Editorials Stories

HMML Stories — Editorials

Curators and catalogers examine how specific themes appear across HMML’s collections.

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Editorials stories
Decorative Birds in Syriac Manuscripts
July 18, 2024

Decorative Birds in Syriac Manuscripts

“Bird watching is typically an activity that...”

  • Dr. James Walters
July 4, 2024

What Are The Animals Trying To Tell Us?

“In historical Timbuktu—as in any part of the pre-modern world—animals were...”

Dr. Ali Diakite and Dr. Paul Naylor

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What Does the Fox Say? A Hierarchy of Animal Voices
June 20, 2024

What Does the Fox Say? A Hierarchy of Animal Voices

“For thousands of years, languages around the world have attempted to capture the sounds of animals...”

  • Dr. Jennifer Carnell
The Mysteries & Rhythms of Nature, Seasons, and Time in the Armenian Liturgical Calendar
June 13, 2024

The Mysteries & Rhythms of Nature, Seasons, and Time in the Armenian Liturgical Calendar

“Interwoven tapestry of the natural and spiritual worlds as observed through the Armenian liturgical calendar...”

  • Dr. Ani Shahinian
Contesting Saint Paul’s Shipwreck
June 6, 2024

Contesting Saint Paul’s Shipwreck

“The most famous weather event in Maltese history occurred in the first century CE when...”

  • Dr. Daniel K. Gullo
May 9, 2024

Metaphorical Meteorology, or: When a Sunny Day Offers More Than Sunshine

“In describing printed books, a cataloger looks for subjects or areas of study where...”

Dr. Matthew Z. Heintzelman

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An Excerpt on the Properties of April’s Rain in a Curious Collection of Arabic Texts Found in One Manuscript
April 25, 2024

An Excerpt on the Properties of April’s Rain in a Curious Collection of Arabic Texts Found in One Manuscript

“The term “April showers” derives from the frequency of short and regular showers that are...”

  • Dr. Celeste Gianni
Eclipses in Early Muslim History — Between Myth and Reality
April 8, 2024

Eclipses in Early Muslim History — Between Myth and Reality

“The best-known eclipse mentioned in Muslim sources was the solar eclipse that occurred on...”

  • Dr. Ali Diakite and Dr. Paul Naylor
Remembering an Earthquake
March 28, 2024

Remembering an Earthquake

“Many of the regions where HMML has worked are no stranger to earthquakes...”

  • Dr. Josh Mugler
Let it Fall as Rain
March 14, 2024

Let it Fall as Rain

“Few things can impact daily life in quite the way that weather does...”

  • Dr. Jeremy R. Brown
The Frozen Tigris and Other Remarkable Weather Events Described in Syriac Colophons
February 29, 2024

The Frozen Tigris and Other Remarkable Weather Events Described in Syriac Colophons

“In the days before social media, how did people share a noteworthy weather phenomena...”

  • Dr. James Walters
Music Awakens One’s Soul...
February 15, 2024

Music Awakens One’s Soul...

“An answer to the question of what it means to be human...”

  • Dr. Ani Shahinian
Space Adventure: A Maltese Musical Fantasy for Children
February 1, 2024

Space Adventure: A Maltese Musical Fantasy for Children

“With their 1962 children’s musical Space Adventure...”

  • Dr. Daniel K. Gullo
Nasheeds from West Africa: Uniting Texts and Sound
January 18, 2024

Nasheeds from West Africa: Uniting Texts and Sound

“All of Timbuktu’s family libraries that were digitized by HMML include numerous compositions that...”

  • Dr. Ali Diakite and Dr. Paul Naylor
The Legacy of Mūrisṭus’ Hydraulic and Pneumatic Pipe Organs in the Early 20th-Century Arabic Literary Culture
January 4, 2024

The Legacy of Mūrisṭus’ Hydraulic and Pneumatic Pipe Organs in the Early 20th-Century Arabic Literary Culture

“The organ is not the first musical instrument that comes to mind when...”

  • Dr. Celeste Gianni
A Christmas Hymn Sing-Along
December 21, 2023

A Christmas Hymn Sing-Along

“Singing is one of those amazing things...”

