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Van Elverdinghe, Emmanuel (16. October 2019): Captive Books: Recovering Cultural Property in Mediaeval and Early Modern Armenia. Religious communities and political constructions: Balkans, Eastern Europe, Mediterranean (11th-20th centuries), 16. - 18. Oktober 2019, Wilna, Litauen.
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This paper investigates the processes of recovery by Armenians of looted, stolen or otherwise misappropriated books, during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. In quite a few books, individuals record how they ‘rescued’ them from ‘captivity’, which was generally a result of their ‘falling into the hands of the infidels’. In the majority of cases, issues of property are thus intertwined with ethnical and religious antagonism towards a dominant group. Records of recovered books provide information about the (sometimes complex) microhistory of the concerned artifacts, and as such, they help shedding light on interactions between Armenians and their neighbours. These notes also betray certain attitudes, judgements, and strategies towards the books and their robbers, in a context of insecurity. The social background of book rescuers, as well as the purpose of the operation, are essential to understanding this phenomenon. In this paper, I will focus on manuscripts rescued during the 14th and 15th centuries.