Islamic Manuscripts Scientific Initiative

The  Islamic Scientific Manuscripts Initiative (ISMI) is a collaborative project between researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin (Germany) and McGill Institute of Islamic Studies in Montreal (Quebec, Canada) aiming at making available information on Islamic manuscripts in the exact sciences. As such it includes manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and other languages covering a broad range of topics like astronomy, mathematics, optics, mathematical geography, music, mechanics, etc.

Initiated in 1996, the project was over the years funded by numerous government agencies and private institutions. It is currently supported by the Canada Research Chair in the History of Science in Islamic Societies and Compute Canada.

The ISMI database gives access to authors, their works, and extant manuscript witnesses in the various fields of the sciences. links metadata with manuscripts images  When possible, digital images are made public. Designed to facilitate research on these materials, the database allows for great flexibility in cross-searching descriptive fields (author, title, place of production, dates, etc.). Alternatively, the database can be browsed by name, title, place of production but also repository, etc. Results always display as a list where items are clickable.

 When made public, scanned images display in a reader offering single page, double page or thumbnails view. Digital copies include photographs of the binding, flap, spine and page edges allowing for a better codicological understanding of the codex. “Unless otherwise noted all ISMI content can be used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license: CC-BY-SA.”

Any questions and/or feedback can be sent to ismi-feedback@mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de.

Online exhibition: “If Walls Could Speak: The History of Morrice Hall”

After displaying a physical and touch table exhibitions in the Winter of 2018, the Islamic Studies Library is pleased to launch the online version of If Walls Could Speak: The History of Morrice Hall. Accessible from the main page of our blog (see capture below), this online exhibition retraces the history of  Morrice Hall currently home to McGill’s Institute of Islamic Studies (IIS), Islamic Studies Library (ISL), and Tuesday Night Café Theatre (TNC).

Using a mix of drawings, photographs, plans and maps, publications, and video, this online exhibition takes you through the history of the building since its construction in 1882: from Presbyterian College, to war hospital, to offices for the International Labour Organization during WWII, to a house for McGill University departments.

The original display was curated by y Ghazaleh Ghanavizchian (Senior Library Clerk, ISL), Jillian Mills (Senior Library Clerk, ISL) and Anaïs Salamon (Head Librarian, ISL) with the help of Gregory Houston (New Media & Digitization Administrator, Digital Initiatives) for the creation of the Touch Table exhibit.

This online version is the result of a School of Information Studies practicum student -Gabriela Cestero-‘s work in the Winter 2019, with the support of Ekaterina Grguric (User Experience and Digital Technologies Librarian, Digital Initiatives) and Gregory Houston (New Media & Digitization Administrator, Digital Initiatives).

Full page screenshot of the “Foundation” page, 2019.

Special thanks go to the McCord Museum, the Presbyterian Church in Canada Archives, and Library and Archives Canada for allowing us to publish photographs from their collections. Please note that copyright rests with them, and that any download or reproduction remains subject to their approval.

Persian Culture Workshops at the Redpath Museum in May & June 2019

Located on the McGill campus, the Redpath Museum is an academic unit of the University. “Its mandate is to foster understanding and appreciation of the diversity of our biological, geological, and cultural heritage through scientific research, collections-based study, and education.”

As part of its Spring programming, the Redpath Museum will be hosting two series of  Persian Culture Workshops in English designed respectively for children ages 7-9 and ages 10-12. The workshops, offered by Dr. Farshid Sadatsharifi, visiting scholar at the McGill Institute of Islamic Studies, and Mrs. Ghazaleh Ghanavizchian, Senior Library Clerk at the Islamic Studies Library of McGill University will explore “the historical events, the colorful medieval paintings and the beautiful collection of poems kept within the pages of the Persian Epic of Kings.”

The full programming is as follow:

  • May 5th: The Persian Epic of Kings – Part 1 (ages 7-9)
  • May 12th: The Persian Epic of Kings – Part 2 (ages 7-9)
  • June 1st: The Persian Epic of Kings – Part 1 (ages 10-12)
  • June 15th: The Persian Epic of Kings – Part 2 (ages 10-12)

Please note that as space is limited, registration is required and will close a few days before the workshops.

Facebook users may follow the series there: The Persian Epic of Kings for Children ages 7 to 9 and The Persian Epic of Kings for Children ages 10 to 12.

To go further, the Islamic Studies Library collection includes a significants number of miniatures and manuscripts copies of the book Shahnameh – Epic of Kings. Some of them are accessible online in the Shahnameh by Ferdowsi digital exhibition:

For more information about Persian culture, you may visit the Islamic Studies Library of McGill University.

A new acquisition!! Eastlaws, an Arabic legal database

Founded in 1995 in Alexandria, Egypt, Eastlaws network specializes in the production of Arab legal programs as well as on the automation of prosecutions, courts, law firms, and legal departments. As such, the network collects, indexes, and makes available legal documents originating from professional associations, administrative units at all levels of Arab judiciary Institutions, Faculties of Law and legal Research Institutes, legal Departments of private Companies, and international Organizations. Eastlaws database includes a wide variety of legal sources such as court rulings, legislations, fatwas, Islamic judicature, etc.