  • Dr. Catherine Walsh
Visualizing the Audible: Depictions of Music in a Medieval German Manuscript
December 7, 2023

Visualizing the Audible: Depictions of Music in a Medieval German Manuscript

“Although music is an aural and tactile experience, human beings also have a...”

  • Dr. Jennifer Carnell
Deadly snakes and remedies against their venomous bites in the handy charts of a copy of the “Kitāb al-diryāq” (Book on antidotes)
October 26, 2023

Deadly snakes and remedies against their venomous bites in the handy charts of a copy of the “Kitāb al-diryāq” (Book on antidotes)

“The Arabic manuscript tradition is rich in medical works discussing remedies and...”

  • Dr. Celeste Gianni
Monastic Sisters on Their Deathbed: A Time to Remember
October 12, 2023

Monastic Sisters on Their Deathbed: A Time to Remember

“The book of vows contained one manuscript...”

  • Dr. Vevian Zaki
Instructions for Burial: The Last Will and Testament of Ephrem the Syrian
September 28, 2023

Instructions for Burial: The Last Will and Testament of Ephrem the Syrian

“Ephrem is perhaps the most widely known of all Syriac authors...”

  • Dr. James Walters
Monuments to the Dead
September 14, 2023

Monuments to the Dead

“Grief, loss, and death itself were very much part of...”

  • Katherine Goertz
Impressions of a Death Foretold: the Execution of Fra Sylvain de Bosredon
August 31, 2023

Impressions of a Death Foretold: the Execution of Fra Sylvain de Bosredon

“In the days before they were going to kill him, Fra Sylvain de Bosredon woke up early in the morning to the dull sound of...”

  • Dr. Daniel K. Gullo
August 17, 2023

Treatises of Consolation: Muslim Scholars Comfort Themselves and Others Who Have Lost Children

“The Black Death pandemic of the 14th century dramatically reshaped many cultures...”

Dr. Josh Mugler

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Grief on the Page
August 3, 2023

Grief on the Page

“How do you represent grief? For Marc Chagall, the Russian-born Jewish artist...”

  • Dr. Catherine Walsh
Gone, but not Forgotten: the Office for the Dead in Books of Hours
July 20, 2023

Gone, but not Forgotten: the Office for the Dead in Books of Hours

“A choir of cowled monks around a shrouded casket, a body being laid into a coffin, a smiling skeletal figure, an old man sitting on a dung heap...”

  • Dr. Matthew Z. Heintzelman
Khalīl Janāwī: Scribe, Collector, and Artist from al-Mīdān of Damascus
June 22, 2023

Khalīl Janāwī: Scribe, Collector, and Artist from al-Mīdān of Damascus

“Khalīl ibn Jirjis Janāwī was a scribe, a collector of manuscripts, and an artist who was...”

  • Dr. Vevian Zaki
A Scribble of Scribes: Men, Women, and Children Copyists Across Mali’s Manuscript Collections
June 8, 2023

A Scribble of Scribes: Men, Women, and Children Copyists Across Mali’s Manuscript Collections

“...each manuscript is an artistic production and requires physical labor performed by a single individual—the scribe...”

  • Dr. Ali Diakite and Dr. Paul Naylor
Build a Church, Build a Library
May 25, 2023

Build a Church, Build a Library

“If you want to establish a new church, you’re likely going to need some books...”

  • Dr. Josh Mugler
Tracing Scribal Genealogies in Syriac Manuscripts: The Naṣro Family
May 11, 2023

Tracing Scribal Genealogies in Syriac Manuscripts: The Naṣro Family

“The act of hand-copying a manuscript requires specialized skills that...”

  • Dr. James Walters
Muḥammad Ṣādiq: A Scribe Between Manuscript and Print Cultures at the Beginning of the 20th Century
April 27, 2023

Muḥammad Ṣādiq: A Scribe Between Manuscript and Print Cultures at the Beginning of the 20th Century

“A great opportunity to look at the interaction between manuscript and print cultures can be found in the Middle East...”

  • Dr. Celeste Gianni
April 13, 2023

The Calligrapher Clément Perret

“In the mid-15th century, the invention of the printing press made books relatively easier to produce and...”

Katherine Goertz

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Learning to Write: Practical Aspects of Handwriting
March 30, 2023

Learning to Write: Practical Aspects of Handwriting

“In 1492, the abbot of a Benedictine monastery in Sponheim, Germany, wrote a small paean to scribes and the act of writing...”

