- The Beginnings of Yemeni and Zaydi Studies in Europe: The Eugenio Griffini Archive, Milan(2022)The arrival of large numbers of Yemeni manuscripts in European libraries towards the end of the nineteenth century and in the early twentieth century was a sensation that was enthusiastically received by the scholarly world. One of the principal reasons for this enthusiastic reception was the upsurge of South Arabian studies in Europe since the first half of the nineteenth century, together with the hope that the new material would fill some of the gaps in the literary sources on the history and geography of southern Arabia, especially during the pre-Islamic period. The most significant such lacuna was the missing volumes 1 through 7 and 9 of al-Hamdānī’s Iklīl. The two most important collections of Yemeni manuscripts that arrived in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had been gathered by Eduard Glaser and Giuseppe Caprotti, respectively, and their collections were sold to Berlin, London, and Vienna (Glaser) and to Munich, Milan, and the Vatican (Caprotti). The collections included some new material on South Arabian history (including volumes 1, 2, and 6 of the Iklīl), but they also opened up entirely new vistas and laid the foundation for the new discipline of Zaydi studies. Unlike South Arabian studies, the study of Zaydism had a slow start, with initially only a few scholars being interested in this entirely new field. Moreover, the scholarly exploration of the respective subcollections depended on the availability of catalogues. The early history of the Caprotti collection is intimately linked to Eugenio Griffini. Caprotti had dispatched nearly his entire manuscript collection of some 1,600 codices to Griffini, who kept it in his apartment inMilan until 1909, when the collection was donated to the Ambrosiana Library. Griffini was also the first and, for a long time, the only scholar to study the collection and prepare studies as well as catalogues of it. The process of his engagement with the material can be reconstructed on the basis of the Griffini archive, the whereabouts of which were for decades uncertain. This study outlines the discovery of the Griffini archive in the Biblioteca Comunale Centrale Palazzo Sormani in Milan and provides an initial overview of its contents, including Griffini’s epistolary exchanges with some ninety-nine correspondents, his descriptions of some of the Ethiopic manuscripts of the Ambrosiana, and, most importantly, his schedario, containing his extensive notes on all manuscripts of series A of the Caprotti collection. The large corpus of so far unexplored material promises to provide new insights into the network of Islamicists and Arabists at the turn of the twentieth century and the nascent phase of Zaydi studies in Europe.
- Eugenio Griffini and Zaydi Studies in the Light of His Correspondence with Ignaz Goldziher, 1908 through 1920(Brill, 2021)Eugenio Griffini (1878-1925), the Italian Arabist, was the person who first realized the relevance and cultural significance of the Zaydi manuscript sources, who conveyed the largest Western collection of Zaydi manuscripts (the Caprotti collection) to the Ambrosiana Library in Milan in 1908, and who first immersed himself in this unique and virgin collection of manuscripts of Yemeni origin. Through his exploration of a treasure of nearly 2,000 manuscripts, he became experienced and acknowledged in the practice of reporting extended notes excerpted from the manuscript texts he examined. This outstanding experience over the course of twenty years of study and first-hand research at the Ambrosiana allowed him to unveil the existence and identify hundreds of unknown texts, opening up unexplored fields of interest and investigations into Zaydi literary production. With an extremely collaborative spirit, he lavished on many Orientalist scholars the insights that he had gleaned from the manuscripts he had come across, providing them with partial transcriptions and readings, sometimes upon request and other times even going beyond the requests. This article focusses on Griffini’s life and scholarly activity, particularly his involvement with Zaydi works, in the light of his correspondence with Ignaz Goldziher (1850-1921), of which an annotated edition is provided. The correspondence spans the period from 1908 to 1920 and reveals Griffini’s attitude towards his main projects: the cataloguing of the first three series of the Caprotti collection and his magnum opus, the edition of the Majmūʿ alfiqh attributed to Zayd b. ʿAlī, on the basis of the Ambrosiana’s exemplars.
- The Zaydi Manuscript Tradition (ZMT) Project: Digitizing the Collections of Yemeni Manuscripts in Italian Libraries(Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies (COMSt), Hamburg, 2019)The literary tradition of the Zaydi community, a branch of Shiʿi Islam that originated in Kufa and later developed in Northern Iran and Yemen, is among the richest and most variegated strands within Islamic civilization and at the same time one of the least studied due to issues of preservation and access. The ZMT project is an attempt to create a digital library of the literary tradition of Zaydism.
- The Zaydi Manuscript Tradition (ZMT) project: digitizing the collections of Yemeni manuscripts in Italian libraries(2019)The literary tradition of the Zaydi community, a branch of Shiʿi Islam that originated in Kufa and later developed in Northern Iran and Yemen, is among the richest and most variegated strands within Islamic civilization and at the same time one of the least studied due to issues of preservation and access. The literary production by Zaydi scholars stretched over more than a millennium, starting in the 9th century, and covers a wide spectrum of disciplines. Moreover, Zaydis were at all times intimately familiar with the relevant intellectual strands beyond the confines of Zaydism and actively engaged in them, and the typical library of a Zaydi scholar comprised not only works belonging to his own religious tradition but also an array of titles of authors from other communities, Sunni as well as Shiʿi. The Zaydi manuscript tradition is widely dispersed and for the most part poorly documented. During our talk, we will present the ZMT project, an attempt to create a digital library of the literary tradition of Zaydism. To date, our partner, Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, provides access in its virtual reading room to some 1,500 manuscripts. The largest collections of Zaydi manuscripts outside of Yemen are housed in Italian libraries, and at present we are surveying the holdings of Yemeni manuscripts in Italy, including many collections that have been completely ignored until today. These will be digitized and added to the virtual library, and we are also planning to prepare metadata for the material. In addition to facilitating historical studies, the virtual library will also allow for a comprehensive study of the visual and textual aspects of this outstanding manuscript tradition.