The Islamic Studies Library and the Nahum Gelber Law Library recently subscribed to a number of modules from Eastlaws providing the McGill community with access to original legal sources from the Arab World. The list of modules available to us is as follow:

  • Legislative Database for 18 countries (Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, KSA, Oman, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Algeria and Lebanon)
  • Rulings Database  for 18 countries (Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, KSA, Oman, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Algeria and Lebanon)
  • International Commercial Arbitration
  • International and Arab Treaties and Conventions
  • Administration fo Fatwa
  • Islamic Judicature
  • Legal Terminology
  • Legal Dictionary.

It is important to note that all documents in Eastlaws are in Arabic. A very basic translation into English and French can be generated by Google Translate, embedded within the database. The interface of the database itself is also in Arabic, and partially available in English (some menus and options are not translated).

To access Eastlaws database, there are a number of options:

  • The McGill library catalogue

  • The Database A-Z list from the Library main page

  • The Islamic sources subject guide

Winter 2019 database trials at McGill

This term, the Islamic Studies Library is trialing two databases relevant to students and researchers in the field of Islamic and Middle East studies:

Make sure you try them out, and share your feedback with us!

1. The Afghan Serials Collection (ASC)

ASC gives access to partisan serials from the Wahdat Library which is “the most comprehensive private collection of rare newspapers and journals from Afghanistan.” The Afghan Serials Collection includes 46 newspapers and journals published in Persian, Pushto, Arabic, Urdu, and English (i.e. more than 2,500 issues). As outlined on the database homepage: “the Afghan Serials Collection covers the use of the press by many groups that sought to shape Afghanistan’s social and intellectual landscape including the Communist People’s Democratic Party (PDPA); exiled loyalists to the deposed Afghan monarchy; independent humanitarians and intellectuals seeking to better their country; anti-Soviet mujaheddin groups from a range of political movements; the Taliban; and minority political parties that have emerged following the post-2001 transition towards democracy.”

Features offered by this database are numerous:

  • journal titles can be either browsed or searched in original language and English transliteration
  • journals can be ordered alphabetically (title), chronologically (Afghan/Islamic or Gregorian calendar), by country of publication or language
  • rubrics within each issue can be independently accessed for online reading and downloaded in PDF
  • searching for occurrences within a title is possible, in English transliteration only

ASC will primarily be of interest to social scientists (sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists, historians, etc.).

2. Cambridge Archive Editions Online

CAE gives access to thousands of primary source documents from the British National Archives in facsimile, including maps, on the Middle East, Russia and the Balkans, the Caucasus, Southeast Asia, and China and the Far East. The Near and Middle East Collection alone includes 118 titles documenting the history of the region between 1850 and 1980.

Documents can be searched, browsed, or discovered by topic (15 topics are used to classify the materials). They can be read online using the “Reading Mode” (full page display with left-hand side navigation bar) or dowloaded in PDF. WHat makes CAE particularly interesting is the fact that documents have been OCR’ed (Optical Character Recognition) allowing for searching occurrences within a publication.

CAE will be of particular interest to historians.

IFEA Map workshop archives

Launched and managed by the French Institute for Anatolian Studies (IFEA) and the OUI (Urban Observatory of Istanbul), the Map workshop archives is a cartographic database making available several hundreds of maps and plans of Istanbul and Turkey from the 12th century to present day. The project Archivis carto from which the database emerged continues, and maps are regularly added to the archives.

At the time of our visit, the archives included close to 400 high resolution digital maps and plans with short bibliographic descriptions (title, cartographer, editor, place and date of edition, scale).

Visitors can either search the database or use the Research by theme feature offering eighteen historical, geographical, and cartographic categories to browse:

 

 

 

All materials can easily be downloaded and/or shared using a permalink, however they are strictly provided for personal (individual or institution) use within the scope of research. For commercial use, contact: carto@ifea-istanbul.net. “It is forbidden to redistribute or publish this documentation without informing the IFEA, otherwise the IFEA would be free from any copyright problems or conflicts with the publishers of the concerned documents.”

The website is available in English, French and Turkish.

Islamic Law Materialized : a Corpus of Arabic Legal Documents

A Corpus of Arabic Legal Documents (CALD) is a database of edited (transcribed) primary source materials from the pre-modern period (8th-15th century). According to the creators, CALD “is the first-ever collection of scattered editions of legal documents often [provided] with improved readings compared to earlier print versions”.

CALD is supported by the European Research Council (ERC), and results from the concerted efforts of individuals from several institutions among which the Institut de recherche et d’histoire des textes (IRHT).

CALD includes a great variety of documents, such as sales contracts, lease contracts, acknowledgements, charity aims, court attestations, etc., available in PDF with the original Arabic text in modern spelling as well as complete bibliographical data. In addition, images of original materials and/or URL links are provided when possible.

Example of an edited document

Visitors can browse documents either by location (city) or library inventory number, or search the database for legal terms in Arabic.For greater access to CALD’s functionalities, visitors can create an account: logging in allows to cross-search Arabic terms, document types, dates and keywords.
The interface is available in French, English and Arabic.

