The Paper Trade on the Red Sea (19th c.-first half of the 20th c.): ‘local’ vs. Italian paper

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The case of an ‘Ottoman’ watermarked paper used in Yemen and in Ethiopia[1]

Anne Regourd

(Austrian Academy of Sciences, Institute for Social Anthropology, Vienna CNRS, UMR 7192)


There is no doubt for the codicologist as to the supremacy of Italian paper in the 19th c., particularly from Veneto (Friuli), as the material of choice for manuscripts in the Arab or African world. Works by Terence Waltz have demonstrated this for Egypt and Sudan[2]. In Yemen and in Ethiopia, the study of manuscript paper confirms the strong presence of Italian papers[3]. In Sub-Saharan Africa, there is evidence of much the same for Nigeria or thanks to manuscript collections gathered in West Africa[4].

All along the 19th c., as the Industrial Revolution was in full swing, production techniques evolved and the movement began to affect paper production, starting from the 1820s, be it for wallpaper or writing paper[5]. The balance of power also changed in the region as the achievements of engineers turned the Red Sea into the preferred means of communication between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean: the British presence, especially in Aden, from 1839 to 1967, has to be taken into account, as well as the consecutive appearance of the steam boat, requiring its own logistics, and the opening of the Suez Canal, in 1869; the second Ottoman occupation of Yemen takes place from 1872 to 1919 and meets some resistance in the Tihāmah, the part of Yemen which runs along the Red Sea[6]; finally, the Sykes-Picot Treaty led to the dividing up of the Ottoman Empire between the French and the British, in 1916.  In the Red Sea zone, which will be the focus of this paper, Italian supremacy however, did not prevent on the one hand, the import of other European papers, from France, Britain, or Austria, nor on the other hand, those papers referred to as ‘local’ (as opposed to the former). Among these, and during the same period, are papers produced in Egypt, India, whether watermarked or not[7], or in Turkey. By way of example, “Ledger” paper is found in the manuscripts of Zabīd in the Tihāmah (m/ḥ 29, copied in 1369/1949-1950), as well as in Ta‘izz at the library of the Hā’il Sa‘īd Foundation, a robust paper, much valued for accounting books. The case is different for India: because its commercial and community ties with Yemen date back centuries, the presence of Indian paper is linked to the capacity to locally produce paper or not. Several Indian papers have been recorded in Ṣan‘ā’ and in Zabīd, e.g. a paper refers to Bombay in its countermark (Mumbay, m/ḥ 38, copied in 1334/1915-1916). In the second half of the 20th c., an Egyptian paper factory is said to have exported its paper to India, the Hijaz, Yemen, Northern Africa and even Europe[8].

As for Turkish paper, over the last few years, it has gained a lot of attention from researchers. Generally speaking, the presence, in Arab manuscripts, of watermarked paper made in Ottoman Turkey according to an Italian technique, from the early 19th c. to the mid-20th c., has already been verified[9]. Ş. Tekin reproduces several of them, at least one of which is dated 1219/1804-1805. This one is an ensemble made up of a crescent enclosing an eight-pointed star and of a countermark in osmanlı, Islāmbôl sene 1219[10]. More recently, Abū Ṧubbāk paper has been found in Yemen[11]. However, our knowledge of such papers is far from complete.

Overview of paper-making in
19th & 20th c. Turkey

To date, few studies relying on primary or secondary sources have been devoted to the paper-making industry in Turkey. Based on the few well-known publications, it appears production was irregular, for various reasons, not necessarily linked to the international context or to economic competition.[12] For the 19th and the beginning of the 20th c., and the types of paper which concern us,[13] O. Ersoy and M. A. Kāğıtçı mention the following paper mills and factories:

  • the Hünkār Iskelesi mill, located in Beykoz, on the eastern shore of the Bosphorus in 1803, and fully operational at least until 1832. As the watermarked paper bearing the crescent and star with a countermark in osmanlı, has just been mentioned, we will not go into it anymore[14];
  • the steam-powered paper mill of Halkapınar in Izmir (Smyrna), established in 1846, equipped with machinery for continuous paper production from the British Bryan Donkin Company[15]. Its raw material was rags. However, it does not seem to have survived very long and appears to have succumbed to importers dumping paper on the Ottoman market;
  • the Hamidiye (Hamidiye Kāğıt Fabrikası) paper mill in Beykoz, named after the river running through it. It was born at the very end of the 19th c. officially 14 September 1886. Permission to print was granted (imtiyaz) for fifty years to Osman Bey, Sultan Abdülħamid II's chamberlain. The paper mill was considerable in size and powerfully equipped with 4 English paper machines by Masson Scott & Co, a large workshop for cutting and finishing paper, as well as a thermal power plant. Straw and rags were its raw materials.[16] It ceased to function around 1915 when the Ottoman Empire sided with the Germans, causing the British engineers to depart;
  • finally, Anatolia, bastion of the modern papermaking industry, took over the manufacture of cellulose pulp and paper. The five-year plan of 1933-1938, called for the creation of a great paper mill[17]. An initial paper mill opened in Izmit in 1936[18]; others would appear in Aksu, Dalaman, Afyon, Balikesir, Kastamonu.

This preliminary overview, although extremely interesting, nonetheless remains incomplete, as the various Turkish local archives have not been the subject of extensive exploration yet. Authors who have addressed the history of Turkish papermaking figured competition pitting Turkish papermaking against European papermaking had led to the imitation or “borrowing” of Europeans watermarks (especially Italian and Polish) by the Turks, on, but regretted their inability to demonstrate this[19].

Should someone now want to look into the trading of Turkish-made paper, and more specifically, its export, and then piece together the trade routes by which it was shipped, the problem will remain the same, as long as we do not have, as in this case, more data from sources such as the archives stored at the Baçbakanlık, the archives of paper-makers or of locals[20]. To which must be added the country's archives under Ottoman rule and those of Italian paper-makers, which should be studied from that angle. As for the different memoirs in the wake of Napoleon's expedition, traveller's tales, studies, etc., regarding trading on the Red Sea, their sorting has, for the moment, yielded only haphazard information, often hard to interpret or comment on[21].

It is however possible to proceed otherwise, whilst we wait for these future studies to be carried out, but also in order to increase and crosscheck our data. Indeed, a trace of imported papers is kept, ultimately, in the manuscripts of those countries importing the paper. Let us refer to these as ‘destination’ papers. Hard data can thus be obtained, informing about the production of a given paper, its export and arrival to a particular destination at one point in time. Dating the production of the paper based on such data should nevertheless take into account the fact that date brackets are based on its use by copyists. However, a paper can be stored for an extended period before being used[22]. The time taken by its transport should also be added on. A significant correction in dating the production of a paper based on this material can be obtained by adopting a statistical basis.

Methodology, codicology & history

As early as 1985, in his previously mentioned article, Terence Waltz opened the way to working on the paper trade based on watermarked papers, in his case, those he had documented predominantly in archive documents. This was initially a study meant for a collective work on Sudan. This remarkable work did not immediately attract much of a following. In “Les routes commerciales entre Zabīd et l'Europe: les papiers filigranés de fonds manuscrits de Zabīd (Yémen, fin 18e-milieu 20e s.)” [“Trade Routes between Zabīd & Europe: Watermarked Papers from Zabīd's Manuscript Collections (Yemen late-18th-mid-20th c.)”], we made an initial attempt at establishing this inaugural work as a method[23].

The method thus defined implies a considerable epistemological leap: papers from manuscripts are to be treated as a primary source. The status of papers makes them no longer just a means of dating and locating manuscript production in which they were used, but an actual datum in the history of the trade, of the migration of ideas and people. This posits that studying the papers allows us to identify the paper mill of origin and therefore the place where it was made, an operation which supposes the existence of means to document this. It requires a careful selection of the manuscript by making sure that, as initial criteria, the copy date is correct and that we are able to locate where the manuscript was copied. Only then can the paper be classified as "destination paper". Finally, it demands creating statistical clouds on the use of a given paper.

