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).