Sabine Schmidtke

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Sabine Schmidtke is Professor of Islamic Intellectual History in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ

ORCID http://orcid.org/0000-0002-6181-5065.

For a full curriculum vitae and list of publication, see here.

For my Collection of Manuscript Surrogates (the list is continuously being expanded), see here.

News

For my recent monograph Martin Schreiner between Islamic Studies and "Wissenschaft des Judentums": Reconstructing His Scholarly Biography (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2024), see here.

For current events and scholars in Near and Middle Eastern Studies at the School of Historical Studies, see here.

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Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 20 of 226
  • One Century of “Oriental” and Semitic Studies, 1830 through 1933: Scholarly Networks, Trajectories and Concepts (S.T. Lee Conference and Lecture, 11-12 December 2025)
    (2025-12-11)
    In the course of the long nineteenth century, “Oriental studies”—an umbrella term for the scholarly exploration of Middle Eastern and Semitic languages and cultures writ large, from antiquity up to the contemporary period—evolved as an academic discipline in its own right. Over this period, it gained its independence from theology and its constraints, thus shifting its focus from Old Testament studies and pertinent languages towards other fields and philologies. This process resulted in the establishment of specifically designated university chairs and seminars all over Germany, Central Europe, and beyond, as well as the foundation of professional associations, such as the American Oriental Society in the United States (1842), or the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft in Germany (1845), and a growing number of specialized publication venues. Only a few scholars involved in this process were engaged in the study of Christianity and the history of Christian communities in the Near and Middle East, while the focus shifted gradually towards Islamic civilization and history, eventually leading to the new independent field of Islamic studies. While these developments primarily involved scholars who identified as Christians, Jewish scholars developed around the same time a critical historical/philological approach towards the Jewish literary tradition and its history, an approach that became known as Wissenschaft des Judentums. The protagonists of the Wissenschaft des Judentums strove to have Jewish studies established within the academic structures of mainstream Christian society, a goal that had only limited success. Their contribution to Orientalism and the gradually evolving field of Islamic studies was nonetheless significant. The aim of the conference is to look closely into the period between the mid-nineteenth century and the end of the Weimar period through selected case studies within the context outlined above that are based on hitherto unexplored archival materials and correspondences. These may focus, for example, on pertinent scholars and their trajectories, newly evolving concepts and methodological approaches, or national and/or international networks.
      31
  • "Wie die Dinge liegen, bin ich nicht imstande, mir selbst zu helfen": A Tribute to the Hungarian-German Jewish Arabist Hedwig Klein (1911–1942)
    (2024)
    Schmidtke, Sabine
    The tragic case of the Hungarian-German Jewish Arabist Hedwig Klein (1911-1942) is well known—formerly a student of Islamica and Semitica at Hamburg with Rudolf Strothmann (1870-1960), Arthur Schaade (1883-1952) and and Walter Windfuhr (1878-1970) as her principal teachers, Hedwig Klein passed her final doctoral exam in December 1937. Both the dissertation and the oral exam were marked with the highest possible grade (“ausgezeichnet”). When she handed in the revised dissertation in 1938, she was refused the imprimatur and hence the doctoral degree. With the support of her former teachers and of other friends, Klein searched during 1937 and 1938 for ways to leave Germany. An opportunity to emigrate to India opened up during the summer of 1939 but eventually failed. Klein only made it to Antwerpen from where she had to return to Hamburg. For a few months (1941/42), Klein worked for the Harrassowitz project of a Neu-arabisches Wörterbuch. On 11 July 1942 she was deported to Auschwitz where she was murdered. Thanks to Carl A. Rathjens’ (1887-1966) efforts after the war, Klein was eventually granted in 1947 her doctoral degree, posthumously. A first article about Hedwig Klein’s sad fate was published in 1991 by Peter Freimark, and in 2015 Stefan Buchen devoted an essay to her that was made accessible in German, English, and Arabic—it was the latter publication that was widely read and that prompted a veritable outpour of shorter essays and blogs. This study revisits the available archival material pertinent to Hedwig Klein from Basel, Göttingen, Halle, Hamburg, Jerusalem, Leiden, London, New Haven, Nürnberg, and elsewhere in an attempt to reconstruct her biography, and especially the events of the years 1937 through 1942. With respect to her scholarly trajectory, her contributions to Ibadi studies are investigated, as well as the early history of the Neu-arabisches Wörterbuch and Klein’s contribution to it. In the second part of the book, annotated editions of all relevant correspondences and documents will be provided.
