in his archive: the KADMOS project
The KADMOS project (i.e. Kahle Documents Management, Organization and Study),
started in 2010 with the advocacy and economic support of the Regione Piemonte,
and focuses on the study, preservation and valorisation of the Paul Kahle archive. This
collection, housed in the University of Turin, consists of a huge quantity of material
(about 20 linear meters of documents, and a collection of manuscripts and printed
books). A first, important step has been undertaken in the past few years concerning
the manuscripts collection; the KADMOS project focuses on the archive, with the aim
of reconstructing the whole collection as a legacy of an outstanding Orientalist as well
as an important witness of a distressing and tragic period of history. The present paper
illustrates the KADMOS project and its current achievements.
1. Paul Ernst Kahle, an outstanding figure in the field of Oriental studies
Paul Ernst Kahle
was one of the leading figures in the history of German
1875, in 1894 he started studying Theology and Oriental Languages in Marburg
and Halle. After his PhD and further research on Hebrew, Samaritan, Arabic and
Syriac manuscripts in Berlin, London, Oxford and Cambridge, he moved to Cairo
(1903-1908) where he was to remain as pastor and acting headmaster of the Ger-
man school (Kahle 1928). This period in Egypt was particularly important for his
scientific formation since he collected many materials related mainly to Shadow
Play literature and other topics he studied and partially edited in the following
years. During the Egyptian period he also paid several visits to Palestine, where he
studied Muslim holy sites, the Palestinian dialect of Bīr Zēt, and some Samaritan
After returning to Germany, Kahle lectured in Halle (1909-1914) and then be-
came ordinarius in Giessen in 1914. In 1917 he met and married Marie Gesevius,
daughter of a university Professor in Giessen. He moved to Bonn in 1923 where he
was appointed Director of the Oriental Department and became secretary of the
Deutsche Morgenländischen Gesellschaft (DMG) and editor of its Zeitschrift until
he was dismissed and forced to move to England. During his tenure as director of
the Department he did much to promote not only Hebrew studies,3 but also Chi-
In the absence of a complete biography of Kahle, information about his life can be found in
That he was a very good teacher is testified by the fact that he had such outstanding figures as
Bruno Chiesa et al.
nese and Japanese languages and cultures, expanding the department’s collections
and activities considerably.
In November 1938 his wife and one of his five sons were reported for helping a
Jewish woman to clean up her shop after the Kristallnacht (M. Kahle 1998)
After constant intimidation and harassment he and his family fled to England in
1939. In 1942 Kahle wrote a report on the University of Bonn for the British au-
thorities which was to be of assistance to the Allied forces after the war (Kahle
1945). Kahle and his family stayed in Great Britain throughout the Second World
War, in London and then in Oxford, where he worked in the Bodleian Library for
approximately five years (1939-1945). In London he was engaged to catalogue the
Arabic manuscripts of the Chester Beatty Collection. The result of this work is
mostly unpublished and preserved in manuscript form in the Archives of Turin,
Dublin, and Oxford.
Kahle was also appointed Schweich Lecturer of the British Academy in 1941.
The lectures he gave formed the basis of The Cairo Geniza, one of Kahle’s most
important books (Kahle 1947; 1959; 1962).
After the war Kahle returned to Germany, where he became professor emeritus
in Bonn. Until his death he was the doyen of a generation of European Oriental-
In 1956 he was invited to Pakistan as a representative European Orientalist, to
give the Inaugural Address at the Pakistan History Conference. He died in Düssel-
dorf in 1964.
His long academic career reflects his manifold interests in Oriental languages.
He is still a familiar name in Hebrew studies as co-editor of the Hebrew Bible, the
transmission. His work on the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible had already led
to the publication of two other important studies, Masoreten des Ostens (Kahle
1913) and Masoreten des Westens (Kahle 1927; 1930). Kahle also edited original
research related to various topics in the Arabic and Islamic fields; in particular he
dealt with Arabic dialectology and published a collection of folk tales collected in
Bīr Zēt during his journeys in Palestine (Kahle and Schmidt 1918; 1930), two edi-
tions of the Kitāb al-Baḥriyye by Pīrī Re’īs (Kahle 1926; 1933), a volume of the
1931-1936), which is a work of great importance for the history of Egypt in the
This text was originally published in English in 1945. The 1998 edition includes a German
A commemorative volume on Kahle as an Old Testament scholar and Orientalist was prepared
A first list of Paul Kahle’s articles and reviews was published by Korn (1935). A second
On his work on Arabic Shadow Plays (Kahle 1992) see below § 4.
