The Book in the Islamic World

The Written Word and Communication in the Middle East

Edited by George N. Atiyeh

Subjects: Arab Civilization
Paperback : 9780791424742, 305 pages, July 1995
Hardcover : 9780791424735, 305 pages, July 1995

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Table of contents


George N. Atiyeh

1. From the Manuscript Age to the Age of Printed Books
Muhsin Mahdi

2. The Koranic Text: From Revelation to Compilation
Jacques Berque

3. "Of Making Many Books There Is No End": The Classical Muslim View
Franz Rosenthal

4. Oral Transmission and the Book in Islamic Education Seyyed
Hossein Nasr

5. The Book of Life-Metaphors Connected with the Book in Islamic Literatures
Annemarie Schimmel

6. Biographical Dictionaries: Inner Structure and Cultural Significance
Wadad al-Qadi

7. The Book in the Grammatical Tradition: Development in Content and Methods
Ramzi Baalbaki

8. Women's Roles in the Art of Arabic Calligraphy
Salah al-Din al-Munajjid

9. Some Illustrations in Islamic Scientific Manuscripts and Their Secrets
David A. King

10. A Royal Manuscript and Its Transformation: The Life History of a Book
Priscilla P. Soucek and Filiz Cagman

11. Faris Al-Shidyaq and the Transition from Scribal to Print Culture in the Middle East
Geoffrey Roper

12. The Book in the Modern Arab World: The Cases of Lebanon and Egypt
George N. Atiyeh

13. Mass Higher Education and the Religious Imagination in Contemporary Arab Societies
Dale E Eickelman

14. The Book in the Islamic World: A Selective Bibliography
Michael W. Albin

Appendix: Ottoman Imperial Documents Relating to the History of Books and Printing

Notes on Contributors


This book explores Muslims' conception of themselves as "the people of the book" and explains the multifaceted meanings of this concept. Published jointly with the Library of Congress, it is an illustrated history of the book and the written word in the Islamic world.


The Book in the Islamic World brings together serious studies on the book as an intellectual entity and as a vehicle of cultural development. Written by a group of distinguished scholars, it examines and reflects upon this unique tool of communication not as a physical artifact but as a manifestation of the aspirations, values, and wisdom of Arabs and Muslims in general.

The Islamic system of book production differed from that of the West. This volume shows the peculiarities of book making and the intellectual principles that governed a book's inner structure, mysteries, and impact on culture. Investigated and explained are the issues involved in printing; the compilation of the Koran, the most important book in Islam; attitudes toward books; the oral versus the written tradition; metaphors of the book in literature; biographical dictionaries, an important genre of Islamic books; the grammatical tradition; women's contribution to calligraphy; scientific manuscripts; the transition from scribal to print culture; publishing in the modern Arab World; and the new electronic media, a non-book vehicle of communication, and its impact on education.

George N. Atiyeh is the head of the Near East Section at the Library of Congress. He has authored and edited a number of books and articles, among which are al-Kindi, the Philosopher of the Arabs; The Contemporary Middle East, 1948-1973: A Bibliography; and Arab Civilization: Challenges and Responses.


"The scholarship is sound, persuasive, interesting, and compelling. Most attractive to me is the breadth of the book. It is pleasantly instructive, and with the various illustrations is a delight to the eyes as well as to the mind. " -- Charles E. Butterworth, University of Maryland, College Park