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How did it happen that, in the 13th century, Europe's largest library owned fewer than 2,000 volumes while Baghdad alone boasted of several libraries holding from 200,000 to 1,000,000 books each? In The Rise of the Arabic Book (Harvard UP, 2020), Beatrice Gruendler traces the story of the beginning of the revolution in book culture that happened in the first centuries of the Abbasid period in the Islamic lands of the Middle East. She does so by looking at the lives of people specializing and fulfilling different roles in a society that underwent a drastic technological revolution to accomodate them. Focusing on a range of social classes such as scholars and poets, craftsmen and traders, up to the large aristocratic book collectors, we read of the protagonists of this momentous revolution in knowledge, science, and book culture.
Miguel Monteiro is a PhD student in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Yale University. Twitter @anphph
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