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.

Digital Vatican Library

Started in 2010, this massive digitization project of the Vatican Library aims to scan the entire library’s collection of manuscripts (80,000 codices), as well as other materials such as incunabula. The Vatican Library’s collection include a number of manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish.

In August 2016, 5267 manuscripts and 658 incunabula were accessible on DigiVatLib:

Digitized Manuscripts (Vat.turc.) DigiVatLibAs explained on the “About” page, “DigiVatLib is based on the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) technology, making digital materials easily accessible and usable.”

The DigiVatLib book reader not only allows users to zoom, browse and ‘turn pages’, but also to compare digital objects from different IIIF repositories of other digital libraries. It is possible to search, and discovery the digital collections using the simple and advanced search features. The guided navigation (‘faceted search’) relies on metadata elements to refine queries. The next release of DigiVatLib will include enhanced search functions,  digital galleries, and a news section.

The interface is available in English, Italian and Japanese.

Codicologia: glossaires codicologiques

Codicologia is an online tool providing multilingual vocabulary for the description of manuscripts which aims to support manuscripts catalogers, critical editors, and more widely anyone interested in manuscripts. Launched in 2011, the website is the result of the merging of three existing databases:

  • Vocabulaire codicologique, an index of French terms used to describe manuscripts, with a translation in English, Italian, and Spanish, established in 2003 based on the work of Denis Muzerelle published in 1985 (Paris : Editions CEMI, 1985)
  • Lexicon, a work by Philippe Bobichon focusing on the manuscripts page layout in various linguistic and cultural traditions (Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Roman and Arabic ) published in 2008. (Paris : IRHT, 2008 ; Ædilis, Publications pédagogiques, 5)
  • المعجم الكوديكولوجي العربي, a glossary compiled by Anne-Marie Eddé (Paris1 University), Marc Geoffroy (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), Marie-Geneviève Guesdon (Bbibliothéque Nationale de France), in collaboration with Youssef Baratli

Glossaires Codicologiques

The glossary can be interrogated by Theme, browsed by Index, or fully searched. At the time of our visit, however, the Index page was not accessible and the Index feature only available via the search box located at the top right corner of each page. An additional Help tab explains in great detail how to best use Codicologia. And the Colophon page is under construction.

Gathering the works of prominent scholars in the field of manuscripts edition, this website is a wonderful tool for manuscripts specialists. The website interface is fully bilingual French-Arabic.

New exhibition: illuminated Qur’ans from the McGill collections

MS RBD Arabic 29

MS RBD Arabic 29 – Rare Books and Special Collections

The Arabic writing used for setting down the sacred text of the Qur’an went under a diffusion corresponding to the expansion of the Islamic faith and to the development of the Islamic civilization. It belongs to the family of Semitic scripts, which are consonantal scripts vocalized by means of accents. The conditions of use and development of the Arabic writing were therefore determined by its association with the language it expressed. Although Arabic became a major academic and literary language, it experienced divergences of articulation and pronunciation in the colloquial use which affected the way in which it was written.

MS RBD Arabic 18 - Rare Books and Special Collections

MS RBD Arabic 18 – Rare Books and Special Collections

The archaic or primitive Arabic writing was used in Arabia at the beginning of Islam, from the Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime and during the caliphates of his immediate successors (632-660). From the very beginning, the Arabic script was associated with the religion of Islam, and became instrumental in the materialization and transmission of the divine message. In the 7th century, the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik imposed the use of Arabic to the central and provincial administration, and for the legends on coinage with calligraphic designs. This, in turn, led to two distinct paths in the development of the Arabic writing:

  • a utilitarian cursive script marked primarily by the requirements of legibility and speed, known as Naskh was used for state documents and correspondence
  • a dignified angular form purely aimed at the requirements of prestige, known as Kufic, was used for ornamental purposes (architecture and coinage) as well as for the copy of the divine message.
MS RBD Arabic 20 - Rare Books and Special Collections

MS RBD Arabic 20 – Rare Books and Special Collections

Until the 10th century, Qur’an were mainly written in Kufic script. This exhibition intends to show the influence of other scripts, such as Syriac, Turkish and Persian, on the Kufic calligraphic style, as well as a variety of styles and decorative techniques used in different periods of time and regions of the Muslim World.

The Qur’an exhibition was curated by Anaïs Salamon, Head Librarian, and Dr. Eliza Tasbihi, Senior Library Clerk at the Islamic Studies Library. It will be accessible in the Islamic Studies Library, Morrice Hall, 1st floor, during opening hours, from June 1st to December 31st, 2016.