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Book Reviews

When Maronites Discovered Europe

Histoire du Patrimoine Arabe des Maronites, vol. 2, Les Auteurs Maronites sous les Ottomans, tome 1 (1510-1760)

Father Nasser Gemayel (who since July 2012 has been Bishop of Paris for the Maronites with the name of Maroun) is not unknown to Orientalists. His thesis, Les échanges culturels entre les Maronites et l’Europe, du collège maronite de Rome (1584) au collège Ayn-Warqa (1789) is a classic work. This was followed by various works in Arabic, on the patriarch Étienne Duwayhi, on Maronite copyists, etc.



This work is essentially written in Arabic. It contains: 1) a preface in Arabic by Fr. Paul Feghali and one in French by Fr. Samir Khalil Samir; 2) the work in a strict sense of Msgr. Maroun-Nasser Gemayel; 3) an index of names, of titles and of manuscripts in Arabic and in French; 4) an Arab and Western bibliography; and 5) a detailed summary in both Arabic and French.


1) The preface in Arabic explains the origins of the Maronites and their socio-political and cultural role and describes four great figures: Ibn al-Qilâ‘î (1450-1516), Hasrûnî (Hesronita, 1592-1626), Duwayhî (1630-1704) and Assemani (1680-1762). The preface in Arabic on the origins of the Arab Graf project, describes the German Graf, its updating and the current aim of the global project and this volume in particular.



2) Then comes the heart of the work which is not a literary history of the Maronites but a chronological description of the ‘Arab inheritance of the Maronites’. The author provides a good introduction to the Maronite Church (pp. 23-73) which is well organised and supported in each section by a bibliography on everything that is available in Arabic and Western languages. He then goes on to discuss every author and every one of his works. The point of departure of the volume is the famous Geschichte des christlichen arabischen Literatur, vol. III (Vatican, 1949), pp. 309-381 of Georg Graf. Pages 381-512 will be addressed in the next volume. The author provides biographies of the authors, especially of the more important ones, and cites the published and unpublished works of each author, as well as anonymous one, indicating all the editions and the manuscripts. This is the weightiest part of this work which makes it an indispensable instrument of work for every scholar in this field. One does not need to have a great knowledge of Arabic to use it, given that all the references are given in the original language. Sixty-four years separate the textbook of Graf and this volume and this explains why the 73 pages of Graf have become a large volume.



3) As this is an instrument of research, this work is organised into 734 numbered sub-sections, each one of which contains on average eight lines, from p. 25 to p. 303, and this has a dual advantage: a) on the one hand the indexes, which are made up of 84 pages (325-389 of the Arabic and 19-37 of the French), refer to the numbers and thus are more precise than the references to the pages: b) this allows each researcher to make additions and corrections to a particular section, without it being necessary to recompose the whole work. This is the procedure that has been used for some time now by the Bibliotheca Hagiographica Graeca (BHG) or by the Bibliotheca Hagiographica Orientalis (BHO) or by the Clavis Patrum Graecorum (CPG) or by the other Clavis. Above al it was decided to add 84 pages of very complete indexes of names and titles which refer to the small numbers in the margins.



4) As regards the bibliography, this is notably detailed and covers 35 pages of the book. In addition,. great care was taken in its composition, with the publishing houses indicated for each work and full page references provided for articles (often a series of articles) in reviews.



5) Lastly, the dual summary, which is very detailed, allows the reader to find the period or the author or the work that is being looked for with great ease.


To sum up, this publication, the first of a series on the Maronites, notwithstanding the small changes that could be made, constitutes a reference work which by now is indispensable.


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