Source: Emory University
Ibn al-Nadim’s work al-Fihrist (“The Catalogue”) is an invaluable source, for it is something like the card catalogue of the books available in all the libraries of Baghdad in the late tenth century. Written in 987 C.E., it includes the titles of many works which no longer exist, having been lost, burned, eaten by insects, or damaged by floods. It thus throws light on the history of Arabic literature in the broad sense as well as medieval Islamic intellectual history in many fields. It is also one of the most valuable sources regarding the translation movement that took place between 750 and 950 C.E.. In addition, the Fihrist, like Dewey’s decimal system, is an exercise in mapping out the organization of human knowledge and not just an inventory of book titles. This unit provides a basic background for understanding the Fihrist, introduces some of the types of information it provides, and discusses the translation movement and the importance of “the ancient sciences” in medieval Baghdad.