The task of identifying the papers, the time between the production of a paper and its use, is already part of the work carried out by a codicologist. What changes here is the end-goal: it is no longer solely about dating and locating the paper, but about studying the paper trade, i.e. identifying exported papers and their destinations, their prices, their processing, the networks and buyers, tradesmen, competition, how they were shipped and along which supply routes. In this search, manuscript papers are a seldom used and promising source, to which findings from other sources must be added.

If we are to follow this path, where should we turn to in order to find exported papers of Turkish manufacture? Inevitably, the Ottoman administration, well-known for being a "paper glutton", springs to mind. An initial set of data was provided by Nikolaev, Velkov and Andreev, who published four volumes of watermarked papers from Ottoman archives kept at the National Library in Sofia[24]. The presence of papers of Ottoman origin, concurrently with papers of other origins, is confirmed for the period between the 16th c. and the 18th c.[25]. Unfortunately for our study, the two authors' selection does not go beyond archive documents dated 1820[26].

At the same time, research on watermarked papers used in codices has made progress and identified a paper referred to as “Ottoman”, found in Yemen. It is this paper, present from the early 19th c. to the mid-20th c. that we will focus on.

Finally, generally speaking, working on the dating and provenance of modern and contemporary Arab codices becomes a necessity, as their predominance has been observed: on the one hand, they are the ones which have been passed down on to us, but for certain regions, such as Africa, manuscript production (be it codices or merchant accounting books) witnessed a boom in the 19th c., as a result of the increased presence of paper[27]. In Yemen, based on the samples we got to see in Zabīd, Ta‘izz and Shibām (Hadramawt), the bulk of manuscript production preserved today dates back to between the 17th c. and the 20th c.

An Ottoman paper

In 1997, Geneviève Humbert pointed out for the first time, the presence of an Ottoman paper in Yemen. Two of the fourteen manuscripts she had studied, at the Ašā‘ir library in Zabīd, were written on a watermarked paper with a lunar profile, bearing a countermark, in osmanlı writing: “Beyaz Abū (sic) Shabbāk Stambūlī” (“paper by Abū Ṧabbāk of Istanbul”)[28].

Since then, in the same town, examples of watermarked papers, sporting a crescent moon face inserted in a double-rimmed shield and bearing the countermark:

[1st line] Beyāḍ Abū (sic) Ṧubbāk Isṭambūlī (بياض ابوُ شبّك اسطمبولي);
[2nd line] ‘ālī aṣīlī” (عالي اصيلي)[29] have been recorded.

Zabīd's wealth of ulama libraries can be explained by the important part it played in religious transmission, from the 11th c. to the 20th c[30]. In 2006, we pointed out four examples of it[31]:

1. The first one can be found in manuscript m/ḥ 1 in ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Hadhrami's library, colophon dated Dhū al-Qa‘ada 1375/1956 by copyist Muḥammad Ismā‘īl Khalīl.

2. The second is a single folio from codex 11 of collection (majmū‘) m/ḥ 7, 25 x 17.5 cm in size, belonging to the same library and written mostly on an Italian paper (Galvani); in the margin a comment dated 1303/1885-1886 can be found.

3. The third example appears on a single folio a chiromancy text was recorded on, belonging to Aḥmad Ja‘far's library, Zabīd. Its size making it possible to see, at the same time, the watermark and its countermark.[32] The presence of the countermark also makes it possible to specify the orientation of the crescent, facing right.

4. Finally, we indicated that in 2006, the most ancient copy on Isambūlī paper we had found in Zabīd dated back to 1214/1799-1800.

In 2008, we published a fifth example of this paper, used as a flyleaf for codex m/ḥ 17 in ‘Abd al-Raḥman al-Hadhrami's library, colophon dated Ḏū al-ḥijja 1192/1777-1778[33]. As the cataloguing of manuscripts from this library progressed, occurrences of it kept on multiplying: codex m/ḥ 35 (copy dated 1358/1939-1940), 47 (undated copy), 12 codices out of the 13 in collection (majmū‘) 50 (copies dated 1330/1911-1912 to 1361/1942-1943), codex 60 (copy dated 1263/1846-1847)[34], 66/1 (copy dated 1328/1910-1911)[35]. Today, the presence of “Abū Ṧubbāk paper is confirmed in manuscripts from several regions of Yemen. In 2007, a book manuscript consisting of 84 folios, written on “Abū Ṧubbāk” paper dated 1316/1899, was documented in Ṣan‘ā’, in the private library of ‘Abd al-Khāliq b. Ḥusayn al-Maġribī, the descendant of a well-known Yemeni family of scholars[36]. About a hundred papers have been sketched free-hand at Dār al-makhṭūṭāt, Ṣan‘ā’, between 2009 and 2010, among which the paper which interests us. This public library acquires its manuscripts mostly through donations and purchases. They may thus originate from different parts of Yemen, but, to be sure, the capital's surrounding area make for a regular source. In October 2010, twelve of the 97 manuscripts examined by me, out of a total 334 in the possession of the Hā’il Sa‘id Foundation, in Ta‘izz, contained Abū Ṧubbāk paper; they bear the following shelf marks: ms. 27, 51, 57, 70, 71 à 75, 97 (Qur’ān), 106 and 107; only two of the texts show a colophon date, these are ms. 27, copied in 1073/1662-1663, and ms. 107, copied in 1328/1910-1911[37]. In the first case, the presence of this paper at that early period can be explained by the fact that it was used as flyleaf. This initial data already points to a trend which growing interest in the study of Yemeni papers should reinforce, showing an increasing number of examples in the future and demonstrating, eventually, that it was in fact a very widespread product.

Aside from these statistical indications, already quite eloquent, the name of the copyists or the copy place of at least 4, probably 5, manuscript codices written on Abū Ṧubbāk and belonging to ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Hadhrami's library, show that this paper was indeed imported into Yemen and reached Zabīd[38].

Outside of Yemen, a study based on scriptural sources, mentions as early as the late 60's, the existence of an "abu shibbāk" paper among European imports to eastern Sudan, at the end of the 19th c.[39]. Very recently, Abū Ṧubbāk paper was mentioned in the Far East: firstly, in January 2010, in a fiqh manuscript from the Regency of Aceh Besar, North of Sumatra, acephalous and with the last part of the text missing; then, between January and October 2010, in a codex (several codices?) kept in Indonesia. These are manuscripts in Arabic which, according to today's research, are not prior to the 19th c.[40]. Such manuscripts possibly having been imported, particularly from Yemen and more specifically from Hadramawt, it is too soon to assume this paper was circulated in the specified zone[41]. Abū Ṧubbāk paper can still be found in codices in Arabic kept in Ethiopia[42]. Ms. BNF 7264 contains two codices, probably copied in Ethiopia, in 1345/1926-1927[43]. Indications at hand regarding the provenance of these collections, to which palaeographical data is added, allow us to posit, at least for some of the codices concerned, that they were copied in Ethiopia, more often than not in Harar.

In the geographical area we have just covered, Abū Ṧubbāk paper is present over a period from the very beginning of the 19th c. through to the mid-20th c. The brand "Abū Ṧubbāk" has lived on in Yemeni memories to this day, as a synonym for excellent paper, sturdy and long-lasting, recommended as such when drawing up legal documents. This is what the term beyaz (instead of kāğıt), which in osmanlı is used to speak of paper used for the final versions of documents as opposed to draft paper[44], would lead us to believe. Its sturdiness also explains its frequent use as a flyleaf for manuscripts[45]. In the 2000's, we got to buy, at the souk in Zabīd, “an Abū Ṧubbāk”, i.e. a complete sheet of non-watermarked paper[46].

First attempt at classifying Abū ubbāk papers: Beyā Abū ubbāk and Waraq Abū ilubbāk papers

As demonstrated, Abū Ṧubbāk paper was widespread, from the 19th c. to the 20th c., at least in Yemen and in Ethiopia. Fortunately, it is much easier to classify than the Tre Lune, a watermarked paper very frequently found in codices as well as in archives[47].

