bina : collections patrimoniales numérisées de la BULAC

bina is the digital collection of the Bibliothèque Universitaire des Langues et Civilisations (BULAC), an academic library established in 2001 to centralize the “Oriental” collections of nine parisian academic and research libraries. The wide-range of geographical areas covered by BULAC go from the Balkans, to Oceania passing by the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, and Asia. BULAC’s mission revolves around three axis: gathering these “Oriental” collections in a single location, promoting and supporting open access, and facilitating worldwide scholars’ access to the materials.

The Middle Eastern, North African and Central Asian collections of BULAC include 235,000 monographs and over 800 periodicals. In addition, the library owns approximately 4,000 “Oriental” manucripts and rare books dating from the 16th to the 19th century. The online cataloguing of these rare collections started in 2013 and the digitization in 2016. At the time of our visit (June 2021), 248 Ottoman Turkish, 150 Persian and 61 Arabic manuscripts and archival documents had been scanned and were available in bina.

The XML-EAD standard initally used to describe these rare materials was not fit to reflect the linguistic and paleographical variety of the collection and the multiple transliteration systems used to transcribe non-roman scripts. Therefore, BULAC worked in collaboration with the Agence bibliographique de l’enseignement supérieur (ABES) to develop bibliographic descriptions and authority records matching the codicological and onomastical specificities of these collections. Those interested in learning more about this cataloguing project can read the following articles (in French):

Navigating bina digital collections can be done in three different ways. The simple search available from the top-right corner of the page will search simultaneaously the title, author, date, description, format and subject fields. The advanced search available either by clicking on the “Rechercher” tab or opening the drop-down menu in the simple search will allow to target specific fields and cross-search them. The Index search allows to browse materials by author, language, type of document and call number.

The metadata is divided in four categories: Notice (bibliographic data), Matérialité (physical description), Contenu (content) and Conservation (location).

The online viewer allows to browse volumes, jump to a specific page, display a single page, double pages or a gallery. It is also possible to save pages either as image of PDF (one page at a time), share (with a permalink) or embed the image elsewhere. Unless otherwise stated, all materials are out of copyright and free of use. For more technical and legal information, you may visit this page.

bina interface is in French.

Two valuable collections of Islamic materials @Library of Congress

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The Library of Congress houses, preserves, collects and makes accessible numerous valuable and historical materials from across the globe in different languages, forms and subjects, this includes  a noteworthy collection of rare Persian language materials. This collection is part of the “African and Middle Eastern Division (AMED) and the Rare Book and Special Collections Division” and includes various rare materials of early print books, lithographic books and manuscripts.

Qurʼān. [1739 or 1740, 1739] Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2017406495/>.

Sūrat al-Qāf. [18th Century] Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2017498316/>.

According to the Library of Congress most materials in this collection was acquired in 1930s through a well-known dealer in fine Islamic and Near Eastern arts, Kirkor Minassian. This acquisition includes rare manuscripts and books in Arabic, Persian, Armenian and Turkish language, however the rare Persian language collection grew beyond Minassain acquisitions as the library continued to acquire more materials from other sources as well as to receive rare collections in a form of donation from generous people.

Ṣāfī, Aḥmad Rashīd, Scribe, Ibrāhīm AdʹHam Gharbaldah Balawī, and Charles C McVicker. Qurʼān
. [18–?] Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2010471600/>

This collection consists of materials in different subject and disciplines from the entire Middle East. However, literary works and historical lithographs makes up for much of the collection.

“A number of these items are exquisitely illuminated anthologies of poetry by classic and lesser known poets, written in fine calligraphic styles, and illustrated with miniatures. Many also have beautiful bindings. A number of the illuminated books are multilingual works, which include Arabic and Turkish passages in addition to Persian, focusing on scientific, religious – philosophical and literary topics, and others are holy books important to all confessional traditions within the Islamic world.”

In 2014 in an exhibition, called “A Thousand Years of the Persian Book” that was held by The Library’s Near East Section, 40 items of rare Persian collection were shown to the public, this exhibition led to a digitization project in 2015. As a result of this ongoing project up until now 169 lithographs of the Collection are digitized and made available.

This beautifully organized collection can be accessed here. Each record provides access to a digitized format of the item as well as a description about the item such as a physical account, bibliographic information and when available summary of the content.

In addition to the abovementioned collection, Library of Congress also provided to a large collection of Arabic script calligraphy sheets from 9th to 19th century. 373 calligraphy sheets can be browsed online which mainly consist of fragments of Quran written on paper or parchment.

Access the collection here.

