Celebrating the Islamic Studies Library and Digital Initiatives decade-long Collaboration

Ten years ago, the first items from the Islamic Studies Library (ISL) collection located in Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) were digitized. Over the years, the Islamic Studies Library and Digital Initiatives (DI) have developed a strong link, and the history of this decade-long collaboration is worth sharing with our community. This continuous teamwork resulted in launching multiple digital exhibitions, an Internet Archive ISL Collection and various research projects.

Digital Exhibitions and Collections

The first collaboration, Beautiful calligraphy ensures entrance to Paradise, started with a physical display in the Islamic Studies Library from November 1st, 2010 to March 31st 2011. The Calligraphy panels came from McGill University’s Rare Books and Special Collections and the Islamic Studies Library holdings located in RBSC. The physical exhibition included sixteen items representing various styles of Arabic calligraphy: from dry black and white calligraphy of the 10th century to colorful illuminated pieces of the 19th century, all of which recounted a brief history of Arabic/Islamic calligraphy. The Digital Exhibit: http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/islamic_calligraphy/index.php.

The second collaboration, The Shahnameh by Ferdowsi, also started as a physical display in the Islamic Studies Library, from April 1st to October 31st, 2011. Here again, the physical exhibition included sixteen Shahnameh folios coming from McGill University’s Rare Books and Special Collections and the Islamic Studies Library holdings located in RBSC.  Shahnameh by Ferdowsi offered the visitor an opportunity to experience some of the heroes and villains of this remarkable epic poem and to gather a diverse overview of this celebrated text as well as the magnificence of Persian painting. The Digital Exhibit: http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/shahnameh/index.php.

The third collaboration, Arabic Lithographed Books, drew upon selections from Arabic lithographed books. The collection was on display in the Islamic Studies Library between February 1st and September 30th 2014, and later formed the basis for the Islamic Lithographs digital collection. Since then, the digitization of Islamic lithographs at McGill has become a work in progress, and the resulting digital collection a continually updated resource. This Collection includes many examples of lithographed books in Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, and Urdu, dated from the eighteenth century until the mid-twentieth century showcasing different calligraphic styles, graphic designs, and publishing houses from the Muslim world and Europe. Items from the Islamic Lithographs digital collection were the first to be uploaded to the Islamic Studies Library Internet Archives collection. The Digital Exhibit: http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/islamic_lithographs/.

Exhibits photo credit: Klaus Fiedler

INTERNET ARCHIVE

Since 2014, an increasing number of digitized materials from the ISL’s various collections have become accessible on Internet Archive, a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, and more. Digital Initiatives uploads digitized materials twice a year. This unique collaboration began with 395 items and today includes digital copies of well over 1279 Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish and Urdu manuscripts, lithographs and rare books from the ISL collection. The materials can be viewed and browsed using the Internet Archive book reader, or downloaded in PDF format. The RSS feed feature of the Internet Archive website offers the opportunity to stay informed of new additions to our collection. Internet Archives Islamic Studies Collection : https://archive.org/details/mcgilluniversityislamicstudies

On demand digitization

Among the first to use this service were two faculty members from the Institute of Islamic studies; Professors F. Jamil Ragep and Robert Wisnovsky selected around 30 manuscripts from the ISL collection and the Osler Library of the History of Medicine collection to be digitized for a joint research project. (Rational Science in Islamic (RASI) project: https://islamsci.mcgill.ca/RASI/). In general, items for personal or scholarly use can be submitted for approval to be digitized by consulting McGill University’s on demand digitization service. Digitized items become available online in full in accordance with Canadian Copyright Law.

Behind the scenes: Digitization at the Library (Video)

A short video created in December 2019 highlights the meticulous work that takes place at Digitization and Digital Initiatives. The Library’s digitization service captures and provides access to millions of pages and objects from the vast and varied collections of McGill Libraries. This service is now even more important and essential during this unprecedented period of remote instruction and library online services.

Special Thanks

Blog post editors: Anaïs Salamon, Head Librarian, Dr. Charles Fletcher, Head Library Clerk, and Greg Houston, Digital Initiatives

Resources @ MEI

The Middle East Institute (MEI) located in Washington, D.C. was founded in 1946 as a non-profit organization by George Camp Keiser a Middle East scholar. Aiming to promote and transmit knowledge of Middle East, MEI has been active in leading research as well as cultural, academic and educational activities, which all together led to the formation of various centres of Policy, Education and Art and Culture. In addition to its effort in producing and expanding knowledge about Middle East, MEI became an intellectual hub and gave platform to regional experts whose works provide a balance outlook and understanding of the region. Besides organizing conferences and educational programs such as training languages spoken in Middle East like Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Hebrew; it also provides access to many useful online resources and publications about Middle East, some of which will be mentioned briefly below.

