Arcadian Library Online: database trial

The Arcadian Library Online platform makes available to students and researchers the collection of the Arcadian Library, a privately-owned library focusing on the shared cultural heritage of Europe and the Middle East. Materials in the Arcadian Library’s collection cover a wide-range of topics among which: travel accounts, history of science and medicine, literature, history, etc.In addition to rare printed books, the Arcadian Library also owns manuscript and documentary material of great importance and rarity.

The History of Science and Medicine collection “includes manuscripts, incunabula, early printed books and monographs from the 10th to 20th centuries. The collection showcases the contribution of early Arab and Persian scientists, doctors and thinkers; their translation, reception and influence in Europe and their lasting influence on the development of Western scientific and medical knowledge. It includes:

The Arcadian Library Online displays colour images in high resolution. Materials can be saved, downloaded, printed, shared, and cited directly from the viewer.

The interface is bilingual English/Arabic, and the database searchable in both languages.

Exhibition: Treasures from the McGill Library Ottoman Manuscripts Collection

Morrice Hall Islamic Studies Library, 1st floor, 3485 rue McTavish, Montreal, QC, H3A 0E1, CA

Established in Anatolia in the 13th century, the Ottoman Empire progressively expanded its domination to the Balkans, parts of Southeast and Central Europe, Western Asia, the Caucasus, and North Africa. At the beginning of the 17th century, the empire ruled over 32 provinces, and a population of approximately thirty million. Encircling the Mediterranean, with Constantinople (today’s Istanbul) as its capital, this incredibly powerful state remained at the center of interactions between the East and the West until 1922. The Ottoman Empire was a region of great demographic diversity including various ethnic, linguistic and religious groups; Arabs, Persians, Turks, Kurds, Greeks, Armenians, Jews, Christians, Sunni and Shi‘i Muslims, among others all inhabited the area under Ottoman rule. Although the language used for official communication was Ottoman Turkish (Turkish written in Arabic script), Arabic –used for administrative, religious, literary and educational purposes–, and Persian –limited to literature and education– were also official languages. Earliest examples of Turkish illuminated manuscripts were produced in the period of the Anatolian Seljuks (13th century). Throughout the centuries, Ottoman scribes and bookbinders developed an Ottoman style of book decoration characterized by the fusion of divergent influences such as Byzantine, Mamluk, Persian, and Chinese.

This exhibition provides beautiful examples of traditional Ottoman handicrafts such as calligraphy (hat), illumination (tezhip), bookbinding (cilt), and paper marbling (ebru), and reflects book art trends of the period and region dominated by the Empire. The selection of manuscripts wouldn’t have been possible without the descriptions provided in two articles about McGill Library’s collections of Ottoman-Turkish manuscripts* and of Qur’anic Codices** authored by Dr. Adam Gacek.

The exhibition was, curated by Anaïs Salamon, Head of the Islamic Studies Library, with the assistance of Jillian Mills and Ghazaleh Ghanavizchian, Senior Library Clerks.

* Gacek, A., and A. Yaycioğlu (1998). “Ottoman-Turkish Manuscripts in the Islamic Studies Library and Other Libraries of McGill University.” Fontanus, vol. 10, 41-63.

** Gacek, A. (1991). “A collection of Qu’anic Codices.” Fontanus, vol. 4, 35-53.

L’Afrique en cartes: Gallica.fr

The Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) recently added to Gallica digital library a rich collection of historical maps of Africa. L’Afrique en cartes includes almost a thousand maps dating from the 14th to the 20th century.

The maps collection can be accessed, browsed, and searched either by date, or by geographical location (countries or colonial entities). Maps are scanned in very high definition, allowing for thorough on-screen examination. Download (in pdf), sharing and printing are permitted, and visitors can even order a reproduction for a fee.

Note that Gallica only makes available materials published before 1948 so that they are out of copyright. The website is in French.

Koç University Manuscript Collection

Some 299 manuscripts in Ottoman Turkish, Turkish, English, French, Latin, Arabic and Persian on a variety of topics from Koç University Collection are now available online. Stored on Koç University institutional repository, the scans are accompanied by extremely detailed and lengthy descriptions.

Navigation features include two menus located on the right-hand side of the book viewer: a thumbnails menu, and a content menu. Digitized manuscripts only open in the book reader with the possibility to enlarge full screen, fit to window, or rotate pages. Unfortunately it is not possible to download or save the digitized manuscripts. The resolution of images is however high enough to allow a thorough examination of items on-screen.

