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Why Did They Not Print Their Books? Stories about the Reasons Why Printing Was Introduced so Late in the Muslim World

A lecture by Prof Jan Just Witkam, professor emeritus of codicology and palaeography of the Islamic world at the University of Leiden and editor-in-chief of The Islamic Manuscript Association’s Journal of Islamic Manuscripts.The first time that a book in Arabic script was printed by Muslims in an Islamic country was in the year 1727, more than two-and-a-half century after the first Western book that was printed with movable type. This is an unchangeable fact. Historians and others have asked why this could happen, as if history can provide answers. In their research they have come up with explanations that tell more about themselves than about the subject itself. What did they ask? Why are their ideas unsatisfactory? Are some of their ideas phantasies rather than reality? Have Muslims at some point in time really refused to adopt printing as means of transmission of texts? Do these stories come from inside Muslim societies or are they told by relative outsiders? Can trends be discovered in these stories? If printing was not done in the medieval and pre-modern periods, what other means were there for the mass production of Islamic books?These stories, and the questions which they try to answer, are the subject of the lecture. Whether or not there exists an unequivocal answer to the problem of the late introduction of printing in Muslim societies remains to be seen. The stories about the transition period between writing and printing books rather illustrate a fascinating stage in Western thinking about Muslim culture.Co-sponsored by The Islamic Manuscript Association.



Wednesday, August 5, 2015. 06:30 PM


Green Library, Bender Room, 5th Floor


Stanford University Libraries




Free and open to the public.  Please register here.