      83
  • The Visual Scribe: Tables and Diagrams in Middle Eastern Manuscripts Workshop
    (2025-04-10)
    “The Visual Scribe: Tables and Diagrams in Middle Eastern Manuscripts Workshop,” Institute for the History of Knowledge in the Ancient World at Freie Universität Berlin, April 10-11, 2025, convenors: Sonja Brentjes, George A. Kiraz, Mathieu Ossendrijver, Sabine Schmidtke
      36  54
  • Moritz Steinschneider Correspondence at the JTSA (ARC. 108): An Inventory
    (2024)
    Schmidtke, Sabine
    The library of the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, holds the Moritz Steinschneider Papers under the shelfmark ARC 108, consisting of correspondence, miscellaneous notes, research materials, offprints, catalogs etc. Between 2-5 October 2023, the present writer together with Reimund Leicht visited the JTS library and consulted the entire Moritz Steinschneider Papers with the aim of preparing a detailed inventory of the materials they include. The present dataset constitutes a preliminary result, listing all of Steinschneider’s correspondents in alphabetical order. The correspondence that is found among the Moritz Steinschneider Papers consists of letters and postcards Steinschneider had received since the 1840s until his death on 24 January 1907. While Steinschneider did not keep copies of his own correspondence to others, he noted, in red ink, on the letters and postcards he had received the dates when he had responded to them. Moreover, Steinschneider recorded his correspondence from 1855 through 1907 in three small notebooks, whose entries, arranged according to year, month, and day, list the letters and postcards he received and replied to on each day. They also indicate the dates given on the letters sent to him. The Moritz Steinschneider Papers also include some documentation relating to the transfer of Steinschneider’s Nachlass to the JTS. The aim of the present inventory is to provide a first comprehensive overview of those from whom Steinschneider received letters that are included today among the Moritz Steinschneider Papers. Since the material is still largely in disorder, letters and postcards from the persons listed below are found in numerous locations of the Nachlass. Names that are rendered in green could be verified, names rendered in purple might refer to the same person.
      47  77
  • The Published Correspondence of Ignaz Goldziher: A Bibliographical Guide
    (Brill, 2024)
    Dévényi, Kinga
    ;
    Schmidtke, Sabine
      27  30
  • Eugen Mittwoch’s Biography As Seen Through His Scholarly Correspondence, 1898 through 1940
    (2024)
    Schmidtke, Sabine
    Eugen Mittwoch (1876–1942) was one of the most prominent representatives of German Orientalism during the first decades of the twentieth century that are credited with having initiated a new direction in Islamic studies within Orientalism. Trained as an Arabist and a Semitist, Mittwoch was at the same time a specialist in Ethiopian and Amharic studies, and was particularly interested in the study of Islamic medicine. Mittwoch was also engaged in the study of the Geniza, epigraphy, and Southern Arabian studies, and in addition worked on topics relevant to the Science of Judaism (“Wissenschaft des Judentums”). Mittwoch’s academic career ended abruptly when he was dismissed from his professorial position at the end of 1935 and eventually forced into exile in 1938. As a result, only portions of his professional and personal Nachlass have come to us. Insights into his personality and development as a scholar can be gained from his correspondence. The book presents a critical annotated edition of Eugen Mittwoch’s correspondence with Moritz Steinschneider (1816–1907), Theodor Nöldeke (1836–1930), Wilhelm von Bode (1845–1929), Friedrich Carl Andreas (1846–1930), Leopold Landau (1848–1920), Markus Brann (1849-1920), Ignaz Goldziher (1850–1921), Immanuel Löw (1854–1944), Hans von Cranach (1855–1929), Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje (1857–1936), Hermann Burchardt (1857–1909), Carl Bezold (1959–1922), Georg Jacob (1862–1937), Richard Gottheil (1862–1936), Ludwig Borchardt (1863–1938), Cyrus Adler (1863–1940), Hubert Grimme (1864–1942), Aby Warburg (1866–1929), Adolf Büchler (1867–1939), Victor