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A database for Ottoman Inscriptions

ottomaninscriptions-database-for-ottoman-inscriptions-osmanli-kitabeleri-projesiThe Database for Ottoman Inscriptions (DOI) is “a searchable digital database comprising information about, as well as transliterations and pictures of, all the Turkish, Arabic and Persian architectural inscriptions created in the Ottoman lands during Ottoman times. While tombstone inscriptions are not included in this database, the database does incorporate those inscription texts which were composed but for one reason or another were not actually carved onto a stone; and also, inscriptions that have not survived the passage of time, but which are available to us in the “chronogram” sections of poetry collections. Incorporating these chronograms will give researchers the opportunity to evaluate inscriptions which were otherwise long lost.

One of the main impetuses for this project was that we ourselves sadly witnessed the disappearance of many Ottoman inscriptions over the short period of a few decades in Turkey or elsewhere. The fact that a number of inscriptions were damaged, lost or stolen was highly alarming and encouraged us to undertake this immense project. Many colleagues warned us about the enormity of the material to be covered. However, the project editors believe that even if this project is not able to immediately achieve the goal of covering every single inscription, a database of Ottoman inscriptions is long due.

The starting point of the project is the systematic recording of the inscriptions of Istanbul. Bursa and Edirne. Still, since the editors have decided to begin by entering previously published data into the database, researchers may encounter entries on inscriptions from cities other than Istanbul as well. For our methodology in collecting the inscriptions, click here.

The Database of Ottoman Inscriptions (DOI) is searchable by the benefactor’s name, the location of the building containing the inscription, and the date of construction, as well the types of script or poem. As such, the database represents an enormous resource for researchers who are conducting studies in the fields of Ottoman history, art history, philology, prosopography, etc. The editors hope that this data will bring new and fresh approaches to the aforementioned fields. To read the instructions on how to use the database, please click here.

H. Aynur, K. Hayashi, H. Karateke (eds.), http://www.ottomaninscriptions.com/; accessed on 03.01.2017.

Digital Scriptorium

Digital Scriptorium (DS) is a partnership between approximately forty American Libraries, Museums, and Associations housing collections of manuscripts from the Middle-Ages and Renaissance. A list of participating institutions can be found here. Governance is ensured by an Executive Director, and a Board of Directors, and funding comes from membership dues.

Digital Scriptorum offers an online union catalog allowing the discovery of pre-modern resources scattered across the world. Thanks to a shared metadata schema, the catalogue allows the searching of all holdings. Both the basic search and the advanced search offer refining options in the left-hand-side menu such as Language or Location. Visitors will note that descriptive records include persistent URLs in order to encourage direct citation, and sometimes links to the websites and/or digital repositories of the materials’ home institutions.

Digital Scriptorum also offers a digital image repository making those pre-modern manuscripts openly accessible to scholars, students, booksellers, collectors, and the general public. Images can be used under certain restrictions which can be found on the Using the Images page.

The website is in English.

Islamicate Texts Initiative

islamicate-texts-initiative-itiThe Islamicate Texts Initiative (ITI) is a collaborative effort to construct the first machine-actionable corpus of premodern Islamicate texts.Led by researchers at the Aga Khan University (AKU), Universität Leipzig (UL), and the Roshan Institute for Persian Studies at the University of Maryland (College Park) and an interdisciplinary advisory board of leading digital humanists and Islamic, Persian, and Arabic studies scholars, ITI aims to provide the essential textual infrastructure in Persian and Arabic for new forms of macro textual analysis and digital scholarship. ITI is composed of three different projects:

  1. Open Arabic Project is curated by Maxim Romanov, research fellow at Alexander von Humboldt-Lehrstul für Digital Humanities, Institut für Informatik, Universität Leipzig who has been exploring for years how modern computational techniques of text analysis can be applied to the study of premodern Arabic historical sourcesal-raqmiyyat-digital-islamic-history2. The Persian Digital Library is managed by Samar Ali Ata, Program administrative specialist and Assistant to the Director at Roshan Institute for Persian Studies at the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures; College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Marylandpersian-digital-library-by-persdigumd3. KITAB is led by Sarah Bowen Savant, Associate Professor at the Agha Khan University-ISMC who specializes on the cultural history of the Middle East and Iran ca. 600-1100. provides a digital tool-box and a forum for discussions about Arabic texts. Although KITAB is currently a closed community, the corpus and search tools can be used upon request. kitab-knowledge-information-technology-and-the-arabic-books

