08 October, 2009

Lyons' "The House of Wisdom"

One of the things I am finding in reading this book is that if not for the introduction of paper-making, the House may never have come to fruition. The Chinese introduced this technology to the Muslims around the year 751, according to Arab tradition (p. 57). Whether this is true or mere legend, paper-making generated a demand for the written word among the Arab elite, which in turn led to the creation of libraries or repositories in an effort to preserve these books. Lyons points out the the difference between paper-making in the Middle East and the Christian West lies in the product used: linen vs. animal skins. The Muslims proved that books lasted longer on the paper they made whereas the parchments or animal skins used in the west didn't last as long and were ultimately lost over time (p. 58).

Further reading brought me to a breakdown of what the House of Wisdom might have looked like inside. Held within were a translation bureau (as the translation movement was rampant at this time), a library and book repository, and an academy of scholars and intellectuals (p. 63). This is as far as I have gotten with my reading, which is about halfway through the book. The first two chapters focused more on the Crusades and the coming of new ideas from the East and how the Christian West responded to this new thinking.

No comments: