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360                  2"'he Contribution to Islam
by the press of the Royal Egyptian Library (Dar al-kutub
al-Misriyya) cannot be surpassed for elegance and legibility.
Credit for raising the standard of printing must also be accorded
to the French Institute, which has leavened the intellectual life
of Egypt in many ways. To-day Egypt supplies the whole
Muslim world with texts, classical and popular; and with the
standard of literacy rising in every Islamic country, the impor-
tance of the work of distributing good literature, attractively
produced and at astonishingly low prices, cannot be over-
So much for the intellectual side of Egypt's contribution to
Islamic culture. It must be emphasized that mention has not
been made, save in rare instances, of famous authors who, while
not Egyptian-born, spent many or most of their productive
years in Egypt, enjoying the patronage and security afforded
by the successive dynasties which ruled the land. Egypt deserves
some credit for their products also; but as this essay is primarily
concerned with what has come out of the 'blood and soil* of
the country, it is necessary that these limitations should be
observed. In appraising Islam's debt to Egypt in respect of
literature, it is not difficult to establish a criterion, since in
almost every case it is possible to ascertain with certainty
whether a given author is or is not Egyptian-born. Moreover,
in literature the element of imitation, of following and develop-
ing a set style, is relatively unimportant, compared with the
original contribution of the individual author. The remainder
of this essay is concerned with the artistic output of Egypt
during the Islamic period; and here the ground is far less sure.
We shall write of buildings, handicrafts, the various branches
of art, glorious examples of which are extant; but for the most
part the identity of the architect, the artisan, the artist is
unknown. It is known that many of the earliest specimens in
particular are the work of non-Egyptians, and in any case the