Middle East Journal:

MEI publishes The Middle East Journal since 1947, this journal as one of the oldest peer-reviewed publication in studying Middle East provides original researches and source materials covering wide area from Morocco to Pakistan and Central Asia.

“The Journal provides the background necessary for an understanding and appreciation of the region’s political and economic development, cultural heritage, ethnic and religious diversity.”

Access this to journal from McGill library here.

 Digital collection:

MEI via its Oman Library digital collection provides access to hundreds of digitized rare books and manuscripts about/of Middle Eastern studies for researchers and scholars from around the world. This online collection holds materials covering wide range of topics from history, culture and literature available in various languages like English, French, Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Farsi, Ottoman Turkish and Turkish. This collection includes rare material from 1700 to 1920 as well as its own publications published by MEI from 1960 to 2004.

Arts & Culture Center:

Middle East Institute, besides organizing cultural events and exhibition through its Art and Culture Center, uses this platform to provide access to a hundreds of different types of online material from media release to podcast, journal article and news. This platform aims to create an environment that facilitates conversation, cross cultural understanding as well as to promote Middle Eastern artist works.

Digital Persian Archive (Asnad.org)

Marriage contract between Mirza ‘Ali Aqa Haqiqi and Bibi Rukhsarah.

Digital Persian Archives project is an online archival image database containing thousands of public and private historical documents from Iran and Central Asia up to the 20th century. It includes royal decrees and orders, official correspondence, and shari’a court documents, such as contracts of sale and lease, vaqf deeds, marriage contracts, and court orders.

This project initially was launched in 2003 and by Department of Islamic Studies at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg and it was called Asnad.org. however, after years of progress and improvement by various departments, in 2019 it was moved to the University of Bamberg where it is under the supervision of the Chair of Iranian Studies.

The main goal of Digital Persian Archives project is to facilitate locating and accessing primary resources and archival material. Therefore, to do so virtual archive of Persian documents has been created as a searchable database. Materials can be searched by particular period or region, specific person, topic or location.

Marriage contract between Hajji Muhammad Zaman ‘Allaf and Sakinah Sultan. 18 Sha’ban 1317 / 22.12.1899 – 22.12.1899

 

A wide range of documents have been included in this project from medieval and early modern periods up to 20th century of Iranian and Central Asian history, factoring in “the older, the more precious” and the quality and readability of the documents in selection criteria. However, as for the language and geographical scope of this project, Persian is rather representing a cultural characteristic than a rigid linguistic specification. The same way Persia was understood in its historical and geographical sense, therefore documents in other languages like Arabic were included, when the connection to Persian cultural influence was clear. Their geographical selection criteria were outlined as below:

“The same is true for the geographical range we seek to cover. The core areas are defined by the shifting historical boundaries of Iran, thus including at times regions such as Anatolia, the Caucasus and Middle Asia. Another criterion is the use of Persian as administrative language as in Central Asia or India, although the systematic integration of Indian documents is beyond the project’s scope.” (Selection criteria)

Sultanmuhammad b. Janmuhammad Bayg sold two pieces of land to Imamvirdi Khan Qiriqlu [Afshar] which are located in Abivard near Mashhad for the amount of 70 Tuman; contract includes a musalahah; Imamvirdi Khan was among the generals of Nadir Shah and for some time held the office of Nazir-i buyutat-i khassah. Date: 25 Jumada II 1156 / 16.8.1743 – 16.8.1743

Marriage contract (‘aqd-i munakihah) between Aqa ‘Abd al-Rahim b. Aqa ‘Ali Baba und Jahan Sultan bt. Aqa Muhammad … ‘Assar (oil-presser) Date: 18 Rajab 1295 / 18.7.1878 – 18.7.1878

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.

Biblioteca Nacional de España : Biblioteca Digital Hispánica

The Hispanic Digital Library is the digital library of the Biblioteca Nacional de España. It provides access free of charge to thousands of digitized documents, including books printed from the 15th to the 20th century, manuscripts, drawings, engravings, pamphlets, posters, photographs, maps, atlases, music scores, historic newspapers and magazines and audio recordings.

When it was launched in January 2008, the HDL had around 10,000 works. Today it comprises more than 222,000 titles (as of January of 2020) works on all topics in all documentary forms, freely accessible from anywhere in the world.

