Ibadi MSS at the Bibliothèque Nationale de Tunisie

Since the beginning of June, I have been paying regular visits to the Bibliothèque Nationale de Tunisie (BNT) in Tunis to take a look at a handful of manuscripts by Ibadi authors. Some of these manuscripts have been cited and used by modern historians writing in Arabic but none have been cited (to my knowledge) by articles or books in European languages. I am preparing an article with more detailed descriptions of those that I had a chance to examine but I will post the list of the manuscripts themselves (along with catalog numbers) in the next couple of weeks.

Although virtually all modern studies on Ibadi history have relied on manuscript evidence, very few authors have taken the time to provide detailed descriptions of those manuscripts. As a result, we know very little about the production of the manuscripts or their transmission. Providing detailed descriptions of manuscripts can help us understand much more about the ‘material’ history of Ibadism in North Africa. For example, a preliminary look at the manuscripts in the BNT suggests that much of the surviving corpus of Ibadi works dates to the 17th-19th centuries and that most of the paper was made in Italy. While these features of the manuscripts would hardly shock codicologists of Islamic history, they are nevertheless crucial pieces of information for understanding the transmission of knowledge in Ibadi communities in the early modern period.

I hope to finish the article with full descriptions by September. For now, you can check out the BNT’s website, which is searchable in both Arabic and French, here. The server is occasionally down -but most of the time the site us up and running.

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