Campus Gotha, Forschungsbibliothek Gotha, SPF Wissen. Räume. Medien., Forschung

Kuttābīya, Kuttāb, Mukattibūn: Stocking Sultanic Libraries in Late Mamluk Cairo (Gotha Manuscript Talks)

4. Oct 2023, 6.15 pm
Gotha Manuscript Talks
Gotha Research Library (FBG)
Dr. Kristof D’hulster (Humboldt Research Fellow, University of Bonn)
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Lecture by Dr Kristof D'hulster (Humboldt Research Fellow, University of Bonn) as part of the online series "Gotha Manuscript Talks".

About the series

The online series "Gotha Manuscript Talks", based on the library's Oriental manuscript collection, provides impulses for an intensified exchange on manuscript cultures across disciplinary boundaries and brings researchers and other interested parties into conversation with each other.

About the event

The libraries of the late Mamluk sultans Qāytbāy and Qāniṣawh al-Ghawrī were replete with manuscripts penned by the so-called kuttābīya: the sultans’ military slaves, who were trained inside the barracks of Cairo to wield both sword and pen.
We explore the non-military half of their curriculum by following in the footsteps of one particular mamlūk, Qayt al-Sharīfī, from his rudimentary ABC up to his manumission and mandatory graduation copy as a kātib or scribe.
Next to Qayt al-Sharīfī as our protagonist, we introduce some characters who must have populated his story inside the barracks, all through the lens of mamlūk manuscripts and their paratextual elements: the so-called mukattibs or writing instructors, such as the aspiring yet frustrated expert calligrapher al-Ṭayyibī, and a colourful company of fellow kuttābīya, including newbie Tamur and sneeky Jānim min Qānī, deferential Burdubak al-Sayfī and Māmāy min Bardibak’s double.

Kristof D’hulster is a Humboldt Research Fellow based at the University of Bonn (2023-2025). After completing his PhD in Turkic linguistics at the University of Leuven, he previously held research fellowships in Ghent, Birmingham, and Jena. His publications include Browsing through the Sultan’s Bookshelves: Towards a Reconstruction of the Library of the Mamluk Sultan Qāniṣawh al-Ghawrī (Bonn University Press, 2021), and Ottoman Poets in the Sixteenth Century: Introducing ʿĀşıḳ Çelebi and Laṭīfī’s Biographical Dictionaries (Gibb Memorial Trust/Edinburgh University Press, in press).