  • Dr. Matthew Z. Heintzelman
Woodcut Fragments of the 16th Century
March 2, 2023

Woodcut Fragments of the 16th Century

“HMML’s Art & Photographs collection is full of fragments of the 15th and 16th century...”

  • Katherine Goertz
Johann Wetzstein and the Qurʼan Fragments of Tübingen
February 16, 2023

Johann Wetzstein and the Qurʼan Fragments of Tübingen

“Johann Gottfried Wetzstein served as honorary Prussian consul in Damascus, Syria, from 1849 to 1861...”

  • Dr. Josh Mugler
Medieval Fragments in the Palazzo Falson
February 2, 2023

Medieval Fragments in the Palazzo Falson

“When I arrived at the Palazzo Falson in Mdina, Malta...”

  • Dr. Daniel K. Gullo
Poetry and Agriculture, a Fragmentary Scrapbook
January 19, 2023

Poetry and Agriculture, a Fragmentary Scrapbook

“Manuscripts are known for their idiosyncratic nature...”

  • Dr. Catherine Walsh
Hiding in the Binding — Fragments in Rare Book Collections at HMML
December 8, 2022

Hiding in the Binding — Fragments in Rare Book Collections at HMML

“Much of human history remains for us today only in the form of smaller remnants or fragments...”

  • Dr. Matthew Z. Heintzelman
November 24, 2022

Identifying Prohibited Books in Early Modern Malta

“Pope Paul IV (1476–1559) issued the Index Auctorum et Librorum Prohibitorum in 1559 to publicly identify books the...”

Dr. Daniel K. Gullo

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“This Book is Free From Banned Content” — Ottoman Censorship of al-Yāzijī’s Arabic Lexicon
November 10, 2022

“This Book is Free From Banned Content” — Ottoman Censorship of al-Yāzijī’s Arabic Lexicon

“The Lebanese poet, journalist, and linguist Ibrāhīm al-Yāzijī (1847–1906) has gained fame as a...”

  • Dr. Vevian Zaki
Censorship Without Censorship
October 13, 2022

Censorship Without Censorship

“Maḥmūd ibn ʻUmar al-Zamakhsharī did not have an easy childhood. He was born in 1075 CE into a...”

  • Dr. Josh Mugler
September 29, 2022

A Book You Would Love to Read...

“A book you would love to read is lost, altered, destroyed, buried, hidden, left unpublished, unwritten, banned.”

Dr. Catherine Walsh and Margaret Bresnahan

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Sandwiching a Forbidden Text
September 15, 2022

Sandwiching a Forbidden Text

“The advent of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century led to...”

  • Dr. Matthew Z. Heintzelman
September 1, 2022

ʻUmar al-Turūdī’s List of Unreliable Books

“ʻUmar ibn Muḥammad ibn Abī Bakr al-Turūdī, was a scholar from Kebbi, present-day northern...”

Dr. Paul Naylor

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Books that Survived the Ban — Syriac Manuscripts in India
August 18, 2022

Books that Survived the Ban — Syriac Manuscripts in India

“Christianity has a long, rich history in India. Some even trace the origins of Christian communities in India to...”

  • Dr. James Walters
Lifted on Wings
August 4, 2022

Lifted on Wings

“Angels occupy an important place in monotheistic religions. They are mainly presented as celestial beings...”

  • Sister Marie-Thérèse Elia
Feeling the Heavens
July 21, 2022

Feeling the Heavens

“In summer of 1917, the New York-based artist Rockwell Kent made a bold decision.”

  • Dr. Catherine Walsh
Khwājahʹzādah’s Treatise on the Rainbow
July 7, 2022

Khwājahʹzādah’s Treatise on the Rainbow

“Rainbows are optical illusions caused by the reflection, refraction, and...”

  • Dr. Celeste Gianni
The Stars of Ben-Zion
June 23, 2022

The Stars of Ben-Zion

“Born Ben-Zion Weinman in Starokostiantyniv, Ben-Zion came to New York City in...”

  • Katherine Goertz
Between the Sun and Moon
June 9, 2022

Between the Sun and Moon

“Today, depending on what communities you are a part of, your concept of a year may follow a calendar that is...”