This beautiful collection also provides detail description for each item as well as script of the presented sheet, calligraphic style, date and physical account of the item. This collection also includes a section of Special Presentations:
Calligraphers of the Persian Tradition
Ottoman Calligraphers and Their Works
Qur’anic Fragments
Noteworthy Items

Khamseen Islamic Art History Online

Khamseen: Islamic Art History Online is a brand new open-access platform making available Islamic art, architecture, and visual culture resources primarily to support the interactive learning and teaching of Islamic art history, and in particular educators “who face limited access to institutional and archival resources”, but also to “educate and inspire interested audiences outside of academia”.

This very promising platform was launched in October 2020 under the supervision of Christiane Gruber, Professor of Islamic art at the University of Michigan. The project received financial support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and is sponsored by the  Digital Islamic Studies Curriculum (DISC) at the University of Michigan.

At the time of our visit, Khamseen included a series of ten to fifteen minutes-long video presentations focusing on a variety of topics: Persian miniatures, Mosques architecture, textile in traditional Tentmaking, etc. To date, no less than twenty-five international Islamic art history specialists contributed to the the platform.

Additional resources included the following:

A selection of Teaching Resources for Islamic Art

An Audio and Video Recording Tools Guide

The recording of a 90-minutes Discussion of Online Resources for Teaching Islamic Art between Khamseen founder Christiane Gruber, Ruba Kan’an (Assistant Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture, University of Toronto), Michael Toler (Archnet Content Manager, Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT), and Matt Saba (Visual Resources Librarian for Islamic Architecture at the Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT)

Further developments of Khamseen will focus on: “(…) expand[ing] the range of subjects and materials to provide a rich repository of resources in the realm of digital Islamic humanities, [and] (…) expand[ing] the project’s accessibility and foster a global audience through closed captioning and providing content in multiple languages [seeking] to take the study of Islamic art out to the world, reaching a truly international level of engagement and learning thanks to the possibilities of integrated digital technologies.”

Interested people can find more information about the platform or follow future developments on social media: @khamseenislamicart (Instagram), @TeamKhamseen (Twitter), @KhamseenIslamicArt (Facebook).

Islamic Art @Victoria and Albert Museum

Victoria and Albert museum (V&A) of art and design’s collection contains over 2.3 million objects showcasing 5000 years of human art and creativity. The Museum’s collection consists of UK’s national as well as international collections. These collections contain wide range of resources for learning, research and study of various topics such as: architecture, book arts, sculpture, Asian art and design and etc.

Since the beginning of the V&A in 1850’s and when Queen Victoria laid the first stone of the Museum in 1899, Museum’s mission has been to provide tools and ways of learning and engaging with their collection. Moreover, building an excellent collection with global relevance and attracting international audiences and collections has always been part of their mission; therefore, V&A collected various outstanding resources and examples of human art and creativity from around the world. 

In that regard, the V&A houses a great collection of Islamic art, which holds more than 19000 artifacts and items from early Islamic era to early twentieth century from Middle East and North Africa.  This great collection usually can be visited in the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art, however, now that due to COVID-19 situation the Gallery is closed, the highlight of this collection is accessible digitally and can be found here.

This very well organized collection also provides exclusive information about the item’s history, place, date, material, techniques that were used in creation of the objects.

V&A Museum has a rich collection of South Asian artifacts which is described as: “The collections from South and South-East Asia comprise nearly 60,000 objects, including about 10,000 textiles and 6,000 paintings covering the Indian subcontinent south of the Himalayas, including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. The range of the collection is immense.”

South Asian Collection Highlights

Calligraphy as an astonishing form of Islamic Art also made its way to V&A collection and can be visited here, also at the end of the page a slideshow of different objects of the collection featuring beautiful work of calligraphy from different style, era and techniques.

“Tray featuring a calligraphic script, 1330 – 60, possibly Syria or Egypt, brass. Museum no. 420-1854. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London”

Kashkul / كشكول

Kashkul is a collective composed of Iraqi, Kurdish and American students, artists, and researchers based at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS). The group aims at collecting, preserving, translating when necessary, and making available to the general public literary, artistic, and archival materials produced in Iraq. A partnership with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) allows Kashkul to publish their collections through the International Digital Ephemera Project (IDEP).

Directed by Dr. Elizabeth Campbell, Professor of Middle East History at Daemen College in Amherst, New York, and Dr. Marie LaBrosse, an independent writer, translator and poet, who both used to work at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS), Kashkul also includes six scholars focusing on the numerous projects. In 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, the collective welcomed two artists-in-residence: Kurdish painter and sculptor Ismail Khayat and Mexican poet David Shook.


