'Er versinkt aber in einem Meer von Handschriften': Friedrich Kern (1874-1921) and His Studies on the Dogmatic History of Ḥanafism and Māturīdism
One of the most avid readers of Arabic manuscripts at the Berlin State Library between June 1898 and April 1921 was Friedrich Kern (1874–1921). Kern never held an academic position, his published scholarly output is slim, and he is nowadays primarily remembered for his edition of a fragment of Muḥammad b. Ǧarīr al-Ṭabarī’s (224–5/839–310/923) Iḫtilāf al-fuqahāʾ which was owned at the time by the Khedival Library in Cairo (published in 1902). However, the sheer mass of some 800 manuscripts which he consulted at the Berlin State Library over the course of two decades, in addition to countless manuscripts held by other libraries throughout Europe and the United States, as well as in the libraries of Cairo, Istanbul, and Algiers, suggests that Kern was an exceptional and deeply knowledgeable scholar, something which is corroborated by Eugen Mittwoch’s (1876–1942) obituary for him, published in 1924. The manuscripts Kern consulted, as well as his publications, reflect the wide spectrum of his scholarly interests, ranging from Islamic law and dogma, history and biography, to dialectology, popular culture, Egyptian shadow theatre, poetry and adab. ...