To this day, two main groups of Abū ubbāk papers have been detected, the Beyā Abū ubbāk papers, and the Waraq Abū ilubbāk papers. This is only an initial attempt: neither this list, nor, more specifically, the use periods worked out for the paper, can be considered definitive.

I. Beyā Abū ubbāk papers

The first group of papers is the one for which we have much the most statistical information at present.

Type A

Paper watermarked with a crescent moon face inside a double-rimmed shield and bearing the countermark: “[1st line] Beyāḍ Abū (sic) Ṧubbāk Isṭambūlī (بياض ابوُ شبّك اسطمبولي); [2nd line] ‘ālī aṣīlī (عالي اصيلي)”[48].

Type A.1.

This is by far the most common. It differs from type A.2. by the dimensions of the shield bearing a crescent moon face, as well as by the length taken up by the 2nd line of the countermark. Another difference, very useful for sorting paper types at a glance, resides in a sort of “defect” located on the last term of the countermark “aīlī (اصيلي)”: the ligature between the first yā’ and the lām is only partially present. Given the frequency of the defect, it is unlikely to be due to some pulp adherence, more probably to how the countermark was set up on the grid.

This type comprises ms. m/ḥ 1[49] and 5 codices out of the 13 in collection (majmū‘) m/ḥ 50 from ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Hadhrami’s library (ill. 1.a, 1.b, 1.c; ill. 1bis).

# of manuscript in collection (m/ḥ)Copy date in chronological order crescendoMaximum sheet dimensions (cm)20 laid lines measured from the outer edge (cm)Spacing between 2 chain lines measured from the inside edge (cm)
m/ḥ 50/81351/1932-193324 x 183-3.12.5
m/ḥ 50/111351/1932-193324 x 183-3.12.5
m/ḥ 50/121355/1936-193723.5 x 183-3.12.4
m/ḥ 50/41356/1937-193824 x 183-3.1Alternating double chain, 2.4-2.5
m/ḥ 50/31358/1939-194024 x 18.53-3.1Alternating double chain, 2.4-2.5
m/ḥ 11375/195624 x 172.8Alternating double chain, 2.6[50]

The document of Aḥmad Ja‘far (Zabīd) should be added to this list, with the same spacing between two chain lines and the same measure for 20 laid lines as m/ḥ 1.

Based on the copyist's identity for m/ḥ 1 and 50/3, the paper had made its way to Zabīd.

The paper in manuscript ms. Arabe BnF 7264, previously mentioned, can be added to this category. Maximum sheet dimensions are 35.2 cm x 23.1 cm. It has a yellow appearance and its edges have gone brown. The entire manuscript was copied out on this A.1 type of paper. The first text, untitled, is made up of 3 folios, and bears the colophon date of 1345/1926-1927. The copying of the second work, the Kitāb Tanbīh al-Anām wa-Shifāʾ al-Asqām fī Bayān ‘Ulū Maqām Nabīnā Muhammad ‘Alayhi Afḍal al-Ṣalāt wa-Azkā al-Salām by ‘Abd al-Jalīl ibn Muḥammad b. ‘Aṭūm al-Qayrawānī al-Muradī, was completed, on 185 folios, in Dhū al-Qa‘ada 1345/1927[51], i.e. the same year as the first text. The manuscript circulated in Ethiopia, as indicated by a note in Amharic. This is not sufficient to make it the place where it was copied[52]. Common traits with Yemeni manuscripts can be noticed, such as the taṣliya perpendicular to the triangular colophon.[53] But it does seem more likely that it was copied out in Ethiopia, especially given its dimensions.

The paper from ms. Arabe BnF 7084, a collection of poems from the Colin collection, also belongs to this category[54]. The title page bears a purchase title: “Ṣan‘āʾ Déc. 1929 / bought 18 Riyāl = 18x12 = 216 frcs / about 800 pages (400 folios)”[55]. Moreover, on folios 133v-135r, a poem of mad'ḥ type congratulates the Ottomans, i. e. Mustafa Kemal and the Sultan, for their victory on the Greeks, which took place in 1340/1921-1922. This poem is followed by a controversy on qat consumption from folios 135r to 138v dated 1340/1921-1922. Finally, between folios 226 and 227, a loose calendar sheet can be found, dated 8th Rabī‘ al-ʾAkhar 1330, i.e. 1912, and, between fol. 328 and 329, a loose printed form both in French and in Ottoman used to send telegrams: the pre-printed date, without its unit, to be filled in on the form is 192... The manuscript could be a holograph. All these data allow us to admit that it could not have been written on a short term. Folio dimensions are 245 x 180 mm. Spacing between two chain lines measured from the inner edges is 2.5 cm, the chains are simple. Twenty laid lines measured from the outer edges cover 3.4 cm.

The use range obtained for this paper encompasses a period from 1345/1926-1927 –maybe 1330/1912– to 1375/1956 for Yemen, with maybe a peak in 1345/1927 for Ethiopia.

Type A.2.

Regarding type A.2., for the moment we have instances of it going from 1263/1846-1847 to 1355/1936-1937, i.e. a range of almost one century.

Found in ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Hadhrami's library, in Zabīd (ill. 2, 3):

# of manuscript in collection (m/ḥ)Copy date in chronological order crescendoMaximum sheet dimensions (cm)20 laid lines measured from the outer edge (cm)Spacing between 2 chain lines measured from the inside edge (cm)
m/ḥ 601263/1846-184724.5 x 183-3.12.5-2.7
m/ḥ 50/91330/1911-191224 x 183-3.1Alternating double chain, 2.5
m/ḥ 50/121355/1936-193723.5 x 182.8-2.92.5
m/ḥ 47undated24.5 x 18,52.9-3.1Alternating double chain, 2.5-2.6[56]

A difference between papers put together under type A.2 can be noticed. It is more of a sensory nature. Paper m/ḥ 60 is dark and brittle, whereas the other occurrences are slightly yellow. Pending more in-depth investigation, we would emphasize the fact that ms. m/ḥ 60 is the most ancient of the lot. This could be the result of more advanced decomposition. Walz notes: “Glazed papers preserved in the Maḥkama dating from the sixteenth century look today as if they had been written on only very recently. Unglazed paper has turned brown and brittle”[57]. This is based on the fact that imported paper could be prepared on site, as was the case in Egypt in the 19th c. Although it was used for codex production, A.2. therefore, seems to be of lesser quality.

Given the dating bracket for type A.2. as it has been established, based on a limited statistical basis for the moment, and for the first two examples, due to their sensory appearance, we would tend to put in this category the papers from the following manuscripts, until a full examination is carried out:

- Zabīd, m/ḥ 66/1, copied in 1328/1910-1911, maximum folio dimensions = 23 x 17.5 cm (82 fol.), copyist born around Ta‘izz;

- Ta‘izz, manuscript 107, copied in 1328/1910-1911, and kept at the Hā’il Sa‘īd Foundation;

- Ṣan‘ā’, manuscript copied in 1316/1899 and kept at ‘Abd al-Khāliq b. Ḥusayn al-Maġribī's private library, maximum folio dimensions = 24.5 x 17.5 cm.

Type B. Paper from the al-Khizāna al-‘Āmira Catalogue[58]

Al-Khizāna al-‘Āmira is a library founded by Imam Yaḥyā b. Muhammad b. Yaḥyā Ḥamīd al-dīn (1869-1948) in the Great Mosque in Ṣan‘ā’. Its catalogue, the Fihrist kutub al-Khizāna al-mutawakkiliyya al-‘Āmira bi-al-jāmi‘ al-muqaddas bi-San‘ā’ al-muammiyya, has been printed out several times (ill. 4)[59]. We personally know of the existence of printouts in 1312/1894-1895 and in 1361/1942, both coming from the same –Yemeni– printing presses.