Paul Kahle’s monumental studies, based on research carried out in Germany, in
England and in the Arab world, is preserved in huge “layers” of study materials -
books, documents, manuscripts, reproductions, study notes, drafts of publications –
which reveal the synchronic and diachronic stratification of various steps of study,
revision, and correction. His personal story as an intellectual persecuted in Nazi
Germany adds to our sense of his worth as a scholar.
The Paul Kahle Collection was purchased by the University of Turin in 1966,
two years after Kahle’s death, so that the University could acquire his great body of
work of notable scientific value. It undoubtedly contains most of the original col-
lection owned by Kahle: at the present state of knowledge, other parts of his ar-
chive are in the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Bonn and in the In-
stitut für Zeitgeschichte in Munich
. Research on how the Paul Kahle Collection
give an account of it in a future publication. Meanwhile we would point out that the
Collection consists of two main components: the archive and the library, both the
personal property of Paul Kahle. The library consists of approximately 11,000
printed books and pamphlets. To this should be added a collection of about 300 Is-
lamic manuscripts (in Arabic, Persian and Turkish) and some important fragments
of Hebrew and Samaritan manuscripts. The archive takes up about 20 linear meters
of shelving and it includes scientific and personal papers.
In recent years the Department of Oriental Studies has devoted two projects to
this Collection: the first, focused on Islamic manuscripts, has given rise to the pub-
lication of the catalogue of Islamic manuscripts (Tottoli, Russo, and Bernardini
2011). The second project, currently in progress, is dedicated mainly to the archive.
This project, called KADMOS (Kahle Documents Management, Organization and
Study), was conceived and planned with the specific aim of ensuring the preserva-
tion, the archival arrangement, and the proper valorization of this rich collection
and making it available to the international scientific community. During its initial
phases, the project has faced a series of issues: on the one hand, the wide variety of
languages and subjects represented in the documents (English, German, Arabic,
Hebrew, Coptic; subjects ranging from the Hebrew Bible to the Arabic historians,
to Chinese porcelain) while, on the other hand, the fragile condition of the docu-
ments required specific attention.
Since these are problems of prime importance, the opportunities that emerged
were also important: in the first place, as we have said, the chance to make this rich
heritage available to the scientific community, restoring it to the role of cultural
heritage which was intended as far back as 1966.
Giving access and making a documentary collection available means first of all
to identify, describe, arrange the documents, create paths of study and research
from which the scholar can make his own choice: for this reason, the project has
Zeitgeschichte of Munich (Munich 2012).
given great importance to the role of the study of these documents. In this way pre-
viously unknown material can be identified, and at the same time more in-depth
studies can be made by present and future scholars. The specific nature of this ar-
chive led us to adopt specific criteria for carrying out these activities: Prof. Bruno
Chiesa has guided the work with regard to the content; the Soprintendenza Archi-
vistica per il Piemonte e la Valle d’Aosta has provided the project team with
guidelines for the reorganization of the archive.
A multidisciplinary project team was set up, consisting of experts in Arabic and
Hebrew language and literature, of archivists and preservation experts, to deal with
the first, challenging part of the project: the phase dedicated to the study of docu-
ments and their identification, description and archival arrangement by subject,
and, of course, their physical preservation.