The Hispanic Digital Library has 212 digitized Arabic documents that are worthwhile exploring, divided into the following material type:

  • 134 manuscripts
  • 75 books
  • 2 cartographic material
  • 1 hand-written music

Corán [Manuscrito], Date: entre 1101 y 1200? Subject: Manuscritos iluminados

There are 9 drawings on lacquered hard cardboard dated between [1800-1899] classified by language: Irani, in addition to 4 documents in Persa Antiguo and Persa Moderno.

 

 

 

 

 

Documents are organized according to three basic access methods, in addition to the traditional simple and advanced searches:

  • Access by topic, in keeping with the Universal Decimal Classification structure
  • By type of material
  • Featured collections, due to their relevance, interest, attraction or importance

The website is available in Spanish, English and French, in addition to other languages spoken in Spain.

 

King George III’s Collection of military Maps

King George III’s collection of military maps includes 3,000 maps, drawings and prints, collected by him but also by other individuals. The two main collections he acquired are that of his uncle, William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1721–65), and that of the Italian art patron Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588–1657). In addition to these, George III acquired hundreds of maps of contemporary conflicts.

The Royal Collection Trust whose mandate is to look after the British Royal Collection, recently digitized this military maps and created a digital collection. Although focusing primarily on European conflicts, the collection includes a significant number of maps of the Ottoman Empire, North Africa and South Asia. The main navigation map (below) allows visitors to navigate the collection by geographical area.

But the collection is also discoverable by time period or conflict:

Collections of particular interest to Islamic, Middle East, and South Asian studies scholars are the following:

The materials can be opened directly in the web browser or in the detailed object viewer shared. They can also be shared (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, email) and downloaded in very high definition.

Tripoli [Libya] Città di Barbaria, cosi detta … [there follows a description of its geographical position and summary of its history:]… è fatta una fortezza per guardia del porto qual fortezza del anno 1630… Nouamente il Duca… 1630 or later

Islamic Medical Manuscripts at the National Library of Medicine

Islamic Medical Manuscripts is a project of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the world’s largest library of the health sciences.

“The National Library of Medicine has one of the three greatest collections of Islamic medical manuscripts in the world and some of them are the only ones in existence,” says Dr. Emilie Savage-Smith.

The text for this website was written by Dr. Savage-Smith, Senior Research Associate, The Oriental Institute, University of Oxford, Pusey Lane, Oxford OX1 2LE, England. As one of the leading historians of medieval Islamic medicine, Dr. Savage-Smith has written extensively about the history of anatomy, surgery, dissection, pharmacy and ophthalmology. an American scholar from Oxford University and one of the world’s foremost authorities on Islamic medicine.

This site, with its biographies, colorful images, and extensive historical accounts of medieval medicine and science, provides students and advanced scholars an opportunity to learn about Islamic medicine and science during the Middle Ages and the important role it played in the history of Europe.

Over 300 or so Persian and Arabic manuscripts are available in the National Library of Medicine. Most of these manuscripts deal with medieval medicine and science and were written for learned physicians and scientists. Some of the manuscripts are richly illuminated and illustrated.

Where to start?

  • Medieval Islam: A brief introduction to the history of Islamic medicine and and its role in European history choose
  • Catalogue: To browse entries for individual manuscripts and their illustrations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Bio-Bibliographies: To find biographies of important Islamic physicians, surgeons, and scholars, as well as suggestions for further research

  • GlossaryTo find out the meaning of historical terms relating to medieval medicine and book making

  • Abbreviations.: To find complete bibliographical information about books and articles referred to in the entries

The Islamic achievements in this area, as well as in anatomy and surgery, led European teachers and practitioners to translate the hundreds of Arabic and Persian medical tracts into Latin and then into French, Italian, and English. In a very real sense, the European tradition of medical science and practice, which has now spread world-wide, owes a great debt to Avicenna, al-Nafis, Rhazis, Abulcasis and other Islamic practitioners and scholars.

EurekAlert! Science News Releases

 

 

Oriental Manuscripts @ SLUB

The Saxon State and University Library Dresden (SLUB) is a research library in Germany and its Oriental Manuscript collection houses a great collection of 448 Islamic manuscripts. The collection of Ottoman manuscripts was acquired by the library in the 18th and 19th century. This collection also consists of Tibetan and Mongolian as well as Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Sanskrit, Hebraic and Ethiopian manuscripts.

Some of the manuscripts in this collection are unique in terms of integrity of the item or rarity of its content for example. Below is the list of few items that was introduced as “Extraordinary Volumes” by the SLUB along with a description of the manuscript and a link to its digitized version.

 

Kitab-i Dede Korkut (Mscr.Dresd.Ea.86): The only fully preserved manuscript narrating national epