Seminari Alta Scuola
FSCIRE, Biblioteca La Pira, Via Umberto Maddalena, 112, 90137, Palermo

Mapping the Transmission and Organisation of Knowledge in Tenth-Century Baghdad: An Investigation of the Catalogue (Fihrist) of Ibn al-Nadīm (d. 380/990)

Devin Stewart
Emory College of Arts and Sciences, Atlanta

The Fihrist or Catalogue was compiled by Abū al-Faraj Muḥammad b. Isḥāq Ibn al-Nadīm (d. 380/990) in Baghdad in the year 377AH/987CE. The work is something like the card catalogue of the combined libraries of Baghdad, the intellectual capital of the Islamic world during his day, captured at that particular moment in time. It is not simply a list of book titles but also a taxonomy of knowledge, a history of the various learned disciplines, a map of the transmission of knowledge along paths coming mainly from Byzantium, Persia, and India that converged in Abbasid Baghdad, and the single most important witness to the Abbasid translation movement. In this workshop, we set out to address 1) the many wrong turns made in the history of scholarship on the Fihrist; 2) the editions of the Fihrist, the history of scholarship on the Fihrist, 3) the characteristics of the oldest MS of the Fihrist, which was split in two halves, now housed in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin and the Şehid Ali Paṣa Library in Istanbul, 4) what may be gleaned about Ibn al-Nadīm from the text (which is important because other texts provide nothing except his death date), including his biases; 5) his taxonomy of knowledge and view of the world; and 6) problems and puzzles in the text.

Devin J. Stewart received a B.A. in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University magna cum laude in 1984 and earned a Ph.D. with distinction in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 1991. He has been teaching in the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies, Emory University, since 1990. His research has focused on Shiite Islam, the Qur’an, Islamic legal institutions, and other topics in Arabic and Islamic studies, including biography, autobiography, medieval Arabic literature, and Arabic dialects.  He is the author of Islamic Legal Orthodoxy: Twelver Shiite Responses to the Sunni Legal System (Salt Lake City:  Utah University Press, 1998) Disagreements of the Jurists (New York: New York University Press, 2015), and a co-author of Interpreting the Self: Autobiography in the Arabic Literary Tradition, ed. Dwight F. Reynolds (University of California Press, 2001).