The archive has been organized into two main sections: the “Archive” proper
and the “Correspondence” sections. The former is composed for the most part of
the scientific documents produced and collected by Kahle during his work and of
many of his personal papers; the “Correspondence” section is entirely composed of
letters received and sent by Kahle. The research described in this article by Chiara
Pilocane and Francesca Bellino has been done on these two sections; together with
Ilaria Bertone and Paola Lombardi, they organized the archive as it is at present. As
for the physical preservation of documents, it represents another challenging stage
of the project, due to the great variety of documents and supports, which were
mostly not in good condition and required specific attention. Progressive steps have
been undertaken to improve the condition of the collection, such as dusting, pur-
chase of specific equipment, environmental monitoring: the preservation plan, cur-
rently ongoing, aims to ensure the long-term, sustainable endurance of this collec-
equally important, and connected to it, is the use of economic resources needed for
the project. For both requirements, the Department of Oriental Studies is facing a
huge commitment. Essential support for the project came in 2009 with the funding
provided by the Regione Piemonte; in addition to the economic value of this con-
tribution, it also has a symbolic value, since it represents the support ensured by an
important local institution to a research project focused on a significant addition to
the cultural heritage of Piedmont.
Much of Paul Kahle archive is made up of the correspondence. It is not unusual
for correspondence series in personal archives to be proportionally – compared to
other sections of the fonds – larger than in archives of institutions or offices. Nev-
ertheless, the case of Kahle is extraordinary and his correspondence, from the point
of view of its size, might even constitute a separate fonds. In speaking of size we
refer both to the number of letters received and written and – which is no less inter-
esting – to the number of correspondents Kahle had. To get an idea of the quantity
of letters, we have to consider that letters kept in Turin University, most of which
take up about 8 linear
the number of correspondents, 2,587 persons and/or institutions with whom Kahle
corresponded have been identified. This is a huge quantity, even more so if we
consider that Kahle corresponded with several of them for a long time: we find
mainly scholars, but there is no lack of institutions, such as libraries and universi-
ties, and relatives too. Among the most exceptional cases in terms of number of
letters are, to name but two examples, Otto Spies (German Orientalist, 1901-1981)
and Matthew Black (Scottish minister and Biblical scholar, 1908-1994): units of
description related to these two scholars amount respectively to 396 and 859
Concerning size, we have also to remember that the Turin fond does not repre-
sent the total amount of what still survives of Kahle’s archive: two other parts of
Kahle’s archive are housed in the Reinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität of
Bonn and in the Institut für Zeitgeschichte in Munich. Unfortunately, the Bonn and
Munich fonds are not inventoried and we cannot know the exact size of the corre-
spondence sections; only for Bonn do we find notice of some general groups of
letters, dated between 1910 and 1913 and between 1934 and 1938. And even con-
sidering the Turin and Bonn archives together, there still remain chronological gaps
in the correspondence: this means that almost certainly there existed other letters
that are lost to this day.
To come back to documentation kept in Turin, most of the letters are now di-
vided into two series: one arranged by correspondent and another one arranged by
subject. The large majority of documents is part of the first series, whereas the se-
cond series – which includes only 25 units of description – has been created merely
to avoid dispersion of a few folders that Kahle himself originally assigned to letters
written by and to different people about the same topic. Finally, there are ten units
of description that do not belong to the two aforementioned series for various rea-
sons (empty envelopes, Kahle’s drafts with no addressee, letters signed only with
first names and so on). To date the units of description of the Paul Kahle archive
are in total 2,622.
Having said that, and moving on from data regarding size of correspondence to
a couple of observations about its nature, the most important feature to be noted is
the almost constant presence of Kahle’s drafts. For personal fonds, to reconstruct
correspondence between two persons, we often have to look through two different
archives, archive of person “A” to find letters sent to him/her by person “B” and
vice versa. That is not the case – or it is only minimally the case – of Paul Kahle’s
correspondence: he preserved meticulously his drafts, which are mostly typewritten
but in manuscript too. Even though obviously – perhaps to a greater extent than
letters received – some drafts have been lost, thanks to Kahle’s systematic nature
and punctiliousness, we have the rare privilege in this archive of being able to re-
construct some correspondences in their entirety.
April 23, 1963 (C498).
Secondly, it may be worth noticing the presence of letters from and to other
people (other than the person to whom the unit of description is entitled); Kahle
had kept these letters together with those of his correspondent because they some-
how referred to him/her: these are letters of introduction, letters written to give or
obtain information regarding the correspondent and so on. For this reason too, links
arise between various units of description, that is to say between various files of
correspondents. These links are traceable to the archive’s database, where a search
on every single name recorded can be carried out, by means of a system that
matches filter criteria and a basic search of keywords.
