The Rare Books and Special Collections Library (RBSCL) at The American University in Cairo (AUC) recently received a donation of more than 5,000 books in several languages from the private library of the late Egyptian journalist Mostafa Amin. The collection, donated by his wife Isis Tantawi, includes all books authored by Amin, in addition to autobiographical works, novels and film screenplays. The collection also includes original documents from Amin’s personal archives, such as a copy of his will, diaries, drafts for books, scenarios for television soap operas, personal correspondence, manuscripts, photographs and slides, as well as documents on social history and international politics.In 1928, Amin started studies at AUC’s College of Arts and Sciences and earned a master’s in political science from Georgetown University in 1938. He received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from AUC in 1987 “for his dedication in promoting freedom of expression in the press as editor of the largest weekly newspaper in the Arab world.”
“Books and manuscripts that cover these subject areas are very relevant in supporting AUC’s current and future programs and curricula,” said Philip Croom, associate dean of the Rare Books and Special Collections Library. “At AUC, we teach journalism, so it’s important for our students to learn how prominent journalists like Mostafa Amin worked and lived their lives. Serious researchers do not want to read resources online; they will want to see original documents. In any written work, the texture of a document is equally as important as the content.”
Mostafa and his twin brother Ali are considered by many to be the “fathers of modern Arab journalism.” Their love for the profession started as 8-year-olds, when they initiated Al Hoqooq magazine, where they published their home news. Over the years, they established four of Egypt’s most widely circulated newspapers –– Akhbar Al-Youm, Akher Lahza, Al-Guil and Al-Akhbar –– in addition to relaunching Akher Saa, where Mostafa Amin wrote a weekly column and served as editor-in-chief.
In most of Mostafa Amin’s reporting, he introduced the idea of free press and Western liberalism. He disregarded the government’s political agenda and critiqued rulers such as King Farouk, which eventually led to his incarceration in 1939. He was also arrested in 1965 by President Gamal Abdel Nasser.
The collection donated to AUC includes diaries written by Amin during his time in prison. Such resources educate students about a journalist’s life experiences. “It’s a way for our students to learn how journalists think in general,” said Eman Morgan, manager of media and serials at the RBSCL. “We discover their special connections with foreign leaders, which adds another dimension to their personality. It’s like a treasure hunt.”
Documenting collections from individuals who have left an imprint in Egypt is important for AUC to preserve history. “Acquiring rare and archival material adds value to our special collection of books that are unattainable and inaccessible anywhere else. Our emphasis is to facilitate and assist researchers in producing original and quality work,” said Croom, adding that some materials are uploaded to the RBSCL’s digital library to be accessible online.
The RBSCL also features personal collection from former UN secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and Egyptian journalist Anis Mansour. "We are very keen on preserving the history of Egypt and the region," noted Croom.