imaginary books
Imaginary Books by Hsing Wei via Flickr: 

Books Known Only by Title

Exploring the Gendered Structures of the First Millennium Imagined Library

References to books ascribed to figures known from the extended biblical narrative are abundant in Jewish, Christian, Manichean, Muslim, and other texts from the first millennium. One intriguing category of such references that remains largely unexplored is books known only by title. Books known only by title are postulated books surviving neither as extant documents, nor as excerpts or quotations of any substantial length - these books are claimed books, known as named entities through the medium of other writings. Books that fall into this category are found, for instance, in lists of apocryphal books; in annotations added by later hands in the margins of surviving manuscripts; as well as in literary accounts across the language traditions of the Middle East and the Mediterranean area.

In a preliminary study of books known only by title, we discovered—much to our surprise—that several of these books are ascribed to female figures, such as Eve, the daughters of Adam, and the mysterious figure of Noriah. Until now, these postulated books ascribed to female figures of the biblical narrative have not attracted the attention they deserve. The practice of ascribing potentially fictitious books to female figures has neither been mapped, nor analyzed or systematically explored as a historical, literary and socio-rhetorical phenomenon. Drawing on and combining theoretical perspectives developed in Book History and Gender Studies, this project aims at mapping the occurrences of books known only by title and associated with female figures from the broadly conceived, and evolving, biblical narrative - from Qumran to the Qur'an. 

Books Known Only by Title is the 2020/2021 Humanities research project at the Center for Advanced Study at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, Oslo. The project is co-chaired by Professor Marianne Bjelland Kartzow (Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo) and Professor Liv Ingeborg Lied (MF CASR). Starting in August 2020, the project will bring together an interdisciplinary group of international scholars at CAS.