  • Ted Erho
Astronomical Technology and Religious Practice in Islam
May 26, 2022

Astronomical Technology and Religious Practice in Islam

“Astronomical observation is built into the most basic religious practices of the...”

  • Dr. Josh Mugler
Signs in the Heavens — Astrological Books of Daniel in Eastern Christianity
May 12, 2022

Signs in the Heavens — Astrological Books of Daniel in Eastern Christianity

“In Syriac Christian communities, astrological texts were sometimes appended to medical books and...”

  • Dr. David Calabro
A Tale of Two Bears — Astronomy in Austrian Libraries
April 28, 2022

A Tale of Two Bears — Astronomy in Austrian Libraries

“When I was a boy, the night sky always fascinated me—stars, moon, planets, nebulae, comets, and...”

  • Dr. Matthew Z. Heintzelman
Why was Esau so Hungry? Genesis 25 in Arabic Manuscripts
April 14, 2022

Why was Esau so Hungry? Genesis 25 in Arabic Manuscripts

“Among the well-known biblical narratives is that of the twins Jacob and Esau, and...”

  • Dr. Vevian Zaki
Smoking in the Desert — Between Supporters and Opponents of Tobacco
March 31, 2022

Smoking in the Desert — Between Supporters and Opponents of Tobacco

“The use of tobacco in the Sahel, whether smoking, chewing, or taking as snuff, was widespread and...”

  • Dr. Ali Diakite and Dr. Paul Naylor
Soup, with a Side of Reform
March 17, 2022

Soup, with a Side of Reform

“A group of women cluster together, several clutching the handles of lidded pots...”

  • Dr. Catherine Walsh
The Hard Work of a Market Inspector in Preventing Food Frauds at the Market of Tinnīs, Egypt
March 3, 2022

The Hard Work of a Market Inspector in Preventing Food Frauds at the Market of Tinnīs, Egypt

“There are several manuals in the Arabic literary tradition describing the profession of the...”

  • Dr. Celeste Gianni
February 17, 2022

The Gouda Life

“Between 1585 to 1600 Maarten de Vos designed 141 engravings depicting hermits.”

Katherine Goertz

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A Syriac Poem on Wine
February 3, 2022

A Syriac Poem on Wine

“Who doesn’t love a good glass of wine? White, red, or something in between, authors throughout history...”

  • Dr. James Walters
January 20, 2022

A Man for All Seasonings

“It was the late 14th century, and Shīrāz was the city of poets.”

Dr. Josh Mugler

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The Case of the Mysterious Pie and the Amsterdam Theater
January 6, 2022

The Case of the Mysterious Pie and the Amsterdam Theater

“Pie. Today, for many, this tasty baked good with its short, flaky crust suggests associations of...”

  • Dr. Catherine Walsh
The Travels of the Ebony Horse
December 23, 2021

The Travels of the Ebony Horse

“The history of Arabian Nights stories in Christian communities is still imperfectly understood.”

  • Dr. David Calabro
Arabian Nights of the Christian East
December 20, 2021

Arabian Nights of the Christian East

“On a shelf in the Syriac Orthodox Church of Saint George in Aleppo is a manuscript copied in Arabic Garshuni...”

  • Dr. David Calabro
Want to Marry the Princess? Know thy Bible!
December 9, 2021

Want to Marry the Princess? Know thy Bible!

“Who hasn’t heard a fairy tale about a princess whose beauty moves the richest and...”

  • Dr. Vevian Zaki
The Story of the Talking Camel and the Exploits of Ali Genre in West Africa
November 25, 2021

The Story of the Talking Camel and the Exploits of Ali Genre in West Africa

“While some elements of the story are fiction, others are clearly inspired by real events in Khaybar.”

  • Dr. Ali Diakite and Dr. Paul Naylor
Tracing Folktales in Magic Texts — The Story of Umm al-Ṣibyān
October 28, 2021

Tracing Folktales in Magic Texts — The Story of Umm al-Ṣibyān

“Despite having been contested in Islamic history by powerful groups rejecting them as illegitimate practices, magic and...”

  • Dr. Celeste Gianni
Grave Tales, Engraved (and Etched)
October 14, 2021

Grave Tales, Engraved (and Etched)

“While many artists have provided illustrations for books, some works in the Art & Photographs collection at HMML were inspired by stories...”

