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The Taqdemt manuscripts

Among the oriental manuscripts in Chantilly, 38 volumes come from the “nomad capital” (zamâla, which became Gallicised as “smala”) of Emir Abd el-Kader, attacked by the Duke of Aumale and his troops in the Mascara region on 16 May 1843. These works belonged to the first collections of the library of Taqdemt, the capital set on fire by its inhabitants before being destroyed by French troops in 1841.

Having learned some Arabic, the Duke of Aumale had the manuscripts he brought back restored, and entrusted them for analysis to expert orientalists. The Arabic section at the Institute of research and history of texts (IRHT) at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) re-examined them, shedding light on the scholarly circles in which Abd el-Kader was educated.

Contrary to Europe, where printing spread rapidly from the time it was invented, the Ottoman Empire continued producing solely handwritten books until the middle of the 19th century. The volumes provide a sample of the literature in circulation at the time in the Maghreb, thanks to a hundred or so texts, with the longest taking up almost four hundred folios, and the shortest occupying half a page. From the 16th to the 19th century, they are a precious example of Maghrebi calligraphy.


Useful information

Venue: Château/Reading Room


Exhibition included in the 1-day ticket with no extra charge.


Marie-Pierre Dion, general libraries curator, Condé Museum, with collaboration from Zouhour Chaabane, in charge of reports on Arabic manuscripts at BULAC, Muriel Roiland, Ancient sources analysis engineer, IRHT (CNRS), Ismail Warscheid, researcher at IRHT (CNRS), professor of Islamic studies at the University of Bayreuth.


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Press Contacts  :

Agnès Renoult Communication
01 87 44 25 25
National press :
Saba Agri
International press :
Marc Fernandes