Digital Typology of Arabic Documents


In the two hundred years since the publication of the first Arabic document on papyrus, Arabic papyrology has increasingly become an essential complement and corrective of the historical information filtered through the narrative sources of the Islamic classical period (9th–12th century).

Yet of the hundreds of thousands Arabic papyri, parchments and papers in collections world-wide dated between the 7th and 16th century only a small percentage of about 2% has currently been edited with another 10–15% described in commented collection catalogues. Furthermore, Arabic papyrology continues to suffer from a structural lack of reference tools—digital or otherwise. The research group on Arabic papyrology based at the Ludwig-Maximilian University (Munich) has been engaged in filling this disciplinary desideratum through the digitalization of full-text editions and metadata and the creation of a digital lexical thesaurus in the framework of the Arabic Papyrology Database (APD).

The latest phase of the project, A Digital Typology of Arabic Documents (APT), aims at the creation of digital diplomatic charts for structuring formulaic and layout features of Arabic documents. A co-tutelle agreement between the University of Basel and the LMU has given PhD candidate Eugenio Garosi the opportunity to work in constant contact with the APD research group so as to be consistently updated on their progresses. Access to their internal data has been and is a pivotal part of his dissertation project. In particular, his research endeavors to incorporate and expand on the methodology developed by the research group of the APD to reach an assessment on the formative environment of the Early Islamic scribal culture.

In his dissertation state-of-the-art digital formalistic analysis are utilized as a ground for comparison between the proportionally overrepresented Arabic papyrological sources from Early Islamic Egypt and their proportionally underrepresented pendants from Syria and Central Asia, on one side, and between the Arabic and the liminal scribal traditions on the other.