Private Libraries of Manuscripts in Zabid

By Anne Regourd
Submitted to Session P2340 (Current Research on the History of Yemen, 2010 Annual Meeting
Art/Art Hist
Yemen;
19th-21st Centuries;
The Programme for safeguarding manuscripts in the private libraries of Zabid was started in 2001 (http://www.anne.regourd.org/zp/index.html). From the outcomes, i.e. 4 volumes of the Catalogue cumul? des bibliothhques de manuscrits de Zabid on a first library, a forthcoming volume on another library, and some inventories, we have a reliable idea of the local collections. Apart from some items which I will present, texts are often of fiqh (80%) and are found to be, either copies -less frequently, autographs- of works, which are already well known, or compilations. By now, it is clear that the interest of these collections lies mainly in the study of the annotations (marginalia) and of the codicological features (papers and script/ink/style of writing). The contribution of Zabid's manuscripts to history is, then, based on:
- the consistency of private collections in respect of the production of manuscripts (a majority of scribes were local scholars): this is already certain. The next step is, hopefully, the definition of a local "style". At the least, we will be able to date a manuscript and say more about its provenance (codicology as a science contributing to history);
- marginalia, which allow us to reconstruct local History. For instance, marks of ownership tell us about the circulation of manuscripts inside Zabid, and in some cases inside Yemen, showing connections between the two Sunni parts of the country. Moreover, we learn about social life and representations.