Near Eastern Studies and Digital Scholarship @IAS Joint Lecture
An Egyptian Sheikh’s Literary World
“An Egyptian Sheikh’s Literary World” digitally reconstructs the large book collection of Sheikh Mustafa Salamah al-Najjari (d. 1286/1870), an important intellectual in late Ottoman Egypt. We use the 480 print and manuscript titles and valuations listed in his inheritance inventory as the foundation for our data set. From there, we attempt to identify and track down these works, which we then consult to enhance our data set via information that we gather by hand. Our goal is to visualize bibliographic, economic, geographic, and network data, in order to analyze what we know — and have yet to discover — about this world of texts. This ongoing project is the first empirical history of the coexistence of manuscript and print culture in Cairo, and we are just beginning to build our first visualizations. Our presentation will explore the stages of our work, the tensions between scholarly detail and digital remediation that have arisen at each of these stages, and what the current digital turn is allowing us to start to ’see’ about Cairene textual culture during this earlier watershed era.
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