Generally speaking, it is interesting to note that the print copy in our possession, that of 1312/1894-1895, was dealt with as if it were a manuscript.  First of all, a black border frames the area for writing. If we are to believe what is left of the binding, a printed piece of cloth was affixed on the back of the book and kept in place by a glued paper strip, on top of which was sewn a headband made of two coloured threads (red & white). It is the paper of this initial printout which we propose to study[60].

This is a paper with a crescent moon face inserted into a double-rimmed shield and bearing the countermark: “[1st line] Beyā Abū (sic) ubbāk Isambūlī بياض ابوُ شبّك اسطمبولي) [);


 [2nd line] ‘ālī aīlī (عالي اصيلي)”. A loose bifolio allows us to see that the crescent is facing right. Spacing between two chain lines, measured between the inner edges, is 2.4 cm, while spacing between 20 laid lines is 3 cm, between the two outer edges. There is a system of alternating double chains. The paper has a slightly yellow appearance (ill. 5, 6).


Traces in the shape of a series of short, oblique lines all along the top edge of the folios, show up regularly on this paper (ill. 7.a, 7.b). They suggest it was made as continuous paper, by means of a cylinder, on which was installed the grid: they represent the butt joint system of both edges of the metallic grid. The chain lines are installed perpendicularly to the axis of the cylinder. The first documented machines with cylinders for the making of watermarked paper date back to 1826, then went on to evolve[61].

The distance between two consecutive traces left by the butt joint of both edges of the metallic grid gives us the circumference of the cylinder. Dimensions of a bifolio from the catalogue are 36.4 x 46.9 cm height by width. The watermark is located on the right-hand side of the bifolio and the countermark on the left-hand side, the first line of text is placed slightly higher than the top of the watermark (ca. 2 cm). On each sheet of the work, either the watermark or the countermark is visible, i.e. no folio is exempt of either one or the other mark. The butt joint trace, when it does show up, is either located north of the watermark and countermark, or south of them; otherwise, watermark and countermark are present without the trace. This allows us to work out that the circumference of the cylinder is approximately 36.4 x 3 = 109.2 cm, which means a diameter of about 35 cm.

Moreover, we can observe a series of dotted lines on a considerable number of sheets, sometimes with a diagonal line. These marks were made when the pulp was still damp, in much the same way as the watermark, countermark and butt joint marks. They are very close to the sheet edges –top / bottom– and run parallel to them or merge. They always start from the outer edge of the sheet and are only visible for a short distance, 2 cm at the very most (ill. 8). They could represent pre-cutting of the paper roll into sheets. On one of the edges, top or bottom, of a certain number of folios, we can observe butt joint marks and dotted and oblique lines on the opposite edge (see for example p. 46). If our interpretation of the dotted and obliques lines is correct, this would confirm that, for the length of watermarked paper made by the turn of a roll, more than one sheet can be obtained. Moreover, these marks would be an additional clue to the mechanized production of this paper made as a continuous paper. Finally, the format of the Catalogue would be that of a pre-cut sheet.


The pulp was the subject of an analysis by optical microscopy[62]. It is a bleached chemical pulp with a resiniferous base, and a high proportion of spruce, and deciduous trees, particularly poplar and beech. The presence of annuals is also confirmed (straw, linen, hemp) by their strong traces[63]. The pulp underwent a mechanical treatment, observable in terms of fibre cut, fibrillation, swelling of the fibrous wall and by the presence of numerous fine elements (ill. 9). Damage to the fibrous wall makes identifying the ingredients difficult. The paper is soft to the touch.

II. The Waraq Abū ibbāk/ubbāk papers

Compared to the former, the second group is, to this day, the least well represented of the two.

Type C. Le papier Waraq Abū (sic) ibbāk al-Aīlī

Manuscripts m/ḥ 35 and 50 from ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Hadhrami’s library were written on a watermarked paper, sporting a crescent moon face, both left and right of the top half, two six-pointed stars, inserted into a double-rimmed shield, and bearing, on a single line, the countermark in Arabic and Arab writing: “Waraq Abū (sic) Ṧibbāk al-aṣīlī (ورق ابوُ شِباك الأصيلي)”[64]. Watermark and countermark appear on the same bifolio, the dimensions of which are indicated for each example. Chains are double and alternating, 2.4 cm can be counted between the inner edges of two chains and 2.7 cm between the outer edges of 20 laid lines.

Ms. m/ḥ 35 contains a manuscript copy dated 1358/1939-1940. It is made up of a total of 7 folios, and consists of one ternion + 1 folio. Maximum sheet dimensions are 24.5 x 18 cm[65].

Three of the 13 codices in collection (majmū‘) 50 were written on the same paper, 50/6, s. d., 50/7, colophon dated 1356/1937-1938, and 50/10, colophon dated 1361/1942-1943. Manuscripts 50/6 and 50/10 were most certainly copied in Zabīd, judging by the copyists' names.

Codex 50/6 is made with a quaternion, codex 50/7, of 2 quinions + 1 folio, finally, codex 50/10 is made with a quinion + 1 ternion + 2 loose folios. Maximum folio dimensions are the same, 24 x 18 cm (ill. 9.a, 9.b)[66].

We can observe that, none of the codices have type A papers used concurrently with this one, whereas it's not rare to find codices written on different papers.

At the Hā’il Sa‘īd Foundation's collection, ms. 51 was written on a paper bearing the countermark “Waraq Abū (sic) Ṧibbāk al-Aṣīlī (ورق ابوُ شِباك الأصيلي)”. However, information concerning the laid lines and chain lines was not recorded. The manuscript is not colophon dated[67].

Finally, the “Abūibbāk”noticed by T. Walz is mentioned for Eastern Sudan at the end of the 19th c., however we have no additional indication about it.

Type C paper has, for Yemen, a use range, going from 1356/1937-1938 to 1361/1942-1943.

Type D. The Waraq Abū ubbāk/Andrea Galvani paper

This is a paper watermarked with a crescent moon face inside a double-rimmed shield and bearing two countermarks: on the right-hand side, over two lines, in Italian and with Western letters, [1st line] “Andrea Galvani [2nd line] Pordenone”; on the left-hand side, on one line, in Arabic and with Arab letters: “Waraq Abū (sic) Ṧubbāk (وَرَق ابوُ شِبَاك)”[68]. The crescent moon face is facing left. Both countermarks are in front of the crescent, the text in Arabic located at the same height as the interval between the two lines of Italian text. The inner gap between two chain lines is 2.5 cm and the distance measured from the outer edges of 20 laid lines, 3.1 cm. Double-chains are noted.


Only two occurrences of this paper have been recorded to this day, both of them found in the manuscripts consulted at the Institute for Ethiopian Studies (IES), in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), ms. 4574 (18) and 4627.

Ms. 4574 (18) is a collection made up of two codices. The first one, consisting of a single quaternion, has a text without any title, nor colophon; numerous commentaries appear in the margins. This is the one written on type D paper (ill. 10.a.; 10.b.). Maximum folios dimensions are 24.5 x 18.5cm.

 It is difficult to tell the number of the quires in the second bulkier codex[69]. The text bears a colophon, indicating precisely the copyist's name, Muḥammad b. ‘Arab (‘Arib?) al-A.r.k.(b.)ī Nāhiyatān al-Aykbarī Qariyatān al-Ṣāfi‘ī Maḏhabān al-Aš‘arī I‘tiqādān al-Qādirī Ṭarīqān, as well as the copy date, Jumāda al-Thānī 1355/1936. This second codex was copied onto type A Abū Ṧubbāk paper (most probably A.2., due to the dimensions of the shield and its current colour). Maximum sheet dimensions are 24 x 18 cm. The proximity of the two Abū Ṧubbāk have allowed us to compare them. They have not evolved in the same way: type D tends to be closer to white, whereas type A has gone brown.

