The dawn of Arab printing: A view from the fringe: In memory of Bernard Lewis: Mentor, friend, gentleman

Ami Ayalon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The adoption of printing in the Ottoman Arab provinces in the nineteenth century portended a cultural transformation with profound implications, known as the nahda. Focusing on the Syrian town of Tripoli (Tarabulus al-Sham) as a case study, the article examines the historic cultural change from a peripheral vantage point. It looks at the impact of Arab printing and publishing, which evolved primarily in Cairo, Alexandria, and Beirut, on a community on the fringe of cultural change and examines its cultural interrelationship with these centers. Its findings show that, more than acting as mere consumers of print, Tripoli residents in substantial numbers took an active part in the discourse on social and cultural dilemmas which printing facilitated across the region, before adopting similar novelties in their own town toward the end of the century. The probe casts light on themanifold process bywhich printing, its products, and its diffusion mechanisms spread throughout the region. As printing was a key channel for circulating news and views, the study also affords a credible notion of the role that communities away from the production epicenters played in the nahda.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-274
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of the Middle East and Africa
Issue number3
StatePublished - 3 Jul 2018


  • Arabic
  • Nahda
  • Printing
  • Publishing
  • Tripoli


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