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Scholarship on legal documents from the medieval Islamicate world has mostly concentrated on their content and structure (dramatis personae and formulae). The materiality of legal documents, however, opens new perspectives on procedures and people who crafted, used, archived, and discarded them: how and why do extent medieval legal documents look the way that they do? How did people consume them through time and space? Focusing on holes and threads, i. e., sewing practices, in Arabic and Judaeo-Arabic legal documents from the Cairo Geniza, this paper examines the life and the afterlife of legal documents in medieval Egypt during the Fatimid and Ayyubid periods. When notaries, parties, and later actors stitched legal documents, they did so employing different sewing methods according to the status they conferred to legal documents at a given time: (1) instrumental use (2) personal and institutional archiving and record keeping; (3) discarding and reuse for other purposes. Additionally, sewing practices varied according to genres of legal documents. Sewing practices in medieval legal documents nonetheless show continuity. On the one hand, they shed light on the continuum of practices between the instrumental, archiving, and discarding moments. On the other hand, they reveal porosity and parallels with other types of documents and social settings, namely chancery and merchant documentary practices.
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