information on the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and its programmes for researchers, please refer to:

Volume "Marginal Commentaries in Arabic Manuscripts"

In December 2019, the Bibliotheca Arabica Project organised a workshop on "Marginal Commentaries in Arabic Manuscripts" at the Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Leipzig. Herewith, we announce the call for contributions for the edited volume on "Marginal Commentaries and Glosses in Arabic Manuscripts". The volume will be published in the Bibliotheca Arabica series with Brill Publishers (series editor: Prof. Dr. Verena Klemm). The editors of the volume are Stefanie Brinkmann and Boris Liebrenz.

Call for Contributions Marginal Commentaries and Glosses Bibliotheca Arabica (PDF)

25-26 February 2020: Digitization of Books and Manuscripts, Cairo

Daniel Kinitz and Boris Liebrenz presented Bibliotheca Arabica at the Egyptian-German workshop "Digitization of Books and Manuscripts" (رقمنة الكتب والمخطوطات) at the National Libarary of Egypt in Cairo.

Programme Dar al-Kutub Workshop (English)

Programme Dar al-Kutub Workshop (Arabic)

2 – 3 December 2019: Workshop on Marginal Commentaries, Leipzig

International workshop “Marginal commentaries in Arabic manuscripts”, Saxon Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Leipzig, organized by Stefanie Brinkmann



4 – 5 September 2019: Workshop Manuscripts in the Digital Environment, Leipzig

Workshop Arabic Manuscripts and Collaboration in the Digital Environment, Saxon Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Leipzig, organized by Boris Liebrenz

The Academy Project Bibliotheca Arabica is honored to host a number of leading specialists in the fields of Islamic manuscript studies, bibliography, and prosopography who focus on different aspects of this large tradition, but share a common devotion to the written heritage of the Islamicate world. Each one represents a project that explores a particular niche in that larger field, be it a certain corpus, a certain regional or sectarian background, or a certain type of source.


In practice, we are all confronted with unlimited ambition but limited resources. It is, therefore, desirable not to plough the same ground twice but rather to coordinate our efforts. This workshop aims at exploring how we can manage to benefit from each other’s respective specialized knowledge and at the same time retain distinct profiles. For Bibliotheca Arabica in particular, the workshop is meant to provide an opportunity for learning from the previous experience of our guests and to build our research infrastructure with the utmost compatibility in mind.

It is, thus, highly desirable to come to a common understanding of how and in what format to store the data we collect. Many projects have already developed their own idiosyncratic repositories, some are in the process of doing so, while others are teaming up with larger networks beyond disciplinary boundaries.

The following questions should guide our presentations and discussions: 

  • Which (manuscript or biographical) collections do we / will we work on?
  • What kind of metadata do we collect?
  • How do we normalize names, titles etc.?
  • How could our respective systems exchange data?
  • How can we integrate other project’s data and findings while giving full credit to their creators?
  • How do we deal with the question of sustainability and re-use?



  • Phasif – Philosophie Arabe et Syriaque en Île-de-France (Dr. Jawdath Jabbour, Ècole Normale Supérieure, Paris)
  • Onomasticon Arabicum (Prof. Christian Müller and Muriel Roiland, CNRS / IRHT, Paris)
  • Kalīla and Dimna - Wisdom Encoded (Prof. Beatrice Gründler, Freie Universität, Berlin)
  • Orient Digital (Christoph Rauch, Director of the Oriental Department, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin)
  • Prof. Dr. Astrid Meier (Martin-Luther-University Halle / Saale)
  • Bibliotheca Arabica – Towards a New History of Arabic Literature

15 July 2019: Presentation at Joint Science Conference (GWK)

Project presentation by Daniel Kinitz to expert committee of the Joint Science Conference (, meeting this year at the Saxon Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Leipzig

28 June 2019: What Manuscripts Can Tell us on the History of Arabic Literature (Academy-Colloquium)

The team, headed by Prof. Dr. Verena Klemm, will present its work, methodology, and outlook. The project, which launched in 2018, is concerned with exploring and gathering data on the literary production in Arabic between the 12th and 19th centuries. With manuscripts as a central source of this endeavor, we can pose fascinating questions: What were the regional trajectories of texts and books during their transmission throughout the centuries? What do manuscripts tell us about their former owners and readers? What can they tell us about libraries that have since been lost? And what are the new perspectives on the history of Arabic literature that a digital Bibliotheca Arabica offers by combining data from manuscript notes, manuscript catalogues, and other sources?


Prof. Dr. Verena Klemm
“Bibliotheca Arabica – Von Büchern und Menschen (Bibliotheca Arabica - Of Books and Men)”

Dr. Boris Liebrenz
“Drei Jahrhunderte im Leben einer Handschrift: Das Unikum von Ibn Hazms ‘Halsband der Taube’ (Three Centuries in the Life of a Manuscript: The Unique MS of Ibn Hazm's 'Neck-Ring of the Dove')” 

Dr. Stefanie Brinkmann
“Islamische Traditionswerke: Metadaten und Randkommentare (Islamic Works on Prophetic Traditions: Metadata and Marginal Commentaries)”

Dr. Daniel Kinitz / Dr. Thomas Efer
“Auf dem Weg zu einer digitalen Bibliotheca Arabica (Towards a Digital Bibliotheca Arabica)”

There will be time for questions and discussions.

