Islamic Schools Acoording to the Manuscript Collection of Malek National Library and Museum
This exhibition narrating scribing scientific manuscripts at islamic schools
At the advent of the Islamic civilization “Ketāb” (the Book) was recognized as the miracle of the Prophet of Islam (p.b.u.h.) and the prevailing attribute of this civilization, and it started to develop and to gain in eminence, and it nurtured in a milieu of the “book”-related findings and phenomena of the ancient civilizations of Greece, Persia, and China. It was first in Bayt al-Hikma (House of Wisdom) that Greek and Alexandrian codicology and manuscript illumination attracted translators and codicologists. In those early years, with the arrival of Persian secretaries as “scribes” (kātebs) in the Abbasid court, the findings of the dabīrs (scribes) of the Sasanian Iran found its way to the realm of manuscript and codicology, and the scribe (kāteb) found a high and distinguished status.
Aside from the circle of the bureaucrat scribes, however, others were also engaged in writing manuscripts, including warrāqs (paper sellers/booksellers) and the scholars. Besides, the librarians in public or private libraries also were somehow involved in scribing. In more recent periods, apart from the bureaucrat scribes, the calligraphers as well as groups known as modhahheb (gilder), mojalled (binder), talākūb (gold inlay maker), medādsāz (pencil-maker) were each also involved, in a way, in producing the manuscripts, and, during centuries, this lead to the turning points of scribing in the Iranian and Islamic tradition.
Along with administrative and bureaucratic scribing and copying of manuscripts, the Islamic schools, as another center of scribing, have always played a major role in the survival of the scribing tradition. One of the important features of the manuscripts scribed at the centers of teaching and learning is the corrections mentioned by the tutor when the tutee read out the text, sometimes written on the margins of the manuscript and sometimes on separate sheets later added to the book. Aside from the original, these manuscripts are of importance, due to their proximity to the writing form of the author of the work, and their consistency and accuracy of recording. The amount of effort dedicated to the field of scribing and manuscript illumination, on the one hand, and the erudite diligence of scholars and seekers of knowledge, on the other, joined the Islamic “miracle of the book” with the “book-believing civilization”, leaving a legacy called “the manuscript,” which is most treasured and cultivating, and worthy to be appreciated and safeguarded. Within the manuscript collection of Malek National Library and Museum Institution, there are numerous manuscripts scribed by the seekers of knowledge and scholars at the centers of learning and teaching. Among these works, one can find instances from all across the Islamic domain of thought and civilization: from Cairo, Damascus, and Diyarbakir to Herat, Samarkand, and Tashkent; from Dār al-Salṭaneh (House of Monarchy) of Rey, Dār al-Molk (House of the State) of Esfahan, and Dār al-Khalāfeh (House of Caliphate) of Tehran, to Qūchān, Abarkūh, and Shūreh village. We are going to watch some of these works together.