In Middle Eastern history, the printing press has been both over- and under-assigned significance as an agent of social change. Hala Auji’s Printing Arab Modernity: Book Culture and the American Press in Nineteenth-Century Beirut
(Brill, 2016) is not only a history of the American Protestant mission’s Arabic press in Beirut, which printed books for Ottoman readers during the 19th century, but a window into the world of Arabic printing at large. Auji uses art history to chart the transition between manuscripts and printed books, using a deep appreciation for Islamic art and book-production to highlight rupture and continuity. Text and non-textual elements are used to tell a story that was not local simply to Beirut, but had connections to the entire region and the development of printing in Arabic-language script at large. Part book-history, part art history, part intellectual history, Printing Arab Modernity
ebbs between lithography and typography to tell an essential narrative of modern Middle Eastern history.
is an assistant professor of art history in the Department of Fine Arts and Art History at the American University of Beirut (AUB). She holds a PhD in art history from Binghamton University, State University of New York, an MA in Art Criticism & Theory from Art Center College of Design, and a BFA in graphic design from the American University of Beirut. Her research interests include: Arabic book and print culture, 19th-century Islamic art and architecture and the| history of modern science in the Islamic world, amongst many more. She can also be found at https://www.halaauji.net/
Nadirah Mansour is a graduate student at Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies working on the global intellectual history of the Arabic-language press. She tweets @NAMansour26 and produces another Middle-East and North Africa-related podcast: Reintroducing.