The pre-workshop video for the session on Textiles in Islamic Manuscripts focuses on case studies from Yemen and the wider Middle East. Video co-discussants are Karin Scheper (Leiden University) and Sabine Schmidtke (IAS). Co-discussants for the workshop on June 3, 2021, are Alison Ohta (Royal Asiatic Society, London) and Paul Hepworth (independent textile and manuscript conservator, Istanbul).
Co-discussants touch on the 1,500-year history of book production in the Islamicate world – focusing primarily on the region of the Middle East and Yemen in particular. In the first part of the video, Schmidtke focuses on the expansion of digital collections of Islamic manuscripts. Due to the comparatively late adoption of printing in the Islamic world, a relatively large number of texts are preserved in manuscript, and numerous libraries and institutions have begun to digitize their collections and provide open access. Schmidtke provides an overview of some of these collections, discusses the linguistic and geographic diversity of Islamic manuscripts, and outlines some estimates of the number of extant Islamic manuscripts. The co-discussants then begin a two-part discussion of Islamic manuscripts: 1) a general overview of textile use in bookmaking in Islamic manuscripts. 2) a description of the use of textiles in Yemen specifically. The aim of the two-part format is to highlight some general characteristics while also providing a sense of regional and geographic variations in the use of textiles in manuscripts. Scheper covers the use of textiles, threads, and fabrics in Islamic manuscripts, as well as discussing common types of end-band patterns, spine-linings, doublures, manuscript coverings, and page markers. The co-discussants then examine examples of the use of textiles in Islamic manuscripts. The second part of the discussion centers on Yemen and its unique position between the Arabian Peninsula and northeastern Africa, as well its connections to the maritime networks of the Indian Ocean. Focusing on Zaydi texts, the co-discussants describe the distinctive appearance of manuscripts from this region.
This research was aided by consultation with textiles scholars from the Victoria & Albert Museum – Rosemary Crill, Jennifer Wearden, Clare Browne – as well as Philip Sykas of Manchester Metropolitan University.
The contents of this pre-workshop video were discussed by panelists during the workshop on June 2-3.