  • Katherine Goertz
Ottoman Soap Operas and Other Stories
September 30, 2021

Ottoman Soap Operas and Other Stories

“HMML’s digital collections include entertaining stories from a wide range of linguistic and...”

  • Dr. Josh Mugler
The Book of Laughable Stories — A Medieval Joke Book
September 16, 2021

The Book of Laughable Stories — A Medieval Joke Book

“Have you ever heard a great joke, but then later when you tried to recount it for someone else, you couldn’t remember it?”

  • Dr. James Walters
Travelers and Texts Crossing the Sahara
August 19, 2021

Travelers and Texts Crossing the Sahara

“Mobility was a central feature of individuals, societies, and texts within Muslim West Africa’s...”

  • Dr. Ali Diakite and Dr. Paul Naylor
August 5, 2021

The Journey of One Armenian Manuscript

“In 1945, a pharmacist living in Lebanon—Manaseh Kaprielian—presented a 17th-century Armenian manuscript to...”

Malina Zakian

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When in Rome...
July 22, 2021

When in Rome...

“Rome has long been a destination for travelers from around the world.”

  • Dr. Matthew Z. Heintzelman
Protecting Travelers and Maritime Contacts in the Eighteenth-Century Mediterranean
July 8, 2021

Protecting Travelers and Maritime Contacts in the Eighteenth-Century Mediterranean

“The great Age of Sail conjures in our minds vast stretches of ocean populated by...”

  • Dr. Daniel K. Gullo
June 24, 2021

From Cairo to Mardin, Manuscripts on Camelback

“This note is the sole testament to the manuscript’s remarkable journey from Egypt to Mardin, a city in...”

Dr. Vevian Zaki

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Traveling to France on Paper
June 10, 2021

Traveling to France on Paper

“In the mid-19th century, a group of French artists began to reevaluate the art of...”

  • Katherine Goertz
Crossing the Red Sea in the 1640s
May 27, 2021

Crossing the Red Sea in the 1640s

“In September 1647 CE, al-Ḥasan al-Ḥaymī left the port of al-Mukhā (Mocha) in...”

  • Dr. Josh Mugler
May 13, 2021

Medicine, Ritual, and Magic in Ethiopia

“Towards the middle of the 15th century, the Ethiopian Emperor Zar’a Yā‘eqob, a prominent theologian and scholar, faced...”

Ted Erho

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Quarantine in Malta, a Print of the Lazaretto from the Mużew Nazzjonali tal-Arti
April 29, 2021

Quarantine in Malta, a Print of the Lazaretto from the Mużew Nazzjonali tal-Arti

“The increased activity of Malta’s ports after the Aragonese conquest in 1283 led to a...”

  • Cláudia Garradas
Medical Texts From Timbuktu — Local Pharmacological Remedies with Qur’anic Verses
April 15, 2021

Medical Texts From Timbuktu — Local Pharmacological Remedies with Qur’anic Verses

“In West Africa knowledge of the Qur’an was often combined with local pharmacological traditions to...”

  • Dr. Ali Diakite and Dr. Paul Naylor
An Anonymous Syriac Medical Compendium
March 31, 2021

An Anonymous Syriac Medical Compendium

“Many medical works from antiquity were translated into Syriac and transmitted through the...”

  • Dr. James Walters
A Tale of Two Herbals, From Medicine to Food in the 16th Century
March 17, 2021

A Tale of Two Herbals, From Medicine to Food in the 16th Century

“Herbals—books describing the medicinal use of plants—have been important scientific sources for...”

  • Dr. Matthew Z. Heintzelman
March 4, 2021

Accounts on Plague and Infectious Diseases from Three Arabic Manuscripts

“The disastrous impact of plague epidemics in the Middle East has been documented in numerous accounts...”

Dr. Celeste Gianni

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Remedies in the Margins of Syriac Manuscripts
February 18, 2021

Remedies in the Margins of Syriac Manuscripts

“People in past centuries would sometimes use the blank flyleaves and margins of manuscripts to...”

  • Dr. David Calabro
February 4, 2021

Medical Care for the Enslaved Mustafa Osmon in 18th-Century Valletta, Malta

“The Archivum de Piro in Valletta, Malta preserves a small invoice and...”

Dr. Daniel K. Gullo

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