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Editorials Stories

HMML Stories — Editorials

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

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Editorials stories
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
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

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Do You Hear What I Hear? The Audible and Inaudible in Medieval Music
November 23, 2023

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Audible and Inaudible in Medieval Music

“Among HMML’s microfilms of the Durham Cathedral Library...”

  • Dr. Jennifer Carnell
I Know It When I See It (I Think…)
November 9, 2023

I Know It When I See It (I Think…)

“I’m not a musicologist, but I am an avid fan of music from all times...”

  • Dr. Matthew Z. Heintzelman
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
Treatises of Consolation: Muslim Scholars Comfort Themselves and Others Who Have Lost Children
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
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
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

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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
The Calligrapher Clément Perret
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
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
Why so Many Fragments? Incomplete Manuscripts in the Timbuktu Collections.
March 16, 2023

Why so Many Fragments? Incomplete Manuscripts in the Timbuktu Collections.

“A large amount of the manuscripts digitized in Timbuktu, Mali, that we at HMML have cataloged are fragments...”

  • Dr. Ali Diakite and Dr. Paul Naylor
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
Identifying Syriac Fragments in the Digital Age
January 5, 2023

Identifying Syriac Fragments in the Digital Age

“What would you do if someone handed you a page that had clearly been torn out of a book...”

  • Dr. James Walters
December 22, 2022

Poetic fragments at the Great ʿUmarī Mosque in Gaza

“The Great ʿUmarī Mosque in Gaza is the largest and oldest mosque in the Gaza Strip...”

Dr. Celeste Gianni

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Identifying Prohibited Books in Early Modern Malta
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
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

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Ḫeruy Walda Śellāsē’s “History of Ethiopia”
October 27, 2022

Ḫeruy Walda Śellāsē’s “History of Ethiopia”

“Printing reached Ethiopia rather late. In Europe, texts were occasionally printed in Ethiopic characters from...”

  • Ted Erho
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
A Book You Would Love to Read...
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
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
July 21, 2022

Feeling the Heavens

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

Dr. Catherine Walsh

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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
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
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

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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
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

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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
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

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The Gouda Life
February 17, 2022

The Gouda Life

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

  • Katherine Goertz
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
A Man for All Seasonings
January 20, 2022

A Man for All Seasonings

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

  • Dr. Josh Mugler
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
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

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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
November 11, 2021

Parabiblical Literature in the Horn of Africa

“Biblical narratives often leave the audience wanting to know a bit more.”

Ted Erho

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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
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

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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
Malta Envisioned by an English Clergyman
September 2, 2021

Malta Envisioned by an English Clergyman

“The highlights of the island included the harbor of Valletta, an elaborate and protective harbor famous for...”

  • Dr. Catherine Walsh
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
The Journey of One Armenian Manuscript
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
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
From Cairo to Mardin, Manuscripts on Camelback
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
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
Medicine, Ritual, and Magic in Ethiopia
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
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
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

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Accounts on Plague and Infectious Diseases from Three Arabic Manuscripts
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
Medical Care for the Enslaved Mustafa Osmon in 18th-Century Valletta, Malta
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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