Aptowitzer (1871–1942), Arthur Lehman (1873–1936), Abraham Kahana (1874–1946), Max Meyerhof (1874–1945), Paul E. Kahle (1875–1964), Enno Littmann (1875–1958), Carl Heinrich Becker (1876–1933), Emil Gratzl (1877–1957), Rudolf Strothmann (1877–1960), Abraham Shalom Yahuda (1877–1951), Judah L. Magnes (1877–1948), Martin Buber (1878–1965), Jacob Nahum Epstein (1878–1952), Eugenio Griffini (1878–1925), Eugen Täubler (1879–1953), Gotthold Weil (1882–1960), Arthur Schaade (1883–1952), Rudolf Tschudi (1884–1960), Carl Rathjens (1887–1966), Hellmut Ritter (1892–1971), Shlomo Dov Goitein (1900–1985), Joseph Schacht (1902–1969), Paul Kraus (1904–1944), and Walter Henning (1908–1967). Arranged in chronological order, the letters (German for the most part, some in Arabic, Hebrew, and English) present to the reader an impression of Mittwoch’s life as a scholar, a proponent of Zionism, a father and a husband.
      53
  • Arent Jan Wensinck and His Oriental Diary (1929-1930)
    (2024)
    Adang, Camilla
    ;
    Schmidtke, Sabine
      40
  • Asterisms: The Relations among their Verbal, Numerical, and Visual Representations across Cultures in Research and Public Outreach
    (2024-02)
    Asterisms: The Relations among their Verbal, Numerical, and Visual Representations across Cultures in Research and Public Outreach, An International Conference, Princeton, Institute for Advanced Study, 14-15 February 2024, Sponsor: Sabine Schmidtke (IAS), Convenor: Sonja Brentjes (MPIWG, IAS), Funding for this event provided by the Otto Neugebauer Fund
      65  79
  • Paul Kahle and His Catalog of the Arabic Manuscripts of the Bodleian Library, Oxford
    (2024)
    Schmidtke, Sabine
    Although Paul Kahle’s involuntary exile from Germany during the Second World War caused him considerable economic hardship, it also opened up entirely new scholarly horizons for him, as his principal occupation during the years 1939 through 1947 was the preparation of a catalog of the manuscripts of the Chester Beatty Collection and a catalog of the Arabic manuscripts of the Bodleian Library that had been acquired since 1835. Neither catalog was ever published. This paper analyzes Kahle’s relationship with the Bodleian Library in this period and his unpublished catalog of the library’s Arabic manuscripts.
      28  17
  • Literary Snippets: A Colophon Reader
    (Gorgias Press, 2024)
    Kiraz, George Anton
    ;
    Schmidtke, Sabine
    This companion volume to Literary Snippets: Colophons Across Space and Time (Gorgias Press, 2023) gives examples of colophons from the Ancient Near East up to the pre-modern world, from different traditions – Akkadian, Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac, and Persian. Colophons typically provide their readers with the historical context in which the scribe produced his or her work: Who was the scribe? When and where was the manuscript produced? For whom was it produced and who paid for it? But colophons are far more rich. They are literary works in their own right, having a style and rhetoric independent of the main literary text of the manuscript. Some are assertive, providing contextual data about the scribe/publisher and manuscript/book; others are expressive, demonstrating the scribe’s feelings and wishes. Some are directive, asking the reader for an action; others declarative, providing all sorts of statements about the scribe/publisher or even the reader. The latter sometimes provide historical facts otherwise lost to history: wars, earthquakes, religious events, and legal agreements. Through the colophons and translations in this volume we hope to present the colophon as a literary genre, and as literature to be studied, read and enjoyed.
      28  23
  • A Jewish Refutation of Samawʾal al-Maghribī's Ifḥām al-Yahūd: An Annotated Translation
    (2024)
    Adang, Camilla
    ;
    Schmidtke, Sabine
    This article offers a contribution to the study of polemics between Muslims and Jews in the Middle Ages. It presents an annotated translation of the extant fragments of a reply by an unknown Jew to the polemical tract Ifḥām al-Yahūd in which the mathematician Samawʾal al-Maghribī (d. 570/1175), who converted to Islam in 558/1163, virulently attacks his former religion. Samawʾal'stract had a significant impact both on later Muslim polemicists and on Jewish thinkers, who defended their religion against his strictures. The unique manuscript of the anonymous refutation, written in Judaeo-Arabic, is part of the Firkovitch collection kept at the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg. It is included in a codex that also contains an incomplete version, in the same hand, of Samawʾal al-Maghribī's tract. While the codex can be tentatively dated to the fourteenth century and was presumably written in Egypt, we cannot know with any degree of certainty when and where the refutation itself was composed, nor whether the unknown author had access to a complete copy of Samawʾal's work. Although at times the author quotes Ifḥām al-Yahūd verbatim, paraphrases and indirect references to Samawʾal's arguments are more common. In order to contextualize the unknown author's counterarguments, we provide a running commentary, including quotations of the passages from Ifḥām al-Yahūd that are being refuted.
