The Power of the Pen and the Primacy of Script

Adrian Gully

in The Culture of Letter-Writing in Pre-Modern Islamic Society

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print February 2008 | ISBN: 9780748633739
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748653133 | DOI:
The Power of the Pen and the Primacy of Script

Show Summary Details


While the rich oral tradition of Arab and Islamic society will never be totally replaced, there came a point in Islamic society when the written word assumed increasing significance and influence. This chapter examines how the power of pen prevailed in the domain of communication in pre-modern society, examining the special status of writing and epistolary prose within the secretarial realm, as represented in one particular work of the 5th/11th century. This work is the Maw Add al-BayAm Ibn Halaf, regarded as one of the best scholarly representations of the transition from a predominantly oral culture to an oral-writerly one in the pre-modern Islamic society. This transition from oral culture to textual culture as exemplified by Ibn Halaf forms one of the main points of discussion in the chapter.

Keywords: power of pen; writing; epistolary prose; pre-modern society; al-BayAm; Ibn Halaf

Chapter.  12577 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.