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The Colophon in Arabic Manuscripts. A Phenomenon without a Name

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The oldest books in the Arabic language bearing a date of completion, which is the most simple form of colophon, originate from the third century of the Islamic era (ninth century ad). The scribes initially confined themselves to a few notes, such as the date, their names and their place of work. However, in the course of time they began to add further information, such as the title of the book and the name of the author, or else they briefly described the original model they had just copied and embellished the colophon with eulogies. Before long, the mode of expression became stereotyped. Later, and to a lesser extent, the layout was designed using certain characteristic forms. Although a large number of colophons occur in Arabic manuscripts, no technical term denoting them existed in the manuscript age. The existence of the colophon as a separate part of the book seems not even to have been recognized, for at that time the handbooks concerning the proper way of learning and the handling and copying of books fail to mention it at all. Only with the recent emergence of Arab codicology has the colophon been acknowledged and given an Arabic name. In contrast to this, however, the scholars of the manuscript age did pay considerable attention in the early days to the collation of the copy, comparing it with the original model and coining special terminology to describe the process.

Affiliations: 1: Katalogisierung der Orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland (Arbeitsstelle Jena), a project of the Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen


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