Library of Congress’ Adbul Hamid II Digital Collections

Among the Library of Congress‘ numerous digital collections, two collections include Ottoman photographic and textual materials from the African and Middle East Division: the Abdul Hamid II collection and the Abdul Hamid Collection of books and serials gifted to the Library of Congress.

Made up of 1,819 photographs in 51 large-format albums from the late 19th century, the Abdul Hamid II collection illustrates the Ottoman Empire during the reign of Sultan Abdul-Hamid II, and  the modernization of of the Ottoman Empire. Photographs were taken by well-known Ottoman commercial photographers, Turkish military photographers and the Photographic Unit of the Imperial School of Engineering. Abdul-Hamid (1842-1918) was an avid collector and promoter of photography. He presented a copy of the survey to the Library of Congress in 1893 or 1894 and gave a very similar collection to the British Museum (now housed in the British Library).

[Tuberculosis ward of the Hasköy Hospital for Women] / Abdullah Frères (Constantinople), between 1880 and 1883.

The Abdul Hamid Collection of books and serials gifted to the Library of Congress contains over 300 original Ottoman Turkish, Persian and Arabic works as well as translations from European languages of medical, historical, or legal, works. All the volumes are bound in red Morocco with gilt edges, and richly embossed with the following inscription in English, French and Ottoman:
Gift made by H.I. M. the Sultan Abdul-Hamid II to the national library of the United States of America through the Honorable A.S. Hewitt Member of the House of Representatives A.H. 1302-1884 A.D.“.
The collection was donatedto the Library of Congress in 1884.

Medhal-i fıkıh / Abdüssettar. İstanbul : Mahmud Bey Matbaası, 1299 [1882]

Digital contents are available for download in very high resolution, and free to use or reuse as they are in the public domain.

REAL: Repository of the Library and Information Centre of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Documents and materials from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences’ Library and Information Centre invaluable collections are being digitized, and made available through the Academy’s institutional repository (REAL):

  • REAL-d hosts theses submitted at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences
  • REAL-EOD hosts books digitized by the Library and Information Centre (modern books published by the Library, books published by, or related to the Academy and its members)
  • REAL-J hosts hundreds of historical journals -scientific and popular- -most of which in Hungarian
  • REAL-MS hosts hundreds of digitized manuscript materials from the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books and the Oriental Collection
  • REAL-PhD hosts PhD thesis deposited at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and in nine other Hungarian Universities and Institutions
  • REAL-R hosts digitized rare books and manuscripts from the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books and the Oriental Collection

All collections can be either searched (simple and advanced searches) or browsed. Browsing categories, however, vary from one to another to include year of production/publication, author, title, codex, series, University, subject (Library of Congress subject headings), collection, etc.

REAL-MS is the most relevant collection to Islamic and Middle East studies as it contains more than 300 Arabic manuscripts, 155 Persian manuscripts, and 50 Turkish manuscripts. In addition, REAL-MS includes an impressive amount of famous Orientalists’ and Hungarian scholars’ personnal papers and correspondence like Ignaz Goldziher’s correspondence (over 13,000 documents).

Siddiqi, Muhammad Zubair (1925) M. Z. Siddiqi’s letter to Ignaz Goldziher. , Charlottenburg (Manuscript)

If Persian manuscripts can be previewed and/or downloaded as colour PDFs, access to most Arabic and Turkish manuscripts is for the moment “restricted to Repository staff only”. However, a copy can be requested for research purposes.

REAL interface and bibliographic descriptions are available in both Magyar and English.

Islamic Paleography and Codicology workshop: a Summary

From Monday September 11th to Friday September 14th, the Islamic Studies Library had the pleasure to host an Islamic Paleography and Codicology workshop co-organized with the Institute of Islamic Studies, and the McGill Islamic Studies Students Council.

Participants had the opportunity to listen to inspiring and enlightening lectures, some of which involved the display and manipulation of manuscripts and rare books from the McGill Library and Archives collections.

Day 1 of “Islamic Paleography and Codicology Workshop”: An Introduction to the Arts of Bookmaking

Guests lectures were delivered by internationally renowned scholars in the field: Professor François Déroche from Collège de France (Paris, France) and András Riedlmayer from the Aga Khan Program Fine Arts Library at Harvard University (Cambridge, MA). Professor Déroche’s presentation focused on a research he has been conducting on three mammoth Qur’ans from the Ommeyad and Abbasid periods. András Riedlmayer’s lecture focused on the arts of illuminating and illustrating manuscripts in the Islamic World, and concluded with a fascinating section on the fake illuminated manuscripts market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other lectures covered various aspects of the production of manuscripts (such as writing supports, scripts, illuminations and illustrations, covers and bindings), as well as some challenges that arise when working with manuscripts (such as identification, location, attribution, etc.). And all sessions of the workshop were very well attended by members of both the McGill community and the wider community.

Day 3 of “Islamic Paleography and Codicology Workshop”: The Persian Manuscripts Tradition

Special thanks go to the Institute of Islamic Studies, the Post-Graduate Students’ Society, McGill Libraries and Archives  and the Dean of Arts Development Fund for supporting this event.