D.I.Y. Instructions and Early Arabic Printing Featured in Exhibits

Two new exhibitions — one exploring the introduction of the printing press in the Arab world and the other featuring items with “do it yourself” instructions — are now on view at Sterling Memorial Library, 120 High St.

“Early Arabic Printing”

“Early Arabic Printing: Movable Type & Lithographs,” a new exhibit located across from the stack elevators, explores the history of printed Arabic books and the gradual introduction of the printing press and printing techniques in the Arab world.

The first Arabic book printed using movable type was published in Fano, Italy, in 1514, and presses supported by the Catholic Church subsequently printed books for the benefit of the Arabic-speaking Christians in the Ottoman Empire. Over succeeding decades, religious and secular authorities in the Arab world sought to suppress presses over fears that printers might tamper with sacred religious texts or publish seditious literature. While presses were established in Aleppo (Syria) and Constantinople in the early years of the 18th century, it was only after Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798 that the printing using movable type was widely adopted in the Near East.

The books displayed in the exhibit are drawn from the Yale Library’s Near East Collection. Many volumes were printed using movable type, while others were printed using lithography, a technique invented at the end of the 18th century.

Lithography is based on the chemical repellence of oil and water. Designs or text are drawn or painted with greasy ink or crayons on specially prepared stone. The stone is moistened with water, which the stone accepts in areas not covered by the crayon. An oily ink, applied with a roller, adheres only to the drawing and is repelled by the wet parts of the stone. The print is then made by pressing paper against the inked area.

The exhibit will run until June 30.


“D.I.Y.: Instructions, Directions, Rules and Recipes from Manuscripts and Ar­chives,” features items which explain how to do things.

Taken from a range of manuscript collections and from the University Archives, the directions cover academic grading and testing, proper behavior in the dorms, knitting, childrearing, traveling abroad, office filing, using gas masks, and a supposedly guaranteed gambling system, among other activities.

The exhibit is on view in the Memorabilia Room in Sterling Memorial Library. It will run until May 15.

Both exhibitions are free and open to the public. Sterling Memorial Library is open 8:30 a.m.-5:45 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Saturday, and noon-5:45 p.m. Sunday; the Memoriabilia Room is open 8:30 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Monday-Friday.

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