Latest Publications

Boris Liebrenz: "What’s in a Seal?"

"What's in a Seal? Identification and Interpretation of ʿAbd al-Bāqī Ibn al-ʿArabī’s (d. 971/1564) Seal and Its Function," Journal of Islamic Manuscripts 13 (2022), pp. 55-80.

It was only during the Ottoman period, beginning in 1517, that seals gained popularity in the Arab world as a means to document people’s interactions with books. Some seals came alone while others accompanied handwritten notes. Some spelled out their purpose clearly through formulations such as “min kutub”, “hāḏā mā waqafa” or the like; others contained only pious formulae and a name. But even the latter are generally assumed to denote ownership or endowment. In this article, I present the example of a seal that belonged to a judge in early Ottoman Egypt. I will argue that the seal did not denote ownership of the books on which it is found, and I will attempt to show that it was used by its owner in the process of an inventory of Cairo’s endowed libraries. I will also discuss what this insight could mean for interpreting the history of books and collections through seals.

Boris Liebrenz: "Curious Readers: The Bodleian’s Book of Curiosities as a Fatimid View of the World Through Ottoman Eyes"

Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 64 (2021), pp. 404–424.

An illustrated cosmographical and geographical manuscript at Oxford’s Bodleian Library, known as the Book of Curiosities, has recently seen a rare confluence of public and scholarly attention. It is widely regarded as one of the outstanding Arabic works of geography, with stylistically idiosyncratic maps and a text that can be traced back to Egypt in the Fatimid period. However, few concrete facts are known about the history of this unique artefact. This article will identify and analyse the traces left by some of its previous owners and thus unlock the Ottoman history of this Fatimid work. By placing it in a concrete temporal and geographical context, we are better able to envisage the intellectual, social, and political environment in which this book could make sense to its owners and readers. 

Bibliotheca Arabica - Project Presentation

Stefanie Brinkmann and Nadine Löhr: "Bibliotheca Arabica—Towards a New History of Arabic Literature"

The presentation describes the project Bibliotheca Arabica (hosted by the Saxon Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Leipzig, 2018–2035), which aims to shed new light on the history of Arabic literatures focusing especially on the Mamluk and Ottoman periods from 1150 to 1850.

Published in:
Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies Bulletin: 7.
Open online access

Brinkmann, Stefanie, & Löhr, Nadine. (2021). Bibliotheca Arabica—Towards a New History of Arabic Literature (Version Online First). Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies Bulletin, 7.

Marginal Commentaries in Hadith Manuscripts

Stefanie Brinkmann: “Marginal Commentaries in Hadith Manuscripts”, in: Markus Stock/ Christine Lechtermann (Hgg.): “Practices in Commentary”. Frankfurt a.M. 2020 [=   Zeitsprünge. Forschungen zur Frühen Neuzeit / Sonderband 24], S. 6-44.

Throughout centuries, people have annotated ḥadīth texts in the margin of manuscripts or between the lines. These annotations could be personal remarks, drafts for a proper commentary, or quotations from already existing stand-alone commentaries.

This article illustrates the potential of the analysis of such annotations for the reconstruction of the production, transmission, and use of ḥadīth commentaries. After a review of the state of research it addresses the issues of terminology, scribal practices and layout, and it offers a preliminary typology. The article is part of an edited volume on pre-modern practices of commentary in different cultures from the 8th to the 16th centuries.

The edited volume „Practices of Commentary”, edited by Markus Stock and Christine Lechtermann) has been published online now and can be downloaded as full digital copy under:
(or:, then “news”)

An Archive in a Book: Documents and Letters from the Early-Mamluk Period

Boris Liebrenz: An Archive in a Book: Documents and Letters from the Early-Mamluk Period
In: Der Islam 2020; 97 (1): 120–171

The nature and place of archives in the premodern Islamicate world is a much debated topic and various explanations are offered for the relative scarcity of preserved material as well as the regional imbalance in the record. One factor that stands out in this discussion is the general prominence of counter-archival practices for the survival of what we are studying today. This contribution is the first to examine one such practice that has led to the preservation of a great number of documents: the reuse of discarded papers for the production of bindings. The case study looks at the binding of Leiden Or. 122, which preserved letters, decrees, and lists from Egypt and Syria at the beginning of the Mamluk reign. They likely belonged to a large household in Cairo, more precisely located in the Ayyubid palace Iṣṭabl al-Quṭbiyya. The article offers an edition of the material with an analysis of the historical circumstances, namely the eventful early years of Mamluk rule in Egypt and Syria.

The History and Provenance of the Unique Dustūr al-munaǧǧimīn Manuscript, BnF Arabe 5968

Boris Liebrenz: “The History and Provenance of the Unique Dustūr al-munaǧǧimīn Manuscript, BnF Arabe 5968. A Reassessment”, in: Journal of Islamic Manuscripts 11 (2020), S. 28-42.

This article offers a re-assessment for the history of a unicum text, the Dustūr al-munaǧǧimīn, preserved in the manuscript Paris, BnF Arabe 5968. Based on a re-reading of the manuscript notes found therein, previous misreadings are corrected and the book’s trajectory is sketched through owners in Damascus, Bursa, and Istanbul. The article offers methodological suggestions for those interested in incorporating manuscript notes into their research and asks what tools are needed for the field to achieve much-needed cooperation and exchange of data.



The Vendor’s Note. A First Assessment

Boris Liebrenz: “The Vendor’s Note. A First Assessment”, in:  Journal of Islamic Manuscripts 10, 3 (2019), S. 269-291.

One form of manuscript notes that has not received any scholarly treatment so far is the vendor’s note. Its common characteristic in place and formulary as well as the limited time during which it was used, broadly between the 7th and 10th century AH, warrant the preliminary assessment of this article. It is hoped that the description, analysis, and edition of a small corpus will make it easier to identify this type of note in the future.

Graphbasierte Modellierung von Faktenprovenienz als Grundlage für die Dokumentation von Zweifel und die Auflösung von Widersprüchen

Thomas Efer: “Graphbasierte Modellierung von Faktenprovenienz als Grundlage für die Dokumentation von Zweifel und die Auflösung von Widersprüchen”, in: Andreas Kuczera / Thorsten Wübbena / Thomas Kollatz (Hgg.): “Die Modellierung des Zweifels – Schlüsselideen und -konzepte zur graphbasierten Modellierung von Unsicherheiten”, Wolfenbüttel 2019 [=Zeitschrift für digitale Geisteswissenschaften /  Sonderband 4]
DOI: 10.17175/sb004_011

Ziel dieses Beitrags ist es, die Wichtigkeit einer nachvollziehbaren Herkunft von Aussagen in Wissensbasen der Digitalen Geisteswissenschaften herauszustellen. Neben der Vorstellung genereller Aspekte der Aussagenmodellierung auf abstrakter und beispielgeleiteter Ebene wird das Konzept einer Faktenprovenienz entwickelt und in Aussagemodelle integriert. Auf Basis von Provenienzketten wird demonstriert, wie eine im System erfasste Herkunftsdokumentation von Einzelaussagen zur Behandlung von Widersprüchen und der Reduzierung von Unsicherheit genutzt werden kann.

The History of Books and Collections through Manuscript Notes

Boris Liebrenz (Hg.): “The History of Books and Collections through Manuscript Notes” (Leiden: Brill, 2018) [=Journal of Islamic Manuscripts, Special issue, 9/2-3].


“Preface“, in: Boris Liebrenz (ed.) “The History of Books and Collections through Manuscript Notes” (Leiden: Brill, 2018), S. 105-107.


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