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Ioana Feodorov (Romanian Academy, Institute for Southeast European Studies, ERC TYPARABIC Project): 'Transfer of the Art of Arabic Printing from the Romanian Principalities to Ottoman Syria, 1701-1753'

In the 15th century, in Europe, a revolution occurred in mentalities and social life: Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press led to a rapid transition from a type of culture based on oral and manuscript transmission to one relying on the printed book. Muslim populations of the Ottoman realm were not prepared to adopt this new way of communications. 

Christians, however, in what is now present-day Syria and Lebanon endeavored to open printing workshops to publish Arabic books for the clergy and their flock. Arabic printing was initiated in Eastern Europe and the Middle East through the association of Antim the Iberian, future metropolitan of Ungro-Wallachia, with Athanasios Dabbās, metropolitan of Aleppo. After initial trials in 1701 (Snagov) and 1702 (Bucharest), Dabbās established in 1705 the first Arabic press in the Middle East, in Aleppo. Other presses followed in Moldavia and Wallachia, both founded by Sylvester of Antioch, patriarch of the Greek Orthodox of Greater Syria (1724-1766). 

This talk commemorates the 300th anniversary of the 1724 schism in the Church of Antioch, by discussing the books printed in the years around this momentous event, encompassing the history of the presses of Snagov, Bucharest, Iași, Aleppo, Istanbul, and Beirut, with a reference to the Greek Catholics’ press at Khenchara, and their Arabic book production. 

Ioana Feodorov's book, Arabic Printing for the Christians in Ottoman Lands: The East-European Connection (De Gruyter, 2023) is available in Open Access, funded by the European Research Council.