Studying variant readings and spellings in Egyptian Quranic Manuscripts (7th to 10th century AD) for a better understanding of the history of the Quran


PALEOCORAN studies approx. 350 Quranic manuscript fragments with a total of more than 7.000 fol. that were once preserved in the ʿAmr Ibn al-ʿĀṣ-Mosque of al-Fusṭāṭ (Old-Cairo) and nowadays -among others – are to be found in Berlin, Cambridge, Chicago, Dublin, Gotha, Copenhagen, Leiden, Paris and St Petersburg. The German-French project – funded by the DFG and the Agence nationale de la recherche (Paris) – aims at reconstructing one of the most prominent Qur’anic libraries and making it digitally accessible. In addition to the manuscripts themselves multiple Arabic and Ottoman sources, travel accounts and archive material on the manuscript’s depositories will be analyzed. The German-French group of researchers will evaluate the manuscripts codicologically, paleographically, historically and scientifically – through ink analysis and the method of radiocarbon dating analysis – in order to determine date, the development of orthography and textual variations. Based on this, the wording within the fragments will be determined and compared to the Islamic literature of reading. Since the manuscripts – having originated before the determination of the seven Canonical ways of reading through the Baghdadi scholar Ibn Muǧāhid (d. 936) - are textual witnesses, they give us insight into the Qur’anic textual history, regardless of the Islamic scholarly literature.

Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften

The Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities is a learned society with a three-hundred-year-old tradition of uniting outstanding scholars and scientists across national and disciplinary boundaries. 79 Nobel prizewinners have shaped its history. As the largest non-university research institute for the humanities in the Berlin-Brandenburg region, it preserves and reveals the region’s cultural inheritance, while also pursuing research and offering advice on issues that are crucial for the future of society and providing a forum for dialogue between scholarship and public. The Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, which has had many names since its inception, looks back on an eventful past. Reconstituted in its present form in 1992 by an interstate agreement between Berlin and Brandenburg, it carries on the tradition of the Prussian Academy of Sciences. It was founded in 1700 by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646 – 1716). From the start, this institution united the natural sciences and the humanities, which made it the prototype for many academies that followed.

Project Lead: Michael Marx

Team: Ali Aghaei, Edin Mahmutović, Oliver Pohl, Jens Sauer

Student Assistants:: Salomé Beridze

Collège de France

Collège de France was founded by Francis I, who appointed the first "Lecteurs royaux" in 1530. Their role was to teach disciplines which were not yet recognized at university level. Today, these former lecteurs royaux have become 47 professors working alongside several hundred researchers, engineers, technicians and administrative staff. Collège de France is structured around chairs. They cover a huge range of disciplines ranging from mathematics to the study of major civilizations, and include physics, chemistry, biology and medicine, philosophy and literature, the social sciences and economics, prehistory, archaeology and history, and many more. Four of the forty-seven chairs are annual chairs and have new incumbents every year and third are International. They promote responsiveness and scientific teaching in fields which are emerging or require a multidisciplinary approach.

Project Lead: François Déroche

Team: Hassan Chahdi, Eléonore Cellard, Tobias J. Jocham

Scattered Qur'an Fragments Re-United

Project Description

PALEOCORAN aims at bridging the gap between the history of the Quran as known through the Arabic sources and the latest palaeographic researches on the manuscripts and the actual reception of the various aspects of the text as they can be documented in the in the Quranic library of the Amr mosque in Cairo 7th to 10th century. To the present day, a study of the actual history of the text within a coherent geographical context is lacking. The fragmentary state of the early Quranic manuscripts, scattered between various collections, has prevented any attempt at examining thoroughly all manuscript evidence related to a specific place. PALEOCORAN would rely on the reconstruction of the Fustat manuscripts preserved as fragments all over the world. A digital reconstruction will be set up in the shape of a web portal Bibliotheca Coranica of Fustat (Old Cairo) online. Arabic sources, travel reports, Ottoman sources, and archival material of the European collections on trajectories of the manuscripts will be documented. The time span covered by PALEOCORAN corresponds to significant moments for the history of the Quranic text: the standardisation of the diacritical marks, Arabic orthography, short vowel signs, the development of the variant readings, and ultimately Ibn Mujahids (d. 936) reform in Bagdad which completed the canonisation process of the Quran. PALEOCORAN would analyse the Fustat collection and gauge the actual impact of these changes. It will thus be possible to assess the local diffusion of the variant readings and the reception of the canonical version. The various changes in the material presentation of the Quran during this period will also be researched. The manuscripts will be approached in a multidisciplinary way, combining philology, palaeography, codicology, art history and physico-chemical analyses. The latter might help determine the origin of the various copies of the Quranic library. Comparative studies with neighbouring manuscript cultures will be carried out in order to define the mutual influences. PALEOCORAN will contribute to a more precise understanding of the history of the Quran based on the material evidence from the Fustat Quranic library, of the Abbasid art of the book as well as of the cultural history of Fustat. PALEOCORAN is based on the work of the French-German project CORANICA (2011-2014) focussing on the earliest Quranic manuscripts (until 750 AD, Hijazi style), transliterations of their text, and their edition. PALEOCORAN aims at the virtual reconstruction of the Fustat collection, a unified cataloguing of its approx. 360 fragments involved, and a documentation of their trajectories (e.g., Codex of Osman to Samarqand or Istanbul; European collections). The development of the Arabic script (palaeography, letter shapes, diacritical signs, vowel system) and the process of canonisation of the Quran will be studied on the basis of the evidence of the Fustat Bibliotheca Coranica.