Browsing through the Sultan’s Bookshelves
Towards a Reconstruction of the Library of the Mamluk Sultan Qāniṣawh al-Ghawrī (r. 906–922/1501–1516)
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Starting from 135 manuscripts that were once part of the library of the late Mamluk sultan Qāniṣawh al-Ghawrī (r. 1501–1516), this book challenges the dominant narrative of a "post-court era", in which courts were increasingly marginalized in the field of adab. Rather than being the literary barren field that much of the Arabic and Arabic-centred sources, produced extra muros, would have us believe, it re-cognizes Qāniṣawh’s court as a rich and vibrant literary site and a cosmopolitan hub in a burgeoning Turkic literary ecumene. It also re-centres the ruler himself within this court. No longer the passive object of panegyric or the source of patronage alone, Qāniṣawh has an authorial voice in his own right, one that is idiosyncratic yet in conversation with other voices. As such, while this book is first and foremost a book about books, it is one that consciously aspires to be more than that: a book about a library, and, ultimately, a book about the man behind the library, Qāniṣawh al-Ghawrī.