Past and current Kashkul projects include:

  • Crux “aims to understand how devotion becomes violent and how violent devotion can become peaceful.” Crux relies on case studies of specific areas and creates “in-depth profiles of Islamic thought leaders who are influential within these communities.”
  • Talabani Tekiye studies the theology and religious practice of the Talabani Tekiye and Mosque of Kirkuk, a bastion of liberal Islam, “and how, over generations, people have maintained their openness.”
  • Mosul Lives is meant to provide “a picture of daily life in Mosul, before the Islamic State, and the American presence of 2003.” This projects is based on extensive interviews.
  • Handmade “documents traditional crafts and practices in Iraq and its Kurdish regions and the stories of those who continue them, preserving the cultural heritage of daily life.”
  • Film, Music and Art Archives aims at collecting and preserving “contemporary culture in Iraq and its Kurdish regions.” The database features a personal library for each artist including scans of their works, translation, subtitles, etc.
  • Arrival‘s goal is the publication of an anthology of Kurdish poetry in translation. Currently, the project focuses on selecting, translating, analyzing and comparing “critical literary contributions from every century of Kurdish poetry.”
  • The Abu Ghraib Collection includes “letters, objects, and books made by a political prisoner in Abu Ghraib under Saddam Hussein” showing “how prisoners maintained hope, connection and the ability to express their ideas.”
  • The Referendum collection focuses on “how people and their political parties campaigned, expressed opinions, and voted.”
  • The Stone Man was a collaboration between artist-in-residence Ismail Khayat and student artists  that resulted in a retrospective of Khayat’s work as well as a sculpture garden (The Stone Garden) located on the AUIS campus.
  • Kashkulistan is a manuscripts, and artifacts collecting, cataloguing and digitization project lead in collaboration with regional archives, collectors and scholars.


If you want to learn more about Kashkul and be informed of their activities, you may follow them on Instagram: @kash_kul

La fabrique du Caire moderne

La fabrique du Caire moderne is a “pilot project about urban development, architecture, Euro-Mediterranean entanglements and global investment in Cairo in the 19th and 20th centuries.”

The project is is co-directed by Professors Mercedes Volait (CNRS) and Adam Mestyan (Duke) and conducted in collaboration with researchers from:

Hosted by Duke University, the blog includes news items and announcements relating to the project as well as lengthy thematic articles and descriptions of relevant archival documents (photographs, plans, maps, etc.).

The Sources page references the main photo albums used to conduct the research.

Last, the website is trilingual: Arabic, French and English.

Call for contribution in the form of translation@ Museum With No Frontier

If in the face this pandemic you are staying home and have more time on your hands, If despite all this you are still passionate about culture, art and history, If you too believe that art, culture and cultural heritage should be accessible to everyone as much as possible, If you were looking for an opportunity to contribute for a good cause, But more importantly, If you can translate from English to Arabic, then this post is probably for you.

 

Mueseum With No Frontier (MWNF) has launched a campaign to have more of their museum and exhibitions related content translated into Arabic, in order to give greater access to art and culture to more people from around the world.

 

“We are in need of support to translate more of our database to Arabic so those in Arab countries and beyond can access our online Explore Islamic Art Collections and other exhibitions.”

If interested, contact them at: office@museumwnf.net

Brief background about Museum With No Frontier:

MWNF was founded as an independent non-profit organization in 1995 on the initiative of Eva Schubert. MWNF program is a collaboration between public and private partners from all over the world and its main activities consist of “MWNF Virtual Museum and related MWNF Galleries and the MWNF Exhibition Trails and related books and travel program.”

MuseumWNF is determined to link cultures via a diversified knowledge of history, heritage and culture encourage practicing peaceful coexistence. Moreover, part of their mandate is cooperation with the Arab world and promoting Islamic art.

“Contributing to better knowledge of Arab countries and cooperating with Arab partners on educational and cultural tourism projects has been an MWNF priority since its foundation. Since 2010 MWNF has had a partnership with the League of Arab States to promote awareness of the Arab world’s history and cultural legacy through joint projects.”

More information about MWNF can be found here.

There is also volunteer opportunities for native-language translators to help with translations:
English to Arabic
English to Spanish
German to English
Spanish to English

For more information click here and here

MWNF on Facebook, Twitter, Instgram.

Qur’an Manuscript Studies Blog = المخطوطات القرآنية معنية بدراسات وترجمات المخطوطات القرآنية المبكرة

The Qur’an Manuscript Studies Blog is maintained by Ahmed Wissam Shaker, an independent researcher, translator, and editor (Journal of Religious Studies), whose scholarship focuses primarily on the study of early Qur’anic fragments written in Kufic script (first two centuries of Islam). Launched around 2015, the blog is regularly updated, highlighting not only Shaker’s works but also significant developments in the field of Qur’anic Studies.

If Ahmed Shaker is a professional translator (English to Arabic), most of the content on the Qur’an Manuscript Studies Blog is posted in Arabic. In addition to having studied fragments from all over the Arab World (Yemen, Kuwait, Turkey, Abu Dhabi, Egypt, etc.), Shaker also developed numerous catalogues, bibliographies, surveys and guides to help other researchers in the field.

