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A History of the Encyclopaedia of Islam

By Peri Bearman


Peri Bearman, who retired as associate director of the Islamic Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School, is widely known as an editor of major works of scholarship on the Islamic Near East. She was senior acquisitions editor for Islamic Studies at Brill Academic Publishers from 1990 to 1997; an editor of the second edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam from 1999 to its completion in 2006; and is currently associate editor for the Islamic Near East for both the journal (JAOS) and the monograph series of the American Oriental Society. She is co-editor of The Ashgate Research Companion to Islamic Law (Ashgate, 2014), of The Law Applied: Contextualizing the Islamic Shari'a (Tauris, 2008), and of The Islamic School of Law: Evolution, Devolution, and Progress (Harvard Law School, 2005).



"Bearman’s book fills in a major gap in the history of the discipline of Islamic Studies in general and the history of the reference works and scholarly practices that contributed to its emergence as an increasingly coherent discipline. While it is quite obvious that reference works, like any other text, have their own agendas and blind spots, Bearman’s detailed study demonstrate how these agendas have been at play over a century in the production of the Encyclopaedia.

"Finally, as the Encyclopaedia of Islam is an ongoing project (currently in its third edition), Bearman’s History will be of interest to new and seasoned editors, contributors, and readers of the Encyclopaedia. Moreover, since the Encyclopaedia is a multigenerational project and a product of multiple editorial boards, Bearman’s insightful study can inform a better, more careful use of the Encyclopaedia. It is hoped that Bearman’s study will inspire others to cast new light on other reference works and monumental projects that shaped the disciplines of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies."—Guy Burak, New York University, in Middle Eastern Librarians Association April 15, 2019; 


"Es wurde höchste Zeit, diesem Unterfangen eine Monographie zu widmen, und Peri Bearman, die 15 Jahre lang (im übrigen als einzige Frau überhaupt) dem Herausgebergremium angehörte, tut das aus der Innenperspektive auf sehr kundige, kritische und bisweilen unterhaltsame Weise. Dabei beschränkt sie sich auf jene beiden Auflagen der ei1 und ei2, die im Vor-online-Zeitalter gedruckt wurden…. Die editorische Sorgfalt, die Peri Bearman ihrem Buch hat angedeihen las- sen, ist beeindruckend…. "—Rainer Brunner, CNRS, PSL Research University, LEM (UMR 8584), Paris, in Die Welt des Islam (2022): 1–6 DOI: 10.1163/15700607-62020001




"Nun aber liegt eine Geschichte beider EI-Ausgaben vor, und kaum jemand wäre für deren Verschriftlichung wohl besser geeignet als Peri Bearman. Sie hat nicht nur in Leiden studiert und promoviert, sondern kennt durch ihre Mitarbeit für die Herausgeber und spätere Mitherausgabe etlicher EI2-Bände das akademische Umfeld dieses Großunternehmens ebenso gut wie seine editorische Begleitung durch das Verlagshaus E.J. Brill."—Susanne Enderwitz, Universität Heidelberg, in Der Islam 96.2 (2019): 502–504 DOI: 10.1515/islam-2019-0036


"Bearman offre un affresco sempre equilibrato ma che non risparmia nulla, evidenziando le idiosincrasie di un settore di studi europeo, a lungo lacerato da quelle rivalità nazionali che poi determinarono la storia del XX secolo e aprirono la strada all’emergere della scholarship statunitense e alle novità portate da questa alle vecchie linee di indagine filologicamente orientate."—Roberto Tottoli, Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale,” in Oriente Moderno 99 (2019): 259–260

A History of the Encyclopaedia of Islam

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    PDFs of individual chapters available here

  • More info

    RAIS vol. 9

    316 pages

    7 x 10 inches

    978-1-948488-04-4 (paperback)

    978-1-948488-00-6 (PDF)

    March 2018

  • Table of Contents

    List of Figures

    Series Editors’ Preface




    Chapter One. The First Edition

    1. The Planning Stage, 1892–1899
    2. The International Association of Academies
    3. The Preparatory Stage, 1901–1908
    4. The Third Stage, Snouck and Houtsma, 1909–1924
    5. Wensinck Succeeds, 1924–1939


    Chapter Two. The Second Edition

    1. Constancy, 1948–1956
    2. Under New Management, 1957–1997
    3. Ascendancy of the Corporate Dollar, 1997–2006


    Chapter Three. The Publisher and the Process

    1. A Brief History of E. J. Brill
    2. Production Process


    Chapter Four. European Trials: Politics and Scholarship



    Appendix One. Entries in the Spécimen d’une encyclopédie musulmane, 1898

    Appendix Two. Translation of Max Seligsohn’s Critique of the First Edition, 1909

    Appendix Three. Supplementary Publications

    Bibliography Index


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