Ms. 4627 has no colophon. The library card indicates it should be 128 years-old: admitting that estimate is accurate, we would still need to know starting from when. For conservation reasons, we were not able to count the different quires. Maximum sheet dimensions are 24.5 x 18 cm. It should be noted that bifolios have often fallen out along the centrefold.

The countermark mentions the Galvani house, via one of its sons, Andrea, who lived during the first half of the 19th c. (1797-1855)[70]. According to Heawood, this paper was produced starting from 1836[71]. In any case, it remained in use until the beginning of the 20th c., well after his death: e.g. among the manuscripts of Zabīd, between 1291/1874-1875 (m/ḥ 14, copied out in the ribāṭ of Yaḥyā b. ‘Umar al-Ahdal in Zabīd) and 1337/1918-1919[72]. It is one of the features of paper D which allows us to guess its dating: it is produced on a cylinder (ill. 10.c.). However, the mechanisation of Galvani's paper-making process took place around 1883-1895[73].


Numerous manuscripts from the IES come from Harar. Beyond the history of the collection, a palaeographic study could certainly tell if these two books were copied in Ethiopia.

It is not the first instance of a countermark in different languages. Waltz mentions two in Nigeria, one in Arabic and Western letters, the other with Arabic letters but in Hawsa language[74]. According to Walz, this last example corroborates the production of a paper to satisfy a given market.

For type D paper, one can suppose it being in use starting from 1883-1895.

Posterity & longevity of Abū Ṧubbāk paper
Type E. Abū Ṧubbāk papers from the souk

This is a non-watermarked paper, of a yellowy colour (ill. 11). Original sheet dimensions are 50 x 35 cm. Chains are perpendicular to the sheet, taken in its length. The distance between the inner edges of two chains is 2.3 cm. The spacing covered by 20 laid lines, measured from the outer edges, represents between 3.2 and 3.3 cm.


A laboratory analysis of the type of paper pulp and its components was carried out on a sheet bought in the souk in Zabīd, at the beginning of the year 2000's. The paper was produced from a bleached chemical pulp from resiniferous trees (Scotch pine) but mostly from deciduous trees (birch, poplar, hornbeam…). No presence of annual plant fibres was detected. Minor damage to the fibrous walls, as well as few fine elements, likens it to industrial pulp in the 20th c.[75].

From the Circulation of Paper to a Few Thoughts on Trade:
An Abū Ṧubbāk / Abū Ṧibbāk / Abū Ṧubbāk ‘Zone’?

No “Abū Ṧubbāk” was recorded in Egypt by Walz, who based his study on a survey of both archive documents and codices. However, some doubt remains as his study runs until 1880, a date he highlights as a turning point in the balance of power for the Egypt-Sudan region[76]. He notes one “abu shibbāk” for Eastern Sudan, at the end of the 20th c., which is beyond the use range we have worked out. Out of the 50 manuscripts of the Archinard collection (French National Library), coming from West Africa, 24 were written on watermarked papers, over a timespan going from the 18th c. to the first half of the 20th c. None of these correspond to the paper studied here[77]. Lastly, in Nigeria, the watermarked papers containing Arabic are those described by Walz[78]. Needless to say, research in Northern Africa needs to be carried out.

So, to this day, Abū Ṧubbāk paper has been confirmed in manuscript codices and printed books in Yemen, manuscript codices in Ethiopia, as well as the far East, in manuscripts in Arabic. Yet, the spread of knowledge, scholars and manuscripts between these various countries for the period which concerns us, are documented facts, even if the spread of knowledge between Yemen and Ethiopia is a little-known subject for the moment: Ethiopian scholars went to Yemen to study, especially in Zabīd[79]; Yemeni sheikhs settled in Ethiopia; Sayyid families, therefore scholars, from Hadramawt, emigrated to Indonesia and Malaysia, at least as of the 17th c.[80]. Between Yemen and Ethiopia, manuscripts did circulate but, quite possibly, so did paper too. Regarding Indonesia, the presence of manuscripts from Hadramawt cannot be discarded[81]. Piecing together the history of libraries and manuscripts, as well as a stronger statistical basis reflecting the presence of such a paper in Ethiopian codices should tell us more. The same issues arise with the papers used in the manuscripts kept at the Riyadha mosque, in Lamu (Kenya), as these manuscripts are evidence of links to Yemen[82].

For the moment, among these areas, the most likely centre for the import of this paper is Yemen.

As for type D, only two occurrences of it have been spotted, and both only in Ethiopia.

Production and trade:
Towards an Ottoman Paper vs. Italian Paper Competition

 We have drawn up 2 groups of “Abū ubbāk”papers, the Abū ubbāk per seand the Abū ibbāk/Abū ubbāk which would point to two distinct production locations, according to our hypothesis.

The first group, comprising types A and B, have a countermark in osmanlı, mentioning Istanbul. Type A.2. was used to make codices from 1846-1847 to 1936-1937, i.e. a use range of almost one century, then was followed by type A.1., for a period going from 1926-1927 –1912?– to 1956, in Yemen, with possibly a peak in 1345/1926-1927 for Ethiopia. Type B was reported in 1312/1894-95 (maybe until 1942?), this one was a type of continous paper made industrially for printing.

The second group, comprising types C and D, have a countermark in Arabic and do not mention Istanbul anymore. As the countermark on type D refers to the house of Galvani, it may have been used as of 1883-1895. The information given by Walz quoting Shuqayr, who mentions a paper called “abū šibbāk” among European imports to the Sudan at the end of the 19th c., does add up, even if the vocalisation of the šin in type D is not with an i, but most likely with a u, as in “Abū ubbāk”, “abū šibbāk” corresponding more to type C. Finally, for Yemen, the use range for type C, present at a later date, stretches from 1937-1938 to 1942-1943. We may thus assert that type D was made in Friuli, but the maker of type C has yet to be identified.


The primary interest of this work is to show that there are several papers of the Abū Ṧubbāk type. The identification and classification of the examples known to date provide a means of more accurately dating and locating the production of manuscripts in which they were used.

But their documentary value for understanding the paper trade along the shores of the Red Sea during the 19th and early 20th centuries is also considered. It is with the aim of systematically treating the paper of manuscripts itself as a source, to clarify the methodology to follow and to demonstrate its epistemological interest.

From a historical perspective, this material provides a glimpse of the continuing competition in the Yemeni and Ethiopian markets from the mid-nineteenth century to the beginning of the 20th century between a Turkish manufacturer (probably private), and the famous Galvani, who dominated the market in Egypt and Sudan during the 19th century.

Although the question of imitation or borrowing of watermarks by Italians and Turkish producers has been raised, particularly by Turkish historians, the ‘traditional’ sources referred to have so far provided no proof. According to our analysis, type D paper provides an example of Italians borrowing from Turks (the countermark in Arabic), after the probable borrowing of the Italian watermark (the shield and crescent) by the Turkish.

Abu Ṧubbāk papers appear, though not exclusively, to be an excellent marker of the emigration or movement of the Yemeni population, who were often both scholars and merchants. The fact that the name “Abu Ṧubbāk” became a generic term indicates the affection towards this paper by those who use it. The routes of goods and those of men (scholars) overlap in this case, but a map of the circulation of papers reflecting people's customs and human preferences or tastes also calls for the attention of researchers. Because it is not certain that these routes always overlap.

It is hoped that the statistical information on which these findings rest may be expanded in the near future and that, in general, this type of study will proliferate.

[1] This study would never have been possible without the support of the French Centre for Archaeology and Social Sciences (CEFAS, Ṣan‘ā’, Program for safeguarding the manuscripts from the libraries in Zabīd since 2001; of the Hā’il Sa‘īd Foundation and the goodwill of its director, Fayṣal Sa‘īd Fārih (Ta‘izz, October 2010 mission); of the French Centre for Ethiopian Studies (CFEE) and the Institute for Ethiopian Studies (IES, Addis Ababa, December 2010 mission); of the Harar Centre at the Sherif Harar City Museum and Abdullah Sherif (December 2010); of Research Unit 7192 (UMR) at the CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific research, n.d.t., laboratory analysis of the papers, November 2011). A preliminary version of the article was presented at the MESA meeting of 2011 in Washington D.C., thanks again to the support of UMR 7192.

