This introductory chapter provides a brief overview of the transformation of the Arabo-Islamic intellectual tradition that accompanied the adoption of printing in the Middle East. It brings to light the stories of the hitherto mostly invisible individuals who effected this transformation. Their motivations, goals, and approaches were diverse. All had to contend with the formidable challenges posed by centuries of cultural neglect of the classical literature: locating and obtaining manuscripts in the absence of catalogs, piecing together complete works out of scattered fragments, deciphering texts in spite of errors and damage, and understanding their meaning without recourse to adequate reference material. Their painstaking, frequently solitary, and often innovative efforts opened up the narrow postclassical manuscript tradition into a broad literature of printed, primarily classical works—the literature that today can be considered the essential canon of Islamic texts.
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