Before the Printed Word: Texts, Scribes and Transmission – A Symposium at The Institute of Ismaili Studies
Ismaili historiography has often lamented the destruction of renowned libraries developed under the Fatimids in Egypt (10th–12th centuries) and the Nizaris of Alamut times (11th–13th centuries). In many ways, this loss represented the eclipse of an important chapter in Muslim history that had witnessed the flourishing of learning and intellectual exchange across different societies. While it is hard to estimate with any certainty the extent of literary production engendered by this intellectual activity, or what was permanently lost in the wake of the destruction of these libraries, the surviving manuscript evidence points to a staggering wealth of textual material produced not only in Fatimid-Alamut times, but in other periods in Ismaili history too.
A significant body of this surviving material is now preserved at the Institute of Ismaili Studies, London (IIS) in a remarkable collection of nearly 3,000 manuscripts in Arabic, Persian and Indic languages.