By Vincent Lemire, Leyla Dakhli, Anouk Cohen
This post is a short abstract of the report written after a mission to Jerusalem conducted by Leyla Dakhli, Vincent Lemire and Anouk Cohen from 8 to 14 June 2015. The goal of the mission was launch this fieldwork and to open future tracks of works. The focus was to investigate the circulation of printed documents in Jerusalem from 1840 to 1940 and their position, while paying crucial attention to the different languages of their production and distribution. This approach aimed at obtaining a better view of the possible and/or impossible connected practices of knowledge. To this end, the mission focused on two kinds of places of production and circulation of knowledge:
– Family libraries: the goal of this investigation was to understand what kind of books made up the libraries of scholars from the period in question, the practical knowledge of languages (by paying attention to dictionaries, for example) being of particular interest.
– Printing presses: this investigation aims to study the type of books produced between 1840 and 1940 and the languages in which they were produced (from archival documents and letters cases left in the old printing workshops, for example). This mission sought to identify significant lieux de savoir1 (places of knowledge) and documentation centers (archival or otherwise) and attempted to capture gestures and operations, instruments and supports, expertise and practices, interaction modes and validation procedures, forms of registration and dynamic transmission that contribute, in their articulation, to the understanding of the concrete practices of shared and/or divided knowledge in the Holy City from 1840 to 1940.
The Khalidi library
The Khalidi library is arguably the best-preserved privately owned manuscript library in the old city. The Khalidi library houses 1,200 manuscripts, most of them microfilmed and stored in boxes in a temperature-controlled room in the attic of the old madrassa. We consulted the catalog of the collections of the library, published in 2006 by Khader Salameh and Nazim Al-Ju’aba and prefaced by Walid Khalidi in Arabic.2 Then, we consulted Ruhi al-Khalidi’s documents stored in an acid-resistant gray box.3 These documents mainly consist of vocabulary books (organized in lists) and notes taken from various books, including those of Ibn Khaldun. These notebooks may belong to his son (John al-Khalidi). Finally, we visited the room where 1,900 books printed in Latin characters are stored, including many dictionaries, almanacs and guides that occupy an entire section of the bookcase. Instruments of knowledge such as magazines, dictionaries, grammar books, encyclopedias, manuals, guides, almanacs, atlases, official publications (such as court judgments of the Mandate period that would allow us to understand how they developed their research), as well as printers’ and publishers’ catalogs could be very interesting material for future research. From the Excel table of the catalog of materials printed in Latin characters (available on Khalidi library’s website),4 it would be possible to define several sets of data to grasp some publication policies as well as to identify the major production centers. Moreover, such a statistical study would allow us to identify the number of languages and to create clouds of information. Finally, crosschecking these different sets of information would help in understanding in which languages the different users of the library were reading and what were the main themes they were interested in. The type of crossreferences that would be interesting to develop are the followings: owners/dates, owners/themes/languages, owners/places of publication.
The Budeiri library
In the Budeiri library, located next to Haram al-Sherif, we may distinguish three blocks of documents.
1) Old manuscripts: 1,166 manuscripts make up the collection. Today, 90 percent of them are digitized. The manuscripts are safely kept in a small room inside metal storage containers. It is worth noting that this room is located near a zawiya, where the original owner allowed students to study.
2) Printed books: there are 158 printed books dating from the end of the Ottoman and Mandate periods, mainly written in Ottoman and Arabic. All of them have been inventoried, receiving a singular quotation. Compared to the Khalidi library, this collection has fewer books in foreign (especially European) languages.
3) The archives are well preserved under plastic covers and stored in about 20 files. This is represents original documentation as regards different fields, especially the history of the Jerusalem Jordanian municipality (1949–1967). There are also various policy papers, poetry and personal documents such as letters. Other documents dated dating from the 1950s consist of names of streets and locations. There are also maps, letters and business cards.
Franciscan printing press (FPP)
The Franciscan Printing Press (FPP) or Tipografia was founded in 1847, printing its first book, a catechism in Arabic, in the same year. The old printing machines and letter cases are well preserved. With the exception of some that were moved recently to Bethphage (the FPP’s new location), three machines remained within the walls of Saint Saviour’s Convent. One of them stands in the great hall of the Custody. Thanks to Fr. Sergey Loktionov, archivist in chief at the Custody, the historical archives of the FPP are well preserved and perfectly described (under the category “Tipografia”). For sure, the FPP was the largest printing press in Jerusalem during the period in question, especially (but not only) for books printed in Latin characters. Thereby, it’s a sort of laboratory/observatory through which it’s possible to see the way in which the city functioned on a social and cultural level. Indeed, we found a lot of mentions of business cards, printed invitations to concerts, receptions, etc. In the archives there are also precise indications on the printing process, including of activities of production and its different stages. Here are some examples of the consulted files:
1. 1854 apr. 6–1888 dic. 27: “Difficoltà per la stamperia”
2. 1878–inizi sec. XX: “Officine, operai”
3. 1922 giu. 1–1926 giu. 22: “censure di publicazioni–Imprimi potest”
4. 1899 ago. 1–1952 nov. 21: “Quietanze e note contabili”
5. 1908 apr. 12–1953 feb. 18: “Regolamento degli impiegati dell’officina”
6. 1866 mag.–1873 dic. 2; 1955 feb. 10–1955 mar. 16: “Miscellanea”
7. 7 May 1879–12 Sett 1892: “Libri stampati al conto della Custodia”.