Furthermore, there are also a few letters that Kahle “stored” together with study
material and – as this is, for different reasons, inseparable from them – are today
kept in the “Archive” section. Vice versa, various and very interesting study mate-
rials sent to Kahle by his correspondents were kept enclosed in letters and have
been catalogued and filed into the correspondence section: the presence of this sort
of attachment is indicated in the “Description” column of the database. This means
that besides inner organization of correspondence and besides links between letters,
there also exist very important connections between letters and study material, i.e.
the other macro-section of the archive: it follows that investigation and under-
standing of Kahle’s notes and studies in most cases may not forgo a consultation of
letters that Kahle received from and wrote to other scholars who dealt with the
same subject or with related subjects. A good example of such a connection is rep-
resented by the letters regarding the work on Palestinian dialectology described
4. The “Islamica” series: the archival materials related to Palestinian dialectology
Along with the correspondence, the Archive preserves a large number of docu-
ments related to Kahle’s writings as well as to a variety of other topics untouched
by him in his publications but that give evidence of his activity as a researcher.
During the re-ordering, all the archival documents were associated to a specific
“phase” of Kahle’s work. Accordingly, the records in the database specify both
which phase this is and indicate for each of the documents which “state of pro-
cessing” it corresponds to.
As in other cases, some of the Arabic “sources” studied by Kahle derive from
the field work carried out during the years he spent in Egypt and Palestine. A num-
ber of key figures/informants provided him with different materials that Kahle ed-
ited, at least partially, in far-off times and places. In the case of the dialectological
materials related to Palestine, the Archive preserves the original manuscript con-
taining all of the texts collected by Dschirius (Abu) Jusif, along with the corre-
spondence between Kahle, Schmidt and Dschirius and many documents dealing
with all the phases of publication of Volkserzählungen aus Palästina. A couple of
examples will suffice to show how these materials have been catalogued in the Ar-
chive of Turin and the information they can provide, especially in relation to
Kahle’s meticulous method of working (Tottoli 2009, 11).
1930) contain a huge collection of folk tales collected by Dschirius in Bīr Zēt and
the villages around it in 1910-1911. In the preface to vol. 1 Kahle explained the
various research phases: first of all Dschirius wrote the tales down in Arabic script,
as told by forty-four male and female informants (Schmidt and Kahle 1918, 252).
Kahle was not present during this phase, while Schimdt, being there, collected
information on the context in which this community lived which afterwards
became an integral part of the study. In a second phase Dschirius revised the Ara-
bic texts, but we don’t know if he made the changes during successive hearing(s)
or at home [Fig. 1].
Later, with the help of his sister, Dschirius transliterated the texts using a pho-
the system chosen, with a table and a few examples as applied to some stories [Fig.
3]. The shift from Arabic script to transcription was very important indeed since it
was carried out by an Arabic speaker provided with a fairly well-developed lin-
guistic sensibility who supplied Kahle with the key to understanding the dialect.
lished not primarily as a work of literature but on account of its linguistic, folkloric
and general ethnological interest. This kind of work was totally in conformity with
others of that time. Before Schimdt and Kahle, analogous volumes of folk poetry,
proverbs and narratives from Palestine were published by Gustav Dalman (1901)
and Enno Littmann (1902). Then Littmann (1905) published Modern Arabic Tales,
which is a collection of tales in Arabic script only, with no glossary or notes, that
looks very similar to Volkserzählungen aus Palästina, both in its original purposes
and in the manner in which the texts were collected and (partially) edited. Littmann
(1905, 1, vi) chose to publish the tales in Arabic characters firstly but for practical
considerations, since, he said, “the orthography of this Arabic is at the present stage
naturally an arbitrary one, and many of the spellings here adopted may later be
abandoned” and “for a scientific study of the vernacular Arabic can of course not
be based on texts printed in Arabic type”. Therefore, the original Arabic manu-
script of the tales collected by Dschirius will be very important for comparison
with the work of Littmann.
