In the hope to counter the “modern sound-bite”, which is typically ahistorical, we display here a number of historical works form the newly acquired Letitia and Toubia Hachem collection. The collection of a few thousand rare books, Qurans, and a few manuscripts, was generously donated to the AUB Libraries, by the Hachem family, and is currently housed in the Archives and Special Collections Department. This is the first of several rotating exhibits that will be put on display to show the diversity, depth and richness of this fabulous rare books collection, and to put in at the service of a liberal arts education at AUB.
The gift represents years of meticulous collecting by a bibliophile and art and book connoisseur. Toubia Hachem was born in Beirut, graduated from Bonaventure University in New York, did his graduate work in history at the University of Chicago and taught at AUB and then Loyola University, Chicago. He established a successful travel agency in Chicago and became a global airline executive. He never lost his passion for history; particularly theological history. Letitia Hachem studied art and is an artist. She encouraged Toubia’s collecting passion and taught him about the art world resulting in a huge collection.
The Hachem Collection consists of approximately 3,000 pieces dating from the 16th century to the mid-20th century. Collection highlights include stunning examples of religious manuscripts in various formats and sizes. A wide array of geographic provenance, printing houses, disciplines, historical periods, languages, and topics are covered by the collection, as well as a broad range of formats, e.g. manuscript codices and rolls, miniature and big Qurans, folios, “pocket” books, Qurans inscribed on palm leaves, and early imprints of the Bible with ornate covers. In general, the Collection illuminates the practices of manuscript production in workshops located throughout the Russian, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan and Balkan regions, and early (16th C onwards) European printing and publishing practices.
Several exceptional pieces await review by Jafet Library staff, notably a Syriac Bible from the 16th or 17th century, and a number of ornate one-by-one meter Qurans. Examples of early European imprints include a translation into Latin of Ibn Hayyan’s Alchemy, which is a testimony to the transfer of knowledge from the Arab world to the European Renaissance. Texts from Nubia, Abyssinia, Egypt, Palestine and the Ottoman Empire are represented, as are first editions and rare books by authors such as Cicero, Plutarch, Dante, Jean Jacques Rousseau, David Hume, Alfred de Musset, and Victor Hugo. Universal Histories, and scientific and philosophical treatises are also well represented. Additionally the Collection includes finely illustrated atlases, dictionaries with concordances, art books, and a few early Arabic serials including al Hilal and early Arabic imprints by the influential author of the late 1800s, Jurji Zaidan.
We hope that these works will help the viewer add a crucial historical element to the emerging concept of the global, and see how history, when it does not lose sense of its own historicity, can best and most truly articulate the humanity of any period, and better prepare us to be in our (global) world.