New Exhibition: A Tradition in Transition: Lithography in Islamic cultural History

title-page-3During the last decade, the field of Arabic and Islamic studies focused on the revaluation and rediscovery of an extensive amount of sources, mainly in manuscript form, that bear witness to hereto neglected aspects of Arabo-Islamicate cultural history. More specifically, the re-appreciation and the unprecedented analyses of these manuscript documents has fostered the reassessment of outdated narratives surrounding the evolution of various Islamic disciplines, such as linguistic sciences (al-ʿulūm al-lughawiyah), logic (manṭiq) and rational and philosophical theology (ʿilm al-kalām and ḥikmah), mathematical and astronomical sciences (al-riyāḍiyāt, ʿilm al-hayʾah), and Quranic exegesis (tafsīr) and legal methodology (uṣūl al-fiqh). Accordingly, scholars in these fields of the Islamic intellectual tradition are paying increasing attention to unveiling this manuscript tradition. However, the majority of these sources are not available in modern editions, and access to a considerable part of these manuscript forms can often be hindered by various kinds of obstacles. Scholars and researchers are therefore often forced to limit the range and scope of their research according to the accessibility of that manuscript heritage.

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It is however less known that in between the 19th and the 20th centuries, a good amount of that manuscript heritage has been produced and circulated in the form of lithographed copies, mainly within madrasa networks in the Arab world. Lithography in the Arabo-Islamicate intellectual panorama was more welcomed than typography because of several religio-cultural and socio-economic reasons, and filled an important gap between the manuscript and printing tradition that would follow. Lithography was still tightly bound to traditional handwritten manuscript production while offering the advantages the printing technology. Many among the most relevant works on linguistic sciences, rational and philosophical theology, mathematical and astronomical sciences, Sufism and Quranic exegesis and juridical methodology, executed by professional scribes and supervised by trained scholars, have become the tools of the madrasa tradition. The tradition and the production of lithographed books has received little attention despite their number and  relevance to the Islamic intellectual tradition Scholars and researches in the Arabo-Islamicate tradition are thus often unaware of not only the existence of lithography but also of their relative accessibility. Accordingly, a rigorous and thorough investigation into the tradition of the Arabic lithographed books will undoubtedly benefit many scholars in various fields of research.

img_20170120_093122214This exhibition is an attempt to highlight the richness and complexity of the lithographed book tradition and suggest the importance it can have in modern scholarship. It was curated by Giovanni Carrera, doctoral student at the Institute of Islamic Studies and Anaïs Salamon, Head of the Islamic Studies Library. The selection of titles has been possible thanks to the efforts of Dr. Adam Gacek, who first provided a description of the Islamic Studies Library’s collection of lithographed books at McGill University in his Arabic Lithographed Books in the Islamic Studies Library in 1996.

A Tradition in Transition: Lithography in Islamic Cultural History is accessible on the 1st floor of the Islamic Studies Library during opening hours.

Naval Kishore Press Bibliographie

Naval Kishore Press was founded in Lucknow, Northern India, in 1858 by Munshi Newal Kishore (3 January 1836-19 February 1885), and is considered the oldest printing and publishing house in the area. Naval Kishore Press published more than 5000 books in numerous languages including Arabic, Bengali, Hindi, English, Marathi, Punjabi, Pashto, Persian, Sanskrit, and Urdu.

search-homeThe Naval Kishore Press Bibliographie is a joint effort of Heidelberg University Library, and Heidelberg University South Asia Institute (SAI). It serves as a bibliographic database recording books and journals published by Naval Kishore Press, accessible in libraries around the world. Although the bibliography is still under construction, it includes 1.300 entries. And visitors are encouraged to suggest additional titles via email.

Bibliographic records can be searched by title, author, subject, ISBN/ISSN, series, year of publication, or browsed by language, format or provenance.

Titles that have been digitized and are available online can be accessed on Heidelberg University Library’s website Literature on South Asia – digitized / Subject / Collection.

Bibliotheca Alexandrina digital assets repository

Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Alexandria, Egypt) digital assets repository gives free access to more than 137 000 ebooks full-text, among which 24 000 are in Arabic. In addition, it offers limited preview (5% of a title; minimum 10 pages) of over 230 000 copyrighted books, primarily in Arabic (200 000).

Book Site 3.1.2

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina DAR book viewer provides very convenient features including:

  • Full text search within the book’s title, subject, keywords, and content
  • Highlight of search results, and the possibility to highlight, underline and stick notes
  • Single page or two pages display, and one page at a time display to facilitate the opening of a book with a slow Internet connection
  • Multilingual interface.

This project, initiated in 1995 was implemented in 2002. The shared catalogue was developed in 2011 in collaboration with other institutions such as Internet Archive, the Arab World Institute (Paris, France), the Biodiversity Heritage Library, etc.

The interface is trilingual: Arabic, English and French.