About the event
As a discerning collector and broker of manuscripts and other cultural heritage objects, the Jerusalem-born, German-trained Jewish scholar Abraham Shalom Yahuda (1877–1951) has a well-established reputation. Yahuda operated within a substantial network of institutional, scholarly, political, and cultural interests – leveraging his positionality, his academic appointments, his trade contacts, and other connections to carefully source, remove, and place significant manuscripts and other objects in the collections of powerful and prestigious institutions.
While Yahuda’s hand in shaping the holdings of a number of American and European libraries has been recognized – his influence on the Princeton University Library holdings in particular – the extent of his involvement in these collecting histories is still being brought to light. His influence extends to the University of Michigan, where in 1926 – thanks to contacts at the British Museum and the platform already established by his brother, the Cairo-based dealer Isaac Benjamin Shlomo Ezekiel Yahuda (1863-1941) – he was able to place 265 manuscripts that would significantly expand the core of the University’s Islamic Manuscripts Collection.
This talk explores Yahuda’s approach to negotiating and promoting this acquisition in the midst of his broader manuscript sourcing and dealing of the mid-1920s and the collecting ambitions of the University. The ensuing narrative sheds light not only on the contemporary network of trade, but also on Yahuda’s assessment of manuscript and collection value for a would-be institutional collector.
Evyn Kropf is a librarian and curator of Islamic manuscripts at the University of Michigan Library. As a specialist of Islamic codicology and Arabic manuscript culture, her particular interests include writing material (especially paper), structural repairs, reading and collecting practices of the Ottoman era as well as the significance of pictograms and other visual content for Sufi knowledge transmission. https://lib.umich.edu/users/ekropf