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Early Qur'ānic manuscripts, their text, and the Alphonse Mingana papers held in the Department of Special Collections of the University of Birmingham

Fedeli, Alba (2015)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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The Special Collections of the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham hold seven early Qur’ānic pieces on parchment and papyrus dating from the seventh century. Alphonse Mingana purchased them from the antiquarian dealer von Scherling in 1936. Through investigation of the private correspondence of Mingana and archival documents, this research provides new information about the origin and history of the fragments, whose reception has been influenced by the European cultural context at the beginning of the twentieth century, in contrast with the public image proposed in catalogues, official documents and previous studies.

Furthermore, this research is an attempt to initiate an alternative perspective in analysing and editing the physical objects and texts of early Qur’ānic manuscripts by applying digital philology, thus using XML-encoded expressions to transcribe all of the richness of manuscripts in reconstructing the history of their transmission. This perspective interprets the process of the making of the manuscript text and the context in which the manuscript was written, thus editing its mobile and multi-layered text, differently from previous examples of the edition of early Qur’ānic manuscripts.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Parker, David C
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
Department:Department of Theology and Religion
Additional Information:

Online edition matching thesis available at:

Published work connected to this PhD:
‘The provenance of the manuscript Mingana Islamic Arabic 1572: dispersed folios from a few Qur’ānic quires’, Manuscripta Orientalia, 17,1, pp. 45 - 56. (2011)

‘The digitization project of the Qur’ānic palimpsest, MS Cambridge University Library Or. 1287, and the verification of the Mingana-Lewis edition: where is salām?’, Journal of Islamic Manuscripts, 2,1, pp. 100-117 (2011) -

‘Mingana and the manuscript of Mrs. Agnes Smith Lewis, one century later’, Manuscripta Orientalia, 11,3, pp. 3 - 7. (2015)

The edition of the Mingana Lewis palimpsest is online:
2016 Edition of MS CUL Or 1287: processed images showing hypothetical retracement of the scriptio inferior of the palimpsest and digital edition of its Qur’ānic text furnished of editorial notes (large leaves and small leaves in

Some explanations of the work on the palimpsest are available online:
2016 ‘Interpreting the Qur’ānic leaves through their digital images: a hypothetical retracement’, in Cambridge University Library Special Collections Blogs (, accompanied by a video showing the movement of the palimpsest layers (

Subjects:BP Islam. Bahaism. Theosophy, etc
Z004 Books. Writing. Paleography
Z719 Libraries (General)
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:5864
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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