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Qur'anic Studies Occaisonal Lecture
The Birmingham-Cambridge Qur’an Palimpsest: Rumours and Studies
Alba Fadeli, University of Birmingham
In 1914 Agnes Smith Lewis and Alphonse Mingana published an edition of the lower text of a few Qur’anic leaves from the palimpsest of the Cambridge University Library Or. 1287. Curiously enough the text they had edited obscured the manuscript text itself. After the publication of the edition, this received little or no attention due to the fact that for twenty years the manuscript was thought to be lost. In fact on the outbreak of the First World War it did not come back from Leipzig, where it had been displayed during an international exhibition of books. The story of the lost and neglected manuscript is interesting and provides clues for tracing another fragment once belonging to the same Qur’anic leaves. This matching fragment is MS Mingana Chr.Arab.Add.150 in the University Library of Birmingham, although until two years ago it was hidden, having been wrongly catalogued as an ‘unknown text’ and, contradictorily, a ‘Christian Arabic manuscript’. This paper presents the story of the manuscript, the rumours about its content and also the reason why the 1914 edition requires further investigation. It also considers the technologies used to read its lower text, both one century ago and today.