[2] Terence Walz, “The Paper Trade of Egypt and the Sudan in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries”, in M. W. Daly, Modernization in the Sudan. Essays in Honor of Richard Hill, New York, Lilian Barber Press, 1985, 29-48; ibid., “The Paper Trade of Egypt and the Sudan in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries and its Re-export to the Bilād as-Sūdān”, in Graziano Krätli & Ghislaine Lydon (ed.), The Trans-Saharan Book Trade. Manuscript Culture, Arabic Literacy and Intellectual History in Muslim Africa, Leiden/Boston, E. J. Brill, “Library of the Written Word” 8, “The Manuscript World” 3, 2011, 73-107, which is an updated version of the preceding article; a few examples of these watermarks are reproduced in Adrian Brockett, “Aspects of the Physical Transmission of the Qur'ān in 19th-century Sudan: Script, decoration, binding and paper”, Manuscripts of the Middle East 2 (1987), 45-67.

[3] This is based on our own observations, in the case of Yemen in Zabīd and at the Hā’il Sa‘īd Foundation in Ta‘izz and, for Ethiopia, in Addis Ababa and in Harar City.

[4] For Nigeria, cf. T. Walz, “The Paper Trade of Egypt and the Sudan in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries”, op. cit., 1985, 41-42; ibid., 2011, 99-100; watermarked papers prior the 20th c. which Michaelle Biddle (Wesleyan University Library) managed to see are either Italian (Lombardie-Venetie and Fabriano) or French (personal communication). For West Africa, the Archinard Collection (Fonds Archinard): N. Tapiero, “A propos d'un manuscrit arabe d'origine soudanaise deposé à la Bibliothèque nationale de Paris”, Research Bulletin of the Center of Arabic Documentation, University of Ibadan, vol. 4, Dec. 1968, 26-40, and more thorough, Natalia Viola, “Inventaire des papiers filigranés des manuscrits arabes provenant de l'Afrique de l'Ouest”, soon to be published in the proceedings of the Conference in Madrid “Codicologia y Historia del Libro manuscrito en caracteres arabes,” organised by Francois Déroche, Nuria Martinez de Castilla and Francis Richard.

[5] In the case of wallpaper, see the various articles in the themed issue “Technique et Papier Peint” of the Bulletin de la Société Industrielle de Mulhouse 4/1991. For the industrial making of paper in Europe and in the United States, see Dard Hunter, Papermaking. The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft, New York, Dover 1978 [repub. of the second, revised and enlarged 1947 ed.]; for France in particular, Louis André, "L'invention de la machine à papier et les débuts du papier continu en France", Bulletin de la Société Industrielle de Mulhouse, op. cit., 87-99.

[6] Cf. Thomas Kuhn's conclusions in Shaping Ottoman Rule in Yemen, 1872-1919, New York, New York University, 2005.

[7] Examples of non-watermarked paper, made in India throughout the period, can be found in Neeta Premchand, Off the Deckle Edge. A paper-making journey through India, Bombay, the Ankur Project, 1995. An article describing an example of watermarked paper, the countermark of which refers to Bombay, is currently being prepared by the author. See also Dard Hunter, Paper-making by hand in India, New York, 1939.

[8] T. Walz, “The Paper Trade of Egypt and the Sudan in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries”, op. cit., 38; ibid., 2011, 91.

[9] Genevieve Humbert, “Le manuscrit arabe et ses papiers”, in G. Humbert, La tradition manuscrite en écriture arabe, Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée, 99- 100, 2002, 55-77, 67.

[10] Şinasi Tekin, Eski turklerde, Yazı, Kağıt, Kitap ve Kağıt Damgaları [Script, paper, books and watermarks time of the old Turks], Istanbul, Eren Yayıncılık ve Kitapcılık, 1993, 90-91, mentioned by G. Humbert, ibid. More examples can be found in Veslovod Nikolaev, Les filigranes de l'Empire ottoman [orginal title in Cyrillic], vol. 1, Sofia, 1954, n° 938, years 1807/1808; 944, 1808; 945, 1808; 946, 1808; 947, 1808; 977, 1812.

[11] Anne Regourd with the collaboration of Hélène C. David and of ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Ahmar, Catalogue cumulé des bibliothèques de manuscrits de Zabīd. I. Bibliothèque ‘Abd al-Raħman al-Ħadhrami, fasc. 1, Les papiers filigranés, Ṣan‘ā’, Centre Français d’Archéologie et de Sciences Sociales, Fonds Social de Développement, 2008, mss m/ḥ 1, pl. 001-003, and m/ḥ 17, pl. 126. See Maria Luisa Russo, "Il fondo yemenita della BANLC tra codicologia, conservazione e restauro", in Valentaina Sagaria Rossi (dir.), Libri Islamici in controluce. Ricerche, modelli, esperienze conservative, Rome, Università degli Studi di Roma “Tor Vergata”, 119-146, 127.

[12] Osman Ersoy, XVIII. ve XIX. Yüzyıllarda Türkiye'de kāğıt [Paper in Turkey in the 18th & 19th Centuries]. Ankara Üniversitesi Basımevi, Ankara, 1963; Mehmet Ali Kāğıtçı, Historique de l'industrie papetière en Turquie, preface by Prof. Marcel Aribert, Grafik Sanatlar Matbaasi, Heybeliada, Istanbul, 1976; Mübahat S. Kütükoglu, Osmanli Belgelerinin Dili (Diplomatik) [The Language of Ottoman Documents, diplomatic], Istanbul, Kubbealti Akademisi Kültür ve San'at Vakfi, 1994, 15-36. My heartfelt thanks to Nicolas Vatin (EPHE), Frederic Hitzel (CNRS-EHESS) and Orhan Elmaz (Institute of Oriental Studies, University of Vienna) who helped me find my bearings with texts in Turkish and to F. Hitzel for his thorough proofreading of the overview of Turkish papermaking for the given period.

[13] As they also used to make wrapping paper, cigarette paper (e.g. at the Hamidiye Fabrikası), as well as paper for bank bills, lottery tickets...

[14] Cf. G. Humbert, note 8.

[15] According to O. Ersoy, op. cit., 48-51, the paper mill in Izmir was established in 1843 and remained active ten years or so.

[16] See some images of the remains of the building here:;; and also of the machines, (websites checked in October  2012).

[17] See M. A. Kāğıtçı, Historique de l'industrie papetière en Turquie, op. cit., 1976, respectively, 10-11, 11, 31, 34, 35, and O. Ersoy, XVIII. ve XIX. Yüzyıllarda Türkiye'de kāğıt, op. cit., 30-36, 36-48, 48-51, 51-53.

[18] Zeki Arıkan, “Izmit Kāğıt Fabrikası ile Ilgili Belgeler” [Documents on the Paper Mill in Izmit], TTK Belgeler, XVIII/22 (1997), 111-158.

[19] See for example, O. Ersoy, XVIII. ve XIX. Yüzyıllarda Türkiye'de kāğıt, op. cit., 34.

[20] This is the kind of work Mehmet Ali Kāğıtçı has started carrying out, in his previously mentioned publication, Historique de l'industrie papetière en Turquie, 1976.

[21] Cf. Anne Regourd, “Les routes commerciales entre Zabīd et l'Europe : les papiers filigranés de fonds manuscrits de Zabīd (Yémen, fin 18e-milieu 20e s.)”, in R. Traini, Convegno Storia e cultura dello Yemen in età islamica con particolare riferimento al periodo rasūlide (Roma, 30-31 octobre 2003), Rome, Bardi ed., 2006, 173-198, including the bibliography.

[22] This has been observed for Persian manuscripts where the storing period for a paper can be between 3 to 10 years (Francis Richard, personal communication).

[23] Op. cit. footnote 21.

[24] V. Nikolaev, Les filigranes de l’Empire ottoman, op. cit.; Asparoukh Velkov & Stephane Andreev, Filigranes dans les documents ottomans, I. Trois croissants, Sofia, « Bibliothèque Cyrille et Méthode”, 1983; Asparoukh Velkov, Les filigranes dans les documents ottomans. Divers types d’images, Sofia, éd. “Textes - A. Trayanov”, 2005; Stefan Andreev, Les filigranes dans les documents ottomans. Couronne, Sofia, éd. “Textes - A. Trayanov”, 2007.

[25] A. Velkov & S. Andreev, Filigranes dans les documents ottomans, I. Trois croissants, op. cit., 14.

[26] A. Velkov personal communication. In the introduction of their respective works, Velkov and Andreev have always mentioned a time period going from the 16th c. to the 18th c.

[27] Ghislaine Lydon, On Trans-Saharan Trails. Islamic Law, Trade Networks, and Cross-Cultural Exchange in Nineteenth-Century Western Africa, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2009, 102sq.

[28] G. Humbert, “A la recherche de manuscrits dans les bibliothèques privées du Yémen : première mission à Zabīd”, Chroniques yéménites 96-97, 1997, 32-35, 34; also G. Humbert, “Le manuscrit arabe et ses papiers", op. cit., 67.

[29] Letters are punctuated and the vocalization is that which appears on the paper. The wāw vowel is placed between the wāw of Abū and the šīn of Ṧubbāk, but it would be more in keeping with Arabic writing to consider it part of the first word. The vocalization of Ṧubbāk can be explained by referring to usage: that is how that paper is referred to nowadays in Yemen, as will be explained hereafter.

[30] Noha Sadek, “Zabīd”, Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2d ed.; Anne Regourd, “Les manuscrits des bibliothèques privées de Zabīd : enjeu d’un catalogage”, Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 32(2002), 247-257; for places of learning, see Abd al-Raħman al-Ħadhrami, Zabīd, Masājiduhā wa-madārisuhā al-ilmiyya fī al-tārīkh, Damascus, CEFAS, IFEAD, 2000, and Anne Regourd, “Zabīd : des lettrés et des manuscrits”, in Guillaume Charloux, Jérémie Schiettecatte (éd.), Quarante ans d’archéologie française au Yémen, Sanaa, CEFAS, soon to be published.

[31] Cf. A. Regourd, “Les routes commerciales entre Zabīd et l'Europe : les papiers filigranés de fonds manuscrits de Zabīd (Yémen, fin 18e-milieu 20e s.)”, op. cit., 2006, 173-198.

[32] The size of the sheet is missing. Spacing between two chain lines is approximately 2.6 cm and that between 20 laid lines, between 2.7 and 2.8 cm.

[33] Manuscripts m/ḥ 1 and 17 from ‘Abd al-Raħman al-Ħadhrami's library were catalogued, in A. Regourd (dir.), CCBMZ, I, fasc. 1, 2006. The watermarked papers were reproduced in: A. Regourd with the collaboration of H. C. David and of ‘Abd al-R. al-Ahmar, CCBMZ, I. fasc. 1, Les papiers filigranés, 2008, manuscripts m/ḥ 1, pl. 001-003, and m/ḥ 17, pl. 126.

[34] A. Regourd (dir.), CCBMZ, I., fasc. 2, 2008; the watermark catalogue in fasc. 2 is yet to be published. Free-hand sketches of watermarked papers, on which the numbers are based, were carried out in Zabīd by ‘Abd al-Raħman al-Ahmar, a member of the Program for Safeguarding Zabīd's Manuscript Libraries.

[35] A. Regourd (dir.), CCBMZ, I. 3, soon to be published, along with its watermark catalogue. Again, free-hand sketches of watermarked papers, on which the numbers are based, were carried out by ‘Abd al-Raħman al-Ahmar.

[36] Mounir Arbach and Muhammad Jazim, “Mafākhir Qahtān wa-l-Yaman: une partie du volume III de l’Iklīl d’al-Hamdānī ?”, Chroniques du manuscrit au Yémen 4 (juin 2007),

[37] Manuscripts mostly from the neighbouring. The figure, 334 manuscripts as of October 2010, was communicated to us by the foundation's chief librarian, based on an electronic inventory, kept up-to-date. To have an idea of the potential increase in the collection over a year, the library's inventory, put online in February 2009, in the Chroniques du manuscrit au Yémen 7, counted 304 manuscripts (

[38] The colophon in m/ḥ 17 states “Masjid al-Aḥmar fī madīnat Zabīd” as the place of the copy, cf. A. Regourd (dir.), CCBMZ, I. 1. To know more about the location of this mosque, see A. Regourd, “Zabīd : des lettrés et des manuscrits”, op. cit., and the map of Zabīd, soon to be published.

[39] Na‘um Shuqayr, Gughrafiyya wa-tarih al-Sudan, Beirut, 1967, 177, based on T. Walz, “The Paper Trade of Egypt and the Sudan in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries”, op. cit., 1985, 39-40; ibid., 2011, 96. Cited by Jonathan M. Bloom, “Paper in Sudanic Africa”, in Shamil Jeppie, Souleymane Bachir Diagne (eds), The Meanings of Timbuktu, Hsrc Press, Cape Town, Codesria, Dakar, 2008, chapter 4, 45-57 + 1 pl., “At the end of the nineteenth century, a thick brown (perhaps cream colored) paper called abu shibbāk, presumably referring to its weave or even texture, was also imported from Europe”, 54.

[40] Russel Jones,

[41] Numerous works deal with the emigration of Hadrami scholars to Indonesia, in general, we will just cite here: Robert Bertram Serjeant, The Sayyids of Hadhramaut, Londres, School of Oriental and African Studies, 1967; id., “History and Historiography of Hadhramaut”, Bulletin of School of Oriental and African Studies XXV, 1962, 239-471, numerous references, of which 255; various articles in Ursula Freitag and William G. Clarence-Smith, Ħadhrami Traders, Scholars and Statesmen in the Indian Ocean, 1750s-1960s, Leiden, New York, Cologne, E. J. Brill, 1997. Regarding North Sumatra, U. Freitag mentions the case, considered exemplary, of four Hadrami Sayyid-s from Tarīm, who emigrated to the province of Aceh, where used to be the Regency of Aceh Besar, in the late-18th c., “Reflections on the Longevity of the Ħadhrami diaspora in the Indian Ocean”, in Ahmed Ibrahim Abushouk & Hassan Ahmed Ibrahim, Ħadhrami Diaspora in Southeast Asia. Identity Maintenance or Assimilation? Leiden/Boston, E. J. Brill, 2009, 17-32, especially pp. 23sq. and note 18. Abdul Raħman Tang Abdullah, “Arab Ħadhramis in Malaysia: their origins and assimilation in Malay society”, in Ahmed Ibrahim Abushouk & Hassan Ahmed Ibrahim, Ħadhrami Diaspora, op. cit., 45-56, pp. 47sq., insists, based on the case of Malaysia in the late 17th c., on the dual activities of the Sayyid-s from Hadramawt, carrying out business by relying on their trade networks, on the one hand, and claiming their religious role, on the other hand: we thus have a potential circulation network for books, lasting till the 18thc. and 19th c.

[42] Addis Ababa, collections of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, 4 occurrences out of 65 manuscripts examined, i.e. MS 265, 4558 (1), 4574 (18), 5505; Harar City, Sherif Harar city Museum, ‘Abdullah Sharif's private library, 5 occurrences out of 16 manuscripts the paper of which was examined, the collection representing as much as ca. 1,000 manuscripts, according to its owner (see ill. 1bis). Harar is a centre for copying Arab manuscripts, cf. R. S. O’Fahey, Arabic Literature of Africa. Volume 3 – Fascicule A. The Writings of the Muslim Peoples of Northeastern Africa, Leiden/Boston, E. J. Brill, “Handbook of Oriental Studies”, section 1, The Near and Middle East, vol. 13, 2003, 20, on the collection of Arab manuscripts found in Harar.

