Evyn Kropf

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M117B Hatcher North
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
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Librarian for Near Eastern and Religious Studies; Curator, Islamic Manuscripts Collection


As librarian for Near Eastern and Religious Studies, I provide research and collection support for scholarship related to the languages and cultures of the Middle East and North Africa with an emphasis on Islamicate studies and manuscript studies (production and circulation), as well as for scholarship related to the multidisciplinary study of religion. As curator, I also assist with research and instruction related to the Library’s Islamic Manuscripts Collection, including description, locating manuscripts of interest, viewing sessions, and exhibits. 

Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in arranging an instruction / viewing session for your class or group incorporating Islamic manuscripts. Sessions may be tailored to suit your themes and learning objectives and may include hands-on exercises for deeper engagement with the material. Past sessions have addressed: sacred texts of Near Eastern religions, introduction to Islamic manuscript culture, introduction to Ottoman manuscript culture, Qur'anic transcription, illumination and illustration in Islamic manuscripts, depictions of Jerusalem in Islamic manuscripts, Ottoman-era manuscript miscellanies, handling and working with Islamic manuscripts as historical sources, and fuller, multi-session introductions to Islamic codicology and palaeography, among other topics. 


I obtained my bachelor’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and my master’s degree in Information Science with a specialization in Library and Information Services from the University of Michigan, where I also completed coursework in Arabic historiography and directed readings in classical Arabic and Ottoman Turkish. The foundations for my scholarly interest in the manuscript culture of the Islamic world were laid during the years I lived and studied the Arabic language in Amman, Jordan, and I have since trained in manuscript studies and book structures with Adam Gacek and Julia Miller.

As cataloguer for the Library’s "Collaboration in Cataloging: Islamic Manuscripts at Michigan" project (2009-2012), I led the descriptive effort which realized the detailed cataloguing of 904 codex manuscripts from the Library’s Islamic Manuscripts Collection, characterizing not only their contents (text, paratext and visual content) through transcription, notes and headings, but also their form while addressing the script and hand, structure (composition of gatherings, sewing, and cover), dimensions, writing surface, layout and other physical aspects. Particular attention was given to the evidence for the history of the manuscript as attested in manuscript notes and in changes to structure through addition or repair.

My research interests include Islamic codicology and manuscript culture with a focus on bookmaking (specifically writing material and structural repairs), reading and collecting practices, as well as the use of pictograms and other visual content in Sufistic cultures of knowledge transmission, manuscript cataloguing and digital mediation of cultural heritage.

Recent publications and presentations 

  • "Material Qualities of a Survey of Papers from the Islamic Manuscript Collection at the University of Michigan," invited presentation, Traditions of Papermaking in the Islamic World (Symposium), The British Library, London, UK, 27 March 2015
  • "Introduction to Course Coverage," "Introduction to the Study of Islamic Papers / Papermaking," "Sources for the Study of Islamic Papers / Papermaking," "Course Readings," course lectures, Traditions of Papermaking in the Islamic World (overall course organization and instruction with Cathleen A. Baker, Timothy Barrett, Katharina Siedler, and colleagues from The Islamic Manuscript Association), The British Library, London, UK, 23-27 March 2015
  • "Collaboration in Cataloging: Sourcing Knowledge From Near and Far for a Challenging Collection." In Description: Innovative Practices for Archives and Special Collections, Ed. Kate Theimer (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014): 99-114.

  • "From Eye to XRF: Material Investigation of the Islamic Manuscript Heritage," invited lecture, Introducing Islamic Manuscripts Seminar Series, Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, 5 February 2014
  • "Will that surrogate do? Reflections on digitally mediated collaborative description for Islamic manuscripts at the University of Michigan," invited presentation, 6th Annual Lawrence J. Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age, Philadelphia, PA, 21-23 November 2013.
  • (with Mark Muehlhausler) "MELA Committee on Cataloging (ConC) Manuscript Cataloguing Workshop," invited workshop delivered at the Middle East Librarians Association Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA, 8-10 October 2013.
  • (with Cathleen A. Baker) "A Conservative Tradition? Arab Papers of the 12th-17th Centuries from the Islamic Manuscripts Collection at the University of Michigan." Journal of Islamic Manuscripts 4, 1 (2013): 1-48.
  • "Historical Repair, Recycling and Recovering Phenomena in the Islamic Bindings of the University of Michigan Library: Exploring the Codicological Evidence." In Suave Mechanicals: Essays on the History of Bookbinding Volume 1, Ed. Julia Miller (Ann Arbor, MI: The Legacy Press, 2013): 1-41.
  • "Manuscript Studies in the Digital Environment: Islamic Manuscripts at Michigan," accepted paper delivered at the Middle East Librarians Association Annual Meeting, Denver, CO, 15-17 November 2012.
  • (with Cathleen A. Baker) "Arab papers of the 12th–17th centuries in the Islamic Manuscripts Collection at the University of Michigan: a survey of material properties in their historical and codicological context with implications for their conservation," accepted paper delivered at The Eighth Islamic Manuscript Conference: The Science of Manuscripts; Manuscripts of Science, Queens’ College, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, 9–11 July 2012.
  • "Within the online library catalogue and beyond: Islamic Manuscripts at Michigan," invited presentation delivered at the COMSt Workshop: The electronic revolution? The impact of the digital on cataloguing, Copenhagen, Denmark, 7–8 June 2012.
  • "The Yemeni Manuscripts of the Yahuda Collection at the University of Michigan: Provenance and Acquisition." Chroniques du manuscrit au Yémen no 13 (janvier 2012).