8. 5 January 1880–11 March 1909: “Libri legati pel magazzino”. This register lists all the activities from the FPP’s bindery. It provides the list of bound books. We learn that for some books, only a few bound copies were printed. Also, the same book could be bound and/or not bound.
9. December 1917–April 1919: “Registro dei lavori pel governo”. This register, which looks like an ordinary notebook, is of a great importance: it lists all the printed works produced by the new British administration in 1918–1919. There are pell-mell passes, labels, administrative stationery, forms, posters, legal notices, a music program, blank passports, maps of prisoners, telegram forms, postal records, daily reports from hospitals (Hospital Report Daily), records of wanted persons, documents related to the police force, building permits, conversion tables (“money rate”), passes to enter the city walls, contract forms, medical ordinances and material related to the Jerusalem School of Music. It also contains valuable information on the price of commodities. These data are particularly important because they provide information on the implementation modalities of the British administration in 1918–1920. Indeed, the FPP, being the most important press in the city, did function at that time as a kind of official printing press; and thereby, for historians, is as a main way of getting information.
10. 15 June 1857–31 December 1879: “Giornale delle prestazioni della tipografia”. By 1857, this register describes in great detail the work done by the workers. Started ten years after the founding of the FPP, this register may be the first of its kind in a context of reorganization of the press.
11. 1847–1873: “Opere stampate nella Tipografia”. This register is composed of two parts: on the one hand, it shows all the documents printed from January 1847 to March 1873. A total of 607 documents had been printed over 26 years. Besides books, there are also travel tickets (biglietti di viaggio) for “il Municipio”. A mention of “biglietto di Transito” appears in 1871. On the other hand, outdoor expeditions to convents are listed. Each page is devoted to one book (mostly catechisms, mass books, or Italian grammar books, etc.). The main recipient cities are: Jerusalem, Cairo, Damascus, Aleppo, Saida, Tripoli, Nicosia, Fajum [Faiyum] Tiberias, Caiffa [Haifa]… Thus, the FPP operated as the as an important production center throughout the Levant.
12. 2 January 1890–11 January 1909: “Stampi della tipografia”. This is the register of orders for commands or manufacturing of special characters. In one column, there appears the drawing of the new engraved character. This register is particularly interesting because it allows us to date the production or purchase of letter cases in different alphabets (Russian, Arabic, etc.). By leafing through the register, we learn which characters (and languages) were mainly produced at each period.
This first mission to the family libraries and printing presses in Jerusalem consisted in laying the groundwork for case studies that could be conducted in the coming years. Basically, the goal of this fieldwork was to better understand how knowledge was shared and/or divided and how texts were circulated (or not) in networks through Jerusalem from 1840 to 1940. Of course, there are a lot of other places to include in the future scope of this fieldwork (Hebrew, Armenian, Greek, Russian, German, British Printing Press; old Hebrew libraries in West Jerusalem). It should be noted that this mission not only helped to locate existing archives but also, through chance encounters with people, relationships and spontaneity of the research, gave birth to archives. With regards to future studies that could better seize on modalities for constituting public knowledge in Jerusalem during the period in question, two types of questions could be considered in relation to family libraries and printing presses. For example, a case study of the Khalidi or Budeiri libraries could focus on how knowledge materializes in a particular architectural feature or set of furniture, in a group of books or specific objects. Indeed, the architectural and physical environment of the library could be placed at the heart of the investigation in order to study its essential role in the representation or self-representation of scholarly activity or of a certain idea of knowledge itself. Libraries present a certain idea of knowledge, specialist or generalist, local or universal, and materialize a representation of culture within its limits and in its ambitions. An investigation of printing presses and printers could inform the history of scholarly work that is actually determined by the development of techniques and instruments. Sites that attract considerable attention – for authors, readers and technicians – printing presses are also diffusion locations, where knowledge is reticulated or radiated. At the crossroads of flow, they are devoted to the establishment of texts themselves and their reproduction. Thus, the study of printing would open the way to a dynamic approach to knowledge: in terms of spheres of influence, centrifugal and centripetal forces, but also in terms of circulation and translation. In this way, one would better understand the central nodes of a network in relation to the others, located in more distant peripheries. This presents a huge challenge. To be continued!
1. Christian Jacob, “Introduction: Faire corps, faire lieu,” Lieux de savoir, vol. 1 (Paris: Albin Michel, 2007).
2. Al-Ju’aba Nazmi and Walid Khalidi, Catalog of Manuscripts in Al-Khalidi Library – Jerusalem, vols. 1–2 (London: Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, 2001–2006). The website of the Khalidi Library is at http://www.khalidilibrary.org/indexe.html.
3. Ruhi al-Khalidi (1864–1913) was a writer, teacher, activist and politician in the Ottoman Empire at the turn of the 20th century. He was the nephew of Youssef Ziya al-Khalidi, who was one of the first mayors of Jerusalem. In 1908, Ruhi was one of three delegates elected to represent Jerusalem in the new parliament, of which he became vice-president of parliament (1911).