[43] Mentioned by G. Humbert, “Le manuscrit arabe et ses papiers”, op. cit., 67.

[44] G. Humbert, ibid., 67 and note 31, based on Faruk Bilici.

[45] We have personally observed numerous examples, which were not always noted; here are a few references, ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Ħadhrami's library, m/ḥ 7, m/ḥ 50; Ṣan‘ā’, Dār al-makhṭūṭāt, ms. 2774, ‘ulūm khafiyya 22, M. S. al-Malīh and A. M. ‘Aysawī, Fihris makhṭūṭāt al-Maktaba al-gharbiyya bi-al-Jāmi‘ al-kabīr bi-San‘ā', Alexandria, s. d., 432, described in Anne Regourd, Images de djinns et exorcisme dans le Mandal al-sulaymani”, with text edition, and translation, in A. Caiozzo, J.-P. Boudet, N. Weill-Parot (ed.), Autour de Picatrix : Images et magie, Proceedings of the International Congress, Institut national d’histoire de l’art, Paris, 2007, Paris, Champion, 2011, 254.

[46] A paper bearing a watermark, perhaps in the shape of a Qur’ānic tablet containing a text in Arabic script but in Hawsa language (Ajami), saying: “Ankuri mangani dunya”, and known to Walz, was the best paper available on the souk, according to Nigerian scholars: it came to be, as for the Abu Ṧubbāk, the general name for good quality paper, see Ismaheel Akinade Jimoh: “The art of Qur'anic penmanship and illumination among Muslim scholars in southwestern Nigeria,” in Fahmida Suleman, Word of God, Art of Man. The Qur’an and its Creative Expressions, London, Oxford University Press in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2007, 175-189, 178. The same evolution from the name of a brand to a generic product can be observed for other products: in French, a “Frigidaire” refers to a refrigerator –“Frigidaire” being a brand– or, in English, a “hoover” refers to a vacuum cleaner, be it a Hoover vacuum cleaner or otherwise.

[47] See A. Velkov & S. Andreev, Watermarks in Ottoman Documents, I. Three Crescents (Filigranes dans les documents ottomans, I. Trois croissants), Sofia, Bibliothèque Nationale “Cyrille et Méthode”, Bulgarian Archaeological Commission, Oriental section, 1983, entirely devoted to this motif, as its title indicates.

[48] Same observation as in note 29.

[49] Reproduced in the CCBMZ, I. 1, Les papiers filigranés, see under no. 003.

[50] See CCBMZ, I. 1. Les papiers filigranés, see under no. 126 and 127. No mention to double chain lines means only that it was not observed.

[51] The date is written in the direction of Arab script, from right to left, contrary to usage, i.e. 1, then 3, then 4 and finally 5.

[52] See note in the online Catalogue of the manuscripts of the BnF,

[53] Cf. Anne Regourd, “Tasliya”, Muhammad in History, Thought, and Culture: An Encyclopedia of the Prophet of God, Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, forthcoming.

[54] See again the online catalogue of the French national Library (BnF), For a general presentation of the Yemeni manuscripts part of the Collection Colin, see Marie-Geneviève Guesdon, “La Collection Colin à la Bibliothèque nationale de France”, Chroniques du manuscript au Yémen 15 (janv. 2013), forthcoming.

[55] The oblique lines were added here to indicate a new line.

[56] No mention to double chain lines means only that it was not observed.

[57] T. Walz, “The Paper Trade of Egypt and the Sudan in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries”, op. cit., 38; ibid., 2011, 93.

[58] I would like to thank Jean-Louis Estève (Paris, Ecole Estienne) for his comments on this paper.

[59] Fihrist Kutub al-Khizāna al-Mutawakkiliyya al-‘Āmira bi-al-Jāmi‘ al-Muqaddas bi-San‘ā’ al-Maḥmmiyya, Ṣan‘ā’, Wizārat al-Ma‘ārif al-Mutawakkiliyya, 1312/1894-95.
فهرست كتب الخزانة المتوكلية العامرة بالجامع المقدس بصنعاء المحمية، صنعاء، وزارة المعارف المتوكلية، .1361/1942

[60] The whole study was carried out on my personal copy.

[61] Dard Hunter, Papermaking. The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft, New York, Dover 1978 [repub. of the second, revised and enlarged 1947 ed.], 400. See also Firmin Didot, Le Centenaire de la machine à papier, Paris, 1900, which gives the credit to a factory worker, Louis Nicolas Robert (1761-1828), an employee at a paper mill in Essonne, near Paris, the invention of continuous paper into “mechanical paper”, p. 30.

[62] The laboratory analysis was carried out by the INP-Pagora in Grenoble in November 2011, thanks to the financial support of UMR 7192 (CNRS).

[63] M. A. Kāğıtçı, Historique de l'industrie papetière en Turquie, op. cit., 34-35.

[64] Again, letters are punctuated and the vocalization present was reproduced.

[65] CCBMZ, I. 2, op. cit.

[66] CCBMZ, I. 2, op. cit.

[67] See note 36.

[68] Again, letters are punctuated and the vocalization present was reproduced.

[69] The information given on the card bearing that number doesn't correspond.

[70] Cf. Gilberto Ganzer, Andrea Galvani, 1797-1855 : cultura e industria nell’Ottocento a Pordenone, Pordenone, Studio Tesi, 1994, particularly the family tree.

[71] E. Heawood, Watermarks, mainly of the 17th and 18th centuries, Hilversum, Paper Publication Society, “Monumenta Chartae Papyraceae Historiarn IIlustrantia”, 1, 1950, 860.

[72] Cf. also for Yemen: Marie-Geneviève Guesdon, “Manuscrits de provenance yéménite donnés à la Bibliothèque nationale par Pierre Bardey en 1930”, Chroniques yéménites 13 (2005), 59-72, 67 and 68; Egypt: T. Walz, “The Paper Trade of Egypt and the Sudan in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries”, op. cit., 29sq. ; ibid., 2011, 75sq.; Sudan: T. Walz, ibid., 39-41; ibid., 2011, 95-98; A. Brockett, “Aspects of the physical transmission of the Qur’ān”, op. cit., 45-67.

[73] Cf. G. Ganzer, Andrea Galvani, op. cit.

[74] Cf. T. Walz, ibid., 42, quoted by J. Bloom, op. cit., 54; Walz, 2011, 103-104.

[75] Laboratory analyses at the INP-Pagora, Grenoble, November 2011, carried out with the support of UMR 7192, CNRS.

[76] T. Walz, ibid., 29 and 43, notes 4 and 6, where he indicates he consulted, in Cairo, 276 archive volumes at the Maṣlaḥat al-Šarh al-‘Aqārī, as well as 60 manuscripts from the National Library, Dār al-kutub; ibid., 2011, 73-74 and notes 8, p. 76, and 12, p. 77-78.

[77] Cf. N. Viola, op. cit.

[78] T. Walz, “The Paper Trade of Egypt and the Sudan in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries”, op. cit., 41-42; ibid., 2011, 103-104.

[79] See the exemplary bibliography of Shaykh al-Asad, who was originally form al-Ūsī in Ethiopia, and settled in Zabīd, in “Šaykh ‘Ulamā’ Zabīd – al-šaykh al-‘allāma Asad Ḥamza b. ‘Abd al-Qādir al-Ūsī”, Majallat al-Jaḏwa 7, 1425/2004, 99-103.

[80] See note 41. This collective publication contains other articles, of a more monographic nature, which comprise family trees leading back to Hadrami Sayyid families.

[81] Cf. note 40.

[82] Anne K. Bang (Bergen University) is in charge of cataloguing the collection. To this day, only papers originating from Europe have been documented.

Source note:
This was published in:
Research Articles and Studies in honour of Iraj Afshar,2018, Al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation, London, UK, p 195-228.