Al-Mutanabbi Street is the centuries-old center of bookselling in Baghdad, a winding street filled with bookstores and outdoor book stalls. Named after the famed 10th Century classical Arab poet, Al- Mutanabbi, this street has been, since time immemorial, the historic heart and soul of the Baghdad literary and intellectual community.
On March 5, 2007, a car bomb was detonated on Al-Mutanabbi Street. At least thirty people were killed and one hundred wounded.
Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition was formed soon afterwards to commemorate not just the tragic loss of life, but also the idea of a targeted attack on a street where ideas have always been exchanged.
The coalition, headed by San Francisco poet and bookseller, Beau Beausoleil, issued a call to letterpress printers for a personal response to the bombing. Beausoleil asked printer and professor, Kathleen Walkup, to coordinate the first call on behalf o f the coalition; more than 40 letterpress printers responded to that call. Sarah Bodman, a U.K. book artist coordinated four calls over the next two years, which brought in more than 30 printers from the U.K .and Europe. From North Carolina, Lisa Beth Robinson issued two calls. Printers responded to the tragedy with positive creativity by printing the work of Iraqi, Middle-Eastern, Canadian, Korean, U.K., and American writers. The Al-Mutanabbi Street Broadside Project now holds the work of printers from the United States, the U.K., Canada, Korea, Australia, New Zealand,The Netherlands, Italy, Germany, and France.
The work of the coalition and the sale of extra copies of these broadsides benefit Doctors Without Borders––a non-profit agency working to relieve suffering in Iraq and in other troubled areas of the world. Florida Atlantic University's digital collection: "Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here" Broadsides collection brings this historic suite of 133 printed literary broadsides to South Florida. Each is truly a work of art. All are printed letterpress, usually from handset metal or wood type. Some feature original relief prints, some are printed on handmade paper; all are made with the passion of artists who have something to say. This historic Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition project––one of only ten in the world––will remain at Florida Atlantic University Libraries, and will be permanently housed at the Arthur & Mata Jaffe Center for Book Arts, 3rd floor east of the Wimberly Library. Florida Atlantic University Libraries has digitized the full collection of broadsides by The Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition. This digital collection now has a home on the Internet and may be viewed by people around the globe through the Jaffe Center for Book Arts website or through the FAU Digital Library website.