Sir Archibald Creswell: Biographical Notes
Professor Sir Keppel Archibald Creswell was born in London in 1879 and died
there in 1974. He trained as an architectural draughtsman and served in the
Royal Flying Corps in Egypt in World War I. While serving as surveyor of
monuments in Palestine and Syria, his interest in Muslim architecture was
quickened and upon his return to Egypt in 1920 he commenced his life-long
dedication to that field. His publications attracted attention within the
broad academic strata of Europe and the Middle East and secured public and
private support to sustain his rigorous routine of field work and research.
Prof. Creswell taught at Fu’ad I (later Cairo) University and the American
University in Cairo, which purchased his unrivalled library. The University
of Oxford and Princeton University conferred honorary doctorates in 1946 and
1947, in which year he was also elected a Fellow of the British Academy. He
was knighted by the Queen in 1970.
Suffice it here to list his major publications, a litany now familiar to any
who have attained distinction in Muslim architecture:
Early Muslim Architecture. Vol. I Umayyads A. D. 622-750 (1932); Vol.
II Early Abbasids, Umayyads of Cordova, Aghlabids, Tulunids and Samanids A.
D. 751-905 (1940).
Muslim Architecture of Egypt. Vol. I Ikshids and Fatimids A.D.
939-1171 (1952); Vol. II Ayyubid and Early Bahrite Mamluks A. D. 1171-1326
Bibliography of the Architecture, Arts and Crafts of Islam (1961).
Early Muslim Architecture. Second edition in two parts (1969).
Supplement to the Bibliography of the Architecture, Arts and Crafts of
When to these large tomes one adds innumerable articles on specialized
aspects of Muslim art and architecture, one can only agree with the
president of the Royal Asiatic Society who, when bestowing on Creswell the
society’s Triennial Gold Metal, averred that he “had not only got to the
head of his profession; he has created it.”
In writing of the wonderfully proportioned Qubbat al-Sakhra (Dome of the
Rock) in 1932, Prof. Creswell inadvertently paid tribute to his seventy
years of work in his field, to Egypt and the Muslim world, and to the
colleagues and students he inspired and who remain indebted to him, when he
wrote, “…[when] the size of every part is related to every other part in
some definite proportion …a building…becomes a harmonious chord in stone, a
sort of living crystal.”
Prof. G.T. Scanlon
Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture
Department of Arabic Studies
The American University in Cairo