The following phase of work documented by the Archive definitely involved
Kahle, who selected the texts to be published; Schimdt established an order based
on the content. Therefore, Kahle changed the number of the texts chosen, as shown
by a concordance written down on a page of the manuscript. The documents in the
Archive show how Kahle went on checking details even after publication. As re-
gards the transliteration, perhaps after revising the work done by Dschirius and ac-
cording to the new corrections suggested by H. Stumme and E. Littmann, as evi-
denced by letters preserved in the archive, Kahle prepared a new version.
According to Seeger (2009, 1-4), the first writing and the transcription have also involved some
Seeger maintains that Schmidt’s and Kahle’s work represents a proper literary work focusing
The next phase was the translation. Schimdt produced a first handwritten Ger-
man translation; afterwards this was typed and the drafts were revised various
times by Kahle who strove to achieve a good standard. Along with these docu-
ments the Archive preserves a folder titled “Those I have selected” that contains a
typewritten copy of the English translation of all the tales edited in the two vol-
umes. This English translation is still unpublished and the author is unknown.
The last phase documented by the Archive concerns publication. The copy of
Volkserzählungen aus Palästina preserved in the Archive provides information on
this phase too. In fact over time Kahle took many notes of extra glosses and anno-
tations and for that reason his own copy has to be considered as a testimony of a
long process of re-working/re-writing.
According to Ulrich Seeger, who completed the field work recording Kahle-
Schimidt’s texts together with other tales from the same area, the old transcriptions
of the texts were “reliable” records of the language as spoken in that area. The
grammar is largely homogeneous and agrees with the data Leonard Bauer (1926)
collected in his major work Das Palästinensische Arabisch. Die Dialekte des
Städters und des Fellachen
in respect of the grammatical explanations and the
has found features of this dialect not mentioned by Kahle suggesting that some of
these “failures” are due to the work of “standardization” of the texts made during
the transcription (Seeger 2012). The study of the original Arabic manuscript will
therefore be very important since it is the source closest to the oral version of the
informants. Moreover, the outline of the grammar of Bīr Zēt as published in the
printed edition covers around fifty pages, but many more documents are kept in the
Archive. Those who study the dialect of this region will probably find useful in-
formation in them.
The correspondence in the Archive reveals both the problems Kahle encoun-
tered in editing texts first written down in Arabic and the choices he adopted after
consulting several outstanding dialectologists with whom he was in contact. He ex-
changed, for instance, some letters with Littmann who revised Dschirius’ text and
provided Kahle with many corrections that he promptly reproduced in the
“Nachträge - Berichtigungen” (Schmidt and Kahle 1918, *94-96) at the end of the
section on the language of the texts. Dschirius also provided Kahle with explana-
tions about the transliteration, the pronunciation of some consonants, and the vo-
cabulary. Kahle quoted parts of these letters in the section “Zur Umschrift und
Aussprache der Laute” and in the glossary (Schmidt and Kahle 1918, *48-51).
We would like to conclude this brief survey of the materials of the Archive by
mentioning the work done by Musa Alloush (ʻAllūsh 1990), the owner of the oldest
pharmacy of Bīr Zēt, who published an Arabic version of the two Schmidt-Kahle
volumes, developing specifically modified and adapted Arabic characters to
reproduce the phonetic transliteration by Dschirius-Kahle faithfully. During his
field-work in the region, Seeger asked Alloush to recite some of Kahle-Schmidt’s
The opportunity to have the original Arabic manuscript,
the field of historical dialectology.
Black, Matthew. 1966. “Paul Ernst Kahle.” Proceedings of the British Academy 51: 485-95.
Black, Matthew, and George Fohrer. 1968. In Memoriam Paul Kahle. Berlin: A. Töpelmann.
Bauer, Leonhard. 1926. Das palästinische Arabisch; die Dialekte des Städters und des Fellachen,
Blau, Joshua. 1960. Syntax des palästinensische Bauerndialekts von Bīr Zēt: auf Grund der Volks-
Boon 2012. “Das Archiv der Universität Bonn und seine Bestände.” March 3, 2012. www.archiv.uni-
Dalman, Gustav. 1910. Palästinischer Diwan. Als Beitrag zur Volkskunde Palästinas gesammelt und
Fück, Johann Wilhelm. 1966. “Paul Ernst Kahle.” Zeitschriften der Deutschen Morgenländischen Ge-
Halloun, Moin. 2008. “Proverb Reference Marker in Schmidt and Kahle”, Between the Atlantic and
Benmimoun, 227-36. Münster: LIT Verlag.