      64
  • Shii Studies Review Volume 7 (2023)
    (Brill, 2023)
    Schmidtke, Sabine
    ;
    F. Ansari Hassan
      73  74
  • Under the Hammer: Trafficking,Trading, and Salvaging the Middle Eastern and North African Written Heritage
    (2023-11-02)
    Palombo, Cecilia
    ;
    Schmidtke, Sabine
    The trade in written artifacts of Middle Eastern and North African origin is flourishing and its dimensions are growing particularly in areas experiencing militaryconflict and/or extreme poverty. Yemen is one such area: given the ongoing war, manuscripts are being clandestinely taken out of the country. Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya are similarly affected. Islamic, Christian, and Jewish manuscripts originating in the MENASA region are regularly offered for sale by Western auction houses, and many thus end up in private hands. The provenance ofthe objects sold often remains obscure or is at least not mentioned in the relevant sales catalogs. Additionally, artifacts of Middle Eastern origin are increasingly being offered and sold through social media, for the most part clandestinely. Such transactions not only are frequently illegal but also deprive the people living in conflict-ridden regions of their cultural heritage. Moreover, experts have made the case that the illegal trafficking of artifacts may be related to a variety of criminal activities that affect war-zones or regions experiencing instability due to armed conflict. Finally, scholarship, too, is impacted, since artifacts that are purchased by private collectors generally become inaccessible to scholars. While recent military conflicts and the pandemic appear to have exacerbated the situation, there are also many initiatives and actors who are involved in protecting and salvaging MENA’s cultural heritage on the ground. Our panel showcases the fate of individual manuscripts or written artifacts, and entire collections of such materials, that have been auctioned or otherwise sold during recent decades. The contributions address both problems and concrete initiatives aimed at preventing the phenomenon, creating awareness of the artifacts' cultural value among policy makers, customs and police authorities, and auctioneers, and at providing appropriate training to stop illegal trafficking. Moreover, we consider the question of survival and accessibility of written artifacts from the MENASA region, which is connected to the thorny issue ofthe possible restitution of written artifacts. Participants: Luise Loges (University of Glasgow), Josh Mugler (HMML), Cecilia Palombo (Chicago University), Nasser O. Rabbat (MIT), Valentina Sagaria Rossi (University of Rome Tor Vergata), Sabine Schmidtke (IAS)
      69  62
  • A Manual of Zaydī Muʿtazilī Dogmatic Texts from Early Sixth/Twelfth-Century Iran
    (Shii Studies Review (Brill), 2023)
    Schmidtke, Sabine
    ;
    F. Ansari Hassan
    ;
    Khalkhali, Ehsan Mousavi
    ;
    Jomah Falahieh Zadeh Ammar
    MS Riyadh, Maktabat Malik Fahd al-Waṭaniyya 748 is a multitext volume copied by al-Ḥasan b. Muḥammad b. Aḥmad b. ʿAlī Ibn Abī l-ʿAshīra in 552/1157 in Ṣaʿda. It consists of doctrinal texts by Zaydī and Muʿtazilī authors, invariably Iranian. The codex is the only known extant witness of all but two of the tracts it includes (the exceptions being Ismāʿīl b. ʿAlī b. Ismāʿīl al-Farrazādhī’s K. Taʿlīq al-Tabṣira and Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan al-Dāʿī al-Ḥasanī’s K. Ḥaqāʾiq al-aʿrāḍ wa-aḥwālihā wa-sharḥihā), and two of its tracts, K. al-Nasīm fī l-uṣūl by one Abū Jaʿfar and K. Muhaj al-ʿulūm by Muʿādh b. Abī l-Khayr al-Hamadhānī, are not even attested in the relevant biobibliographical sources. This study includes critical editions of the doctrinal tracts included in the majmūʿa as well as an additional tract preserved in a related codex that was apparently also copied by Ibn Abī l-ʿAshīra (MS Milan, Ambrosiana, ar. E 462). The edited tracts include Abū l-Faḍl al-ʿAbbās Ibn Sharwīn’s K. al-Wujūh allatī taʿẓumu ʿalayhā l-ṭāʿāt ʿinda llāh, his K. al-Yāqūta, and his Ḥaqāʾiq al-ashyāʾ, ʿAbd al-Jabbār al-Hamadhānī’s Ḥudūd al-alfāẓ, Ibn al-Dāʿī’s K. Ḥaqāʾiq al-aʿrāḍ wa-aḥwālihā wa-sharḥihā, the extant part of the K. al-Nasīm fī l-uṣūl, K. Muhaj al-ʿulūm, by Muʿādh b. Abī l-Khayr al-Hamadhānī, fragments of two theological summae by unidentified Zaydī scholars, and collections of doctrinal definitions of uncertain authorship.
      126  57