The downside of the Qur’an Manuscript Studies Blog is that content is not categorized nor tagged making it difficult to navigate. The search bar helps to find articles relevant to one’s research, but it would be nice to be able to browse by topic. Apart from this, the Qur’an Manuscript Studies Blog is undoubtedly a very valuable resource for any scholar interested in early Qur’anic manuscripts.

All the content from the blog can be used for non-commercial purposes and as long as it is appropriately credited.

Chester Beatty Digital Collections

Chester Beatty Digital Collections gives access to part of remarkable treasures that are housed at Chester Beatty library In Ireland. This collection is a database of digitized artworks and manuscripts from different part of the world and includes Persian, Islamic, Turkish and Arabic collection.  These invaluable collections of manuscripts was gathered by Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968) one of the greatest collector of the twentieth century and a friend to Ireland.

Opening folio from a Qur’an, illuminated by Muhammad ibn Aybak in Baghdad. This full-page illumination marks the beginning of a superb Qur’an volume produced in Baghdad. It is from a thirty-volume set, now dispersed in international collections or lost. Four of the known volumes contain the signature of the renowned illuminator Muhammad ibn Aybak ibn `Abdullah, who also recorded the date and that he was working “in the City of Peace, Baghdad”. From these inscriptions, Ibn Aybak’s work schedule becomes clear: he completed volume two in April 1303, ten in February 1305, and thirteen in October 1305, producing an illuminated volume approximately every three months. Folio from a Qur’an, colours and gold on paper, illuminated frontispiece panel with geometric design of central radiating star with quarter-stars repeated in the four corners, and hasp ornament on right margin, right half of a double-page composition, illumination by Muhammad ibn Aybak, opening folio from volume 25 of a 30-volume Qur’an (volume 25 codex is in Tehran Iran Bastan Museum, 3350),

Sir Alfred Chester Beatty was a young mining engineer in New York with huge interest in collecting European, Persian manuscripts, Chinese snuff bottles and Japanese netsuke. It was in 1914 and during a family trip to Egypt that the Islamic manuscript fascinated him so he expanded his collection to include rare books, richly illustrated material, fine bindings and calligraphy. Beatty’s exceptional collection developed over his life time, it comprises of remarkable Islamic, East Asian and biblical manuscripts, important Persian, Turkish, Armenian and Western European holdings as well as Burmese, Thai and Nepalese manuscripts, and is housed in the grounds of Dublin Castle.

Manuchihr pursuing his father’s murderer Tur, from the Book of Kings (Shahnama) by Firdausi

“The Chester Beatty Library is a public charitable trust established under the will of the late Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, who left his Collections in the care of a Trust for the benefit of the Irish people.”

The Beatty’s collection is a great resource for scholars and researchers as well as a cultural attraction for visitors from Ireland and from all around the world, part of which is available online through digital collection.

In 2017, the Chester Beatty started digitizing its collection with the help of digital photographers and a team of museum experts. Each item of this collection has a catalogue record and an informative description to the item. The digital collection is a searchable database; however, it is a growing database therefore it is useful to visit it from time to time.

Two horsemen aiming their lances, from Manual on the Arts of Horsemanship (Nihayat al-su’l wa al-umniya fi ta‘allum ‘amal al-furusiyya) by al-Aqsara’i

Basagic Collection of Islamic Manuscripts

The Bašagic collection is a unique assembly of Bosnian and Muslim literary heritage representing Islamic manuscripts collected by Safvet Beg Bašagić – a Bosnian collector, journalist, poet, and bibliographer. Drawn from the holdings of the University library in Bratislava, these items are rare sources of world Islamic culture and offer the researcher access to a comprehensively documented history of Bosnia’s written literature in the 16th to 19th century.

دلائل الخيرات وشوارق الانوار في ذكر الصلاة على النبي المختار

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This rich selection of Islamic manuscripts contain literary works (prose, poetry), scientific works (Islamic theology, law, history, philosophy, Koran sciences, traditions, Islamic mysticism), and works of various Bosnian Muslim scholars composed in Arabic, Turkish, and Persian. The uniqueness of the collection is highlighted by rare Serbian and Croatian texts written in the Arabic script. Moreover, the Bašagic collection covers the history of Bosnia under the Turkish state administration and provides a picture of the religious situation in Bosnia between the 16th to 19th centuries. Aside from their historic value, these manuscripts shed light on the Art of Islamic book making, calligraphy, illustration and miniatures.

 

After the fire at the National Library in Sarajevo in 1992, which destroyed valuable collections of Islamic documents, the Bašagic collection now preserves rare documents about Bosnian Muslim literature. This unique collection is recognised and included on UNESCO’s documentary heritage list.

 

 

The collection contains 284 volumes of manuscripts including 589 individual works: 393 Arabic, 117 Turkish and 88 Persian.

 

 

حاشية على شرح العقائد العضدية

This collection can be browsed or searched by title and item description is available for each document.