Ibn Iyās. 1931-1936. Kitāb Badāʼi‘ al-Zuhūr fī Waqāʼi‘ al-Duhūr. Die Chronik des Ibn Ijâs. Edited
by Paul Kahle and Muḥammad Muṣṭafā. Vols. 3-5. Leipzig: Deutsche Morgenländische Gesell-
schaft in Kommission bei F. A. Brockhaus, and Istanbul: Staatsdruckerei.
Kahle, Maria. 1998. Was hätten Sie getan? Die Flucht der Familie Kahle aus Nazi-Deutschland.
Kahle, Paul. 1913. Masoreten des Ostens. Die ältesten punktierten Handschriften des Alten Testa-
Übersetzung: Kapitel 1-28.
Kahle, Paul. 1927. Masoreten des Westens. Vol. 1. Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer. (Beiträge zur Wissen-
schaft vom Alten Testament, 8).
Kahle, Paul. 1928. “Die deutsche Schule in Cairo.” In: Aus deutscher Bildungsarbeit im Auslande.
Erlebnisse und Erfahrungen in Selbstzeugnissen aus aller Welt. Vol. 2: Außereuropa. Edited by
Franz Schmidt and Otto Boelitz, 569-80. Langensalza: Beltz.
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nische Punktuation. Der Bibeltext des Ben Naftali. Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer. (Beiträge zur
Wissenschaft vom Alten und Neuen Testament, 3/14).
The recorded texts available on line are nos. 22, 24, 33, 37, 80, 81.
Interesting research in this field has been done by Halloun (2008).
Kahle, Paul. 1933. Die verschollene Columbuskarte von 1498 in einer türkischen Weltkarte von 1513.
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professor. London: Privately printed.
Kahle, Paul. 1947. The Cairo Geniza. London: Oxford University Press, for the British Academy.
Kahle, Paul. 1956. Opera Minora von Paul Kahle. Festgabe zum 21. Januar 1956. Leiden: Brill.
Kahle, Paul. 1959. The Cairo Geniza. Oxford: Blackwell.
Kahle, Paul. 1962. Die Kairoer Genisa: Untersuchungen zur Geschichte des hebräischen Bibeltextes
und seiner Übersetzungen (bearbeitet ... von R. Meyer). Berlin: Akademie Verlag.
Kahle, Paul (ed.). 1992. Three Shadow Plays by Muḥammad Ibn Dāniyāl. Prepared for publication
Kahle, Paul, and Hans Schmidt. 1918-1930. Volkserzählungen aus Palästina gesammelt bei den Bau-
Kahle, Paul, Rudolf Kittel, Otto Eissfeldt, and Albrecht Alt. 1937. Biblia Hebraica. Stuttgart: Würt-
Korn, Katharina. 1935. “Paul Kahle’s Schriften.” In: Studien zur Geschichte und Kultur des Nahen
Willibald Kirfel, 225-231. Leiden: Brill.
Littmann, Enno. 1902. Neuarabische Volkspoesie. Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung.
Littmann, Enno. 1905. Modern Arabic Tales. Vol. 1: Arabic text. Leiden: Brill.
Munich 2012. “Institut für Zeitgeschichte.” March 3, 2012. www.ifz-muenchen.de
Seeger, Ulrich. 2009. Der arabische Dialekt der Dörfer um Ramallah. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
Seeger, Ulrich. 2012. “Musa Alloush reads texts of Schmidt/Kahle/Dschirius.” January 4, 2012.
Tottoli, Roberto. 2009. Orientalists at work. Some excerpts from Paul E. Kahle’s papers upon Ibn
Dāniyāl. Alessandria: dell’Orso.
Tottoli, Roberto, Maria Luisa, Russo and Michele Bernardini. 2011. Catalogue of the Islamic manu-
Roma: Istituto per l’Oriente C. A. Nallino – CNRS Mondes Iranien et Indien.
Fig. 2. Transcription of the Arabic texts as made by Dschirius’s sister.