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A Middle Eastern Odyssey: Constantinople to Palmyra

A Middle Eastern Odyssey: Constantinople to Palmyra

Exhibition: 16 March to 1 June 2018

‘The Middle East is where three continents meet, where empires have waxed and waned, merchants have long traded and warriors have long clashed.’

Lonely Planet Guide, 2003

An imaginary circle that encompasses modern day Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel provides the boundaries for this exhibition on the Middle East. The lands beyond the borders of Turkey and Iran are excluded. The exhibition is inspired by an inventory of Middle Eastern and Islamic language materials that was recently compiled by Dr Majid Daneshgar, former lecturer at Theology and Religion at the University of Otago, now the University of Freiburg, Germany. Arabic, Urdu, Persian, and Turkish books and manuscripts are on display, mainly from the collection of the Rev. William Arderne Shoults (1839-1887). Some of the printed books are scarce; the manuscripts unique. There are a few modern publications in the exhibition. These are mainly from the library of Charles Brasch (1903-1973), who was an archaeological field assistant at Tell el Amarna, Egypt, from 1933 to 1935.

The choice travel and history books on display not only help contextualise the language-based items, but also convey a wider picture and greater understanding on this area of the world, a region that has not only been called ‘the cradle of civilization’, but also the ‘fertile crescent’. Indeed, the Middle East was once the greatest, most advanced and most open civilization in history (Bernard Lewis).

The exhibition offers an overview of the Middle East. Importantly, it is historical, with those items displayed grounded in a past stretching back to antiquity.

Notable items on display include editions of George Sandys’s A Relation of a Journey begun An: Dom: 1610 (1615; 1632); David Roberts’ superbThe Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia (1856); Thomas Erpenius’s an early Arabic grammar entitled Rudimenta Linguae Arabicae (1628); a first edition of William Jones’s A Grammar of the Persian Language (1771); Robert Wood’s stupendous The Ruins of Palmyra, otherwise Tedmor, in the Desart(1753); Charles M. Doughty’s Travels in Arabia Deserta (1933); and T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1935). Language materials include a uniqueQur’an (c.1846); a unique manuscript of Euclid’s Elements in Arabic (c.1800); an Arabic Bible printed in Newcastle-upon-Tyne (1811); a Hebrew Bible printed c.1611; and Arthur Lumley Davids’s A Grammar of the Turkish Language (1832).

Exhibition title: A Middle Eastern Odyssey: Constantinople to Palmyra

Dates: 16 March to 1 June 2018

Venue: De Beer Gallery, Special Collections, 1st floor, Central University Library

Hours: 830am to 500pm, Monday to Friday


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