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  • Lecture

Personal Names and Authority: The Achilles Heel of (Islamicate) Manuscript Description in the Context of Digital Humanities

Yasmin Faghihi, Cambridge University Library


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Friday, February 10, 2023, 12:00 - 1:30 pm EST
Open to the Public

Hosted by: Kislak Center

A page of a manuscript copy of Durr al-buḥūr (Jewels of the Seas), composed and written by J.L. Burckhardt during his residence in Aleppo in the year 1810. As stated in the colophon this is an abridged Arabic version of The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, the novel by Daniel Defoe.

When we think about manuscript research, we think about the discoverability of text, codicology, art, and material culture, but above all, we expect to find what we are looking for by numbers, by descriptive terms, and by names.

In this talk, I will discuss some issues surrounding personal names in manuscripts from the Islamicate world, how names relate to personal identities, and the significance of this work for manuscript research. Moreover, I will introduce methodologies and best practices established for creating authority files in memory institutions of the Global North, allude to their origin and context, and draw a comparison to an alternative practice from the Global South. I will discuss how technology, and in particular Digital Humanities approaches, may both facilitate this work and at the same time raise new questions for the researcher/ librarian working with manuscripts regardless of their origin. This will be based on my involvement with FIHRIST, the online union catalog of manuscripts from the Islamicate world for the UK.

Recognizing the intellectual value of authority work and the substantial efforts to pursue it at scale has introduced new approaches beyond technology and method, highlighting the impact of human collaboration. 

Event Series

Featured Image: A colophon from the autograph manuscript and one of the three copies of the Durr al-buḥūr (Jewels of the Seas), composed and written by J.L. Burckhardt during his residence in Aleppo in the year 1810 (Cambridge University Library, Qq. 68, fol. 61r).