"Of Buying Many Books There is No End”: Towards a History of the John Rylands Library's Collection of Islamic Manuscripts.
Rare are the manuscripts in Arabic script that do not bear a mark attesting to their past, be it a mention of the patron for whom the manuscript was produced, an act of pious donation, possession marks (handwritten or printed by means of a seal), loan statements, readers' notes, certificates of audition, transmission licenses, etc. Yet this is an area of research until now neglected. It is true that these marks, also called para textual elements, are rarely mentioned in the manuscript catalogues, and even less in the editions that focus too often on the content, almost always overlooking the container. Thanks to these para textual marks, it is possible to reconstruct the history of one manuscript in particular but also of a whole collection. The perusal of the collection of Islamic manuscripts held in the John Rylands Library yields several results allowing to reconstruct the itineraries followed by these sometimes multi-centennial objects, to identify the actors of their peregrination from the Islamic lands to their actual repository, and, in some cases too, to enlarge our knowledge of no longer existing Oriental libraries (private or institutional).
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