Dr. Sabine Schmidtke (The Institute for Advanced Study)
The Zaydī community is a branch of Shīʿī Islam that has flourished mainly in two regions, namely the mountainous Northern Highlands of Yemen and the Caspian regions of Northern Iran. The two Zaydī states that were established in Yemen and Northern Iran constituted separate political and cultural entities. During the 10th and 11th centuries the Zaydīs of Yemen became increasingly isolated from their coreligionists in Iran as a result of their geographical remoteness and political isolation . The situation changed radically in the early 12th century, when a rapprochement between the two Zaydī communities began that eventually resulted in their political unification which was accompanied by a transfer of knowledge from Northern Iran to Yemen that comprised nearly the entire literary and religious legacy of Caspian Zaydism. Most of this legacy is preserved until today in the private and public libraries of Yemen as well as in the various European collections of manuscripts of Yemeni provenance. During the reign of al-Manṣūr, the knowledge transfer to Yemen reached its peak. The Imam founded a library in Ẓafār, his town of residence, for which he had a wealth of books copied by a team of scholars and scribes. In 1929 the rich holdings of his library, which continued to grow under his successors, were transferred from Ẓafār to the newly founded al-Khizāna al-Mutawakkiliyya in Ṣanʿāʾ. The library, which is housed even today in the complex of the Great Mosque of Ṣanʿāʾ, is also known as al-Maktaba al-Sharqiyya (since 1984: Maktabat al-Awqāf). The presentation will discuss some of the codicological features of the manuscripts that were produced for the library of Imam al-Mansur.
Dr. Sabine Schmidtke (D.Phil. University of Oxford) is Professor of Islamic Intellectual History at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. She has published extensively on Islamic and Jewish intellectual history. Her works include Theologie, Philosophie und Mystik im zwölferschiitischen Islam des 9./15. Jahrhunderts. Die Gedankenwelt des Ibn Abī Jumhūr al-Aḥsāʾī (um 838/1434-35 - nach 906/1501) (Leiden 2000), and, together with Reza Pourjavady, A Jewish Philosopher of Baghdad. ʿIzz al-Dawla Ibn Kammūna and his Writings (Leiden 2006).