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. Andras 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.

Al-Tafhim li Awa’il Sana’at al-Tanjim (The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology)

Al-Tafhim li Awa’il Sana’at al-Tanjim (التفهيم لاوائل صناعة التنجيم) is a Persian book of instruction in the elements of the Art of Astrology written by a celebrated Iranian scientist Abu- Rayhan al-Biruni, in 440-362HD/ 973-1048 AD.  It is one of the oldest texts in Mathematics and Astrology and has had a deep scientific influence on the world since most Iranian and non-Iranian scientists have made use of this text in their scientific works and papers.

The global significance and values of this book made it to be recognized as an outstanding World Documented Heritage by UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme and in 2011 its oldest existing manuscript in Persian was inscribed on UNESCO’s list of documented heritage. (More information and Nomination file about this manuscripts is accessible here)

The main purpose of Al-Tafhim li Awa’il Sana’at al- Tanjim is to introduce the principles of astrology. The book begins with geometry and arithmetic and continues with astronomy and chronology, moreover Biruni explains the use of the astrolabe for astronomical and astrological purposes. This book consists of 530 questions and answers in an understandable manner for new learners of science. Each new topic starts with a question posed by an imaginary student and ends in an answer by an invented professor. Biruni wrote this book responding to Reyhanah’s request – the daughter of Hussein/Hassan Khwarizmi in 420 HD/ 1029 AD.

What makes this book particularly precious and adds to its rarity is its scientific and linguistic significance, its physical specification and the time of its transcription – less than hundred years after author’s death.

From the linguistic point of view this self-study on Astrology is considered an important work in Persian language since Biruni used the most original and oldest terms and expressions of the Persian language regarding history, traditions and chronology of the Iranians in this book. Moreover Abu- Rayhan al- Biruni used some figures and drawings in order to explain difficult mathematical and astrological concepts in a simplified manner; both the figures and the script were written in bright red and black color.

This manuscript has been digitized by National Library and Archives of Iran and is available on DVD and can be accessed at Islamic Studies Library at McGill.

 

Digital Library of the Middle East

DLME is a response to the current threats in the form of destruction, looting and illegal trade to the cultural heritage of the Middle East.

The digital Library of the Middle East aims to federate different types of cultural heritage material consisting of archives, manuscripts, museum objects, media and archeological and intangible heritage collections. The DLME implements international cultural preservation goals by providing accessibility and urging documentation and digitization; contributing to security and sustainability by encouraging inventory creation, cataloguing, documentation and digitization of collections as well as forming a community of interest that seeks collaboration among people, organization and countries who value this heritage; which in returns can help mitigate looting and the illegal resale of heritage materials.

The digital platform of the DLME brings together digital records of accessible artifacts ranging across twelve millennia. It provides metadata for each objects that describes various aspects of the artifact or document, it might include its contested meaning or significance, its history and its provenance when available. This platform is searchable, also the collection is classified based on different criteria such as Language, type, date, creator, medium and etc.The Digital Library of the Middle East is continuously developing and progressing through scholarly inputs, crowd-sourcing and new knowledge discovered through its use.

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.

koc-university-manuscript-collection

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