God is beautiful and He loves beauty

Creswell and the AUC Rare Books and Special Collections Library

"Muhammedan architecture has for a long time absorbed my thoughts and spare time," wrote K.A.C. Creswell in 1914, and over the next sixty years he endeavored to turn his passion into a profession. Settling in Egypt in 1920 he began a life-long quest to photograph, describe, and catalogue the region's Islamic architectural wonders.

Creswell based his meticulous research on clearly verifiable facts, exact measurements, chronological accuracy, extensive photographic documentation and a thorough study of the history of buildings and their builders. At the same time he acquired every book of merit on the subject that he could find. The result was an exceptional collection of first editions and rare tomes, journals and maps in addition to his own scale drawings and reams of descriptive and photographic documentation.

So great were Creswell's contributions to the study of Islamic art and architecture that he is generally recognized as one of the founders of the discipline. Indeed, it is virtually impossible to study Islamic art and architecture without considering the life-long work of Creswell. When the Suez Crisis cruelly threatened deportation and separation from his beloved books an agreement to donate the collection to the AUC with himself as director of the Creswell Library seemed the best solution. He subsequently served as the first professor of Islamic art and architecture at the AUC, where he continued to do research, to teach, and to add to his collection until his death in 1974 at the age of 94.

When in the 1990's it was decided to establish a Rare Books and Special Collections Library for the AUC's rare collections, the Creswell Library, then in the Arabic Studies Department, became its core. The Creswell Collection consists of over 10,000 photographs and negatives, many accompanied by Creswell's own careful research notes, and 5,000 rare books still housed in the bookcases Creswell himself commissioned, as well as his pioneering works in the field: Early Muslim Architecture, The Muslim Architecture of Egypt, and The Bibliography of the Architecture, Art and Crafts of Islam. It is an exceptional, internationally recognized collection and attracts scholars from all over the world.

Philip Croom
Director of the Rare Books and Special Collections Library
The American University in Cairo