6 - 7 June 2019: Workshop “Glossing from a Comparative Perspective”, Marburg

International workshop “Glossing from a Comparative Perspective”, Marburg University
Paper presented by Stefanie Brinkmann: Marginal Commentaries in Hadith Manuscripts


8 May 2019: Visit of Egyptian Delegation

Visit of an Egyptian delegation to Leipzig University Library and the Bibliotheca Arabica Project, organized by Prof. Dr. A. Fuess (Marburg University) in cooperation with Bibliotheca Arabica and Leipzig University Library. Guests were: Prof. Dr. Hesham Azmi (Head of the Cultural Council, Chairman of the Egyptian National  Library and Archives, Dār al-Kutub wal-Waṯāʾiq), Prof. Dr. Atef Mansour (Dean of the Faculty of  Archaeology at Fayoum University, Chairman of the  German-Egyptian Islamic Numismatics Center Fayoum  University/ University of Tübingen), Prof. Dr. Muhammed Younis (Islamic Archaeology  Fayoum University).

24 April 2019: Project Presentation, Marburg University

Lecture by Boris Liebrenz: „Bibliotheca Arabica – Was Handschriften und über die arabische Literatur verraten”, Centrum für Nah- und Mittelost-Studien, Philipps Universität Marburg

Bibliotheca Arabica: PhD position

The long-term research project "Bibliotheca Arabica – Towards a New History of Arabic Literature" based at the Saxon Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Leipzig (Germany) invites applications for a part-time PhD position working within the micro-historical sub-project “Libraries between the Mamluk and Ottoman Era”.

The application deadline is 18 May 2019.
Start date is January 2020; the contract period is 3 years, with an option of extension for another year.

The offiicial call can be found here Bibliotheca Arabica - PhD position (PDF).

For more information on the project see

1 April 2019: Workshop Damascene Libraries 19th Century, Beirut

Paper presented by Boris Liebrenz: “Aḍwā’ ǧadīda ʽalā maktabat al-ḥāǧǧ Aḥmad al-Rabbāṭ (New Light on the Library of Aḥmad al-Rabbāṭ)” at the workshop Maktabāt Dimašq wa-tiǧārat al-kutub fīhā fī l-qarn al-tāsiʽ ʽašar (Damascene Libraries and the Book Trade in the 19th Century), Beirut, Orient-Institut Beirut in collaboration with Free University Berlin


25 – 29 March 2019: Workshop on Manuscript Notes, Scriptorium workshop series, Berlin

Boris Liebrenz was an instructor at the international workshop “Codicological and Paleographical Aspects of Islamic Manuscripts, with a Special Focus on Manuscript Notes” within the Scriptorium workshop series at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, organized with al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation, London


22 – 23 February 2019: Workshop Ḥadīth Manuscripts, Hamburg

International Workshop ”Prophetic Traditions Materialised: Dimensions of Ḥadīth Manuscripts”, Center for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC Hamburg), organised within the scope of the A11-project at the CSMC by Stefanie Brinkmann and Ali Zaherinezhad, with the support of the Bibliotheca Arabica Project

Paper presented by Stefanie Brinkmann: Two Bukhārī Manuscripts from Timurid Shiraz – Marginal Commentaries


30 January 2019: Invited lecture by Prof. Dr. Maribel Fierro, Madrid

Invited lecture by Prof. Dr. Maribel Fierro, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid: “The Medieval Islamic West in the East, intellectual connections and cultural impact – The project AMOI”

22 January 2019: Bibliography Week, Columbia University, New York

Keynote lecture given by Boris Liebrenz: “Bibliotheca Arabica: The Past and Future of Arabic Bibliography”, Columbia University, New York City, Bibliography Week, organized with the Grolier Club

20 – 21 December 2018: Congress “The Maghrib in the Mashriq”, Madrid

Project Presentation by Verena Klemm “Presentation of the Project Bibliotheca Arabica”, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid


13 – 14 December 2018: Colloqium Digital Islamicate Humanities, Amsterdam

Project Presentation by Daniel Kinitz at the Academy Colloqium „Wither Digital Islamicate Humanities“, Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, Amsterdam

10 – 11 December 2018: Conference “Theory and Practices of Commentary”, Frankfurt

International Conference “Theory and Practices of Commentary”, Goethe Universität Frankfurt a.M. , paper presented by Stefanie Brinkmann: “Marginal Commentaries in Hadith Manuscripts”


Akademienprogramm Gesamt

Übersicht über alle laufenden Forschungsprojekte im Akademienprogramm:

Zum AGATE-Portal, Forschungsinformationssystem der Wissenschaftsakademien:


Denkströme IconDas Open Access (Online-)Journal der Sächsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften:

Diffusion Fundamentals

Diffusion Fundamentals IconInterdisziplinäres Online Journal für Diffusionstheorie in Kooperation mit der Universität Leipzig:

2. Sächsische FDM-Tagung 22.09.2021 10:00 - 16:00 — Virtuelle Tagung
Buchvorstellung: Die Inschriften der Stadt Magdeburg 22.09.2021 18:00 - 20:00 — Kulturhistorisches Museum Magdeburg, Otto-von-Guericke-Straße 68-73, 39104 Magdeburg
Öffentliche Festsitzung 2021 01.10.2021 16:00 - 18:00 — Paulinum - Aula und Universitätskirche St. Pauli, 04109 Leipzig & im Livestream
Internationale Tagung: Kucha and Beyond: Divine and Human Landscape from Central Asia to the Himalayas 01.11.2021 - 05.11.2021 — Universität Leipzig, Bibliotheca Albertina, Beethovenstraße 6, 04107 Leipzig