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Encyclopaedia of Islam Three (EI3)

The Third Edition is an entirely new work  that maintains the previous editions’ comprehensiveness. EI3 draws on a wider range of disciplines and methodologies and exploits recent technological advances to offer optimal accessibility to the most up-to-date scholarship on all aspects of Islam. 
Publisher’s Introduction: In the Spring of 2007 the first instalment of EI3 will appear, exactly 100 years after the first printed articles of EI1 were presented to the international scholarly community. The Third Edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam will maintain the high standard of scholarship of its predecessor by inviting leading scholars to contribute state-of-the-art material, along with up-to-date bibliographies. At the same time the Encyclopaedia of Islam three will also offer more a comprehensive coverage of Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa than before. Entries on Muslim minorities all over the world will be included, and the entire 20th century will be taken into account. The wider scope of EI3 requires a different organisational structure than before. The Editorial Board of the Third Edition consists of four Executive Editors, all specialists, who have divided the encyclopaedia in 18 interconnected sections. Each section is coordinated by a Sectional Editor, who is a specialist in the field. The Sectional Editors are responsible for compiling preliminary lists of entries for EI3, finding and communicating with authors, and evaluating and editing their submissions. Some of the sections are thematic – e.g. art & architecture, music, and science –, while others cover a certain region in a specific period of time – for example, the history of Iran from 1500. The Executive Editors maintain a global overview of the project. Part of their role is to harmonize the lists of entries suggested by the sectional editors to avoid doublets and balance the various sections. The question of why EI3 starts so soon after the English version of the Second Edition was finished, is relevant here. The answer lies not in the moment EI2 was completed, but when it began. This happened in the mid-1950s, the first volume appearing in 1960. Since that time Western scholarship concerning the Islamic world has changed considerably. The social sciences have entered the field and Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978) has sparked a fierce scholarly debate about Western (re)presentations of Islam and Muslim societies – to mention only two factors. As a result of such developments in the course of the second half of the 20th century, significant parts of the first volumes of EI2 have become outdated. The texts speak for themselves. This Preview offers the entries on the Arabian Nights (‘Alf laila wa-laila’), from the three successive editions of the Encyclopaedia of Islam. This topic seems appropriate, because “the Arabian Nights [constitute] the Islamic world’s major contribution to world literature and an icon that has permeated literary imagery around the world” (Marzolph, infra, p. 30). Placed side by side these articles shed light on the evolution of Western scholarship in general. More specifically they address aspects of the oral and textual traditions in the Islamic world which continue to be relevant today. For EI1 the article ‘Alf laila wa-laila’, was written by J. Oestrup, whose monograph on the subject had appeared in Copenhagen in 1891. The opening paragraph includes the following sentences, which illustrate the scholarly discourse of the period: Like all Orientals the Arabs from the earliest times enjoyed imaginative stories. But the intellectual horizon of the true Arabs being rather narrow, the material for these entertainments was borrowed mainly from elsewhere […] The article offers a survey of the discussion among scholars about the composition and origins of the Arabian Nights during the second half of the nineteenth century, ending with a brief paragraph on the manuscript tradition. Oestrop principally addressed questions of authorship and textual analysis, devoting little attention to the stories themselves. In addition to the eight-column entry by Oestrop, the Supplement volume to the first edition has another entry on ‘Alf laila wa-laila’ too. In its 11 extra columns D.B. MacDonald described the manuscripts kept in Western libraries, providing a great number of additional bibliographical references. Information about the stories is only given when it is relevant for the manuscripts. Enno Littman’s contribution to EI2 on the Arabian Nights draws heavily on the two entries of the earlier edition. Oestrop’s questionable observations about the intellectual horizons of the Arabs, for example, were retained by Littmann. At the same time the author added important new elements, like a discussion of the various genres of stories. The entry on the Arabian Nights for EI3 has been written by Ulrich Marzolph, today’s leading scholar on the subject. This new text offers a balanced survey of all the important aspects of the Arabian Nights today, including the stories themselves, their origins, existing manuscripts, and cultural and literary impact. The article thus reflects the standard of scholarship both the Editorial Board and Brill endeavour to maintain for the Encyclopaedia of Islam Three.


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