Winner of the 2012 BRISMES book prize. Medieval Islamic societies belonged to the most bookish cultures of their period. Using a wide variety of documentary, narrative and normative sources, Konrad Hirschler explores the growth of reading audiences in a pre-print culture. The uses of the written word grew significantly in Egypt and Syria between the 11th and the 15th centuries, and more groups within society started to participate in individual and communal reading acts. New audiences in reading sessions, school curricula, increasing numbers of endowed libraries and the appearance of popular written literature all bear witness to the profound transformation of cultural practices and their social contexts. ; Using a wide variety of documentary, narrative and normative sources, Konrad Hirschler explores the growth of reading audiences in a pre-print culture in Egypt and Syria between the 11th and the 15th centuries. This detailed and wide-ranging analysis of the period, explores the key themes of literacy, orality and aurality. ; List of Illustrations; List of Tables; Acknowledgements; Introduction; 1. Reading and Writerly Culture; 2. A City is Reading: Popular and Scholarly Reading Sessions; 3. Learning to Read: Popularisation and the Written Word in Children’s Schools; 4. Local Endowed Libraries and their Readers; 5. Popular Reading Practices; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.
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‘The book is a rare combination of an elegant read and meticulous scholarship. It is both a competent digest of research in different fields and a sound analysis of hitherto untapped sources, at the same time immensely rich and remarkably brief. Hirschler is able to dissolve the chronological and regional imbalances of the available sources into a coherent, well written narrative, without glossing over the lacunae those sources confront him with.’
- Review of Middle East Studies
Konrad Hirschler is Professor of History of Near and Middle East at Freie Universität Berlin. He is the author of The Written Word in the Medieval Arabic Lands (2012) and Medieval Arabic Historiography: Authors as Actors (2006) as well as co-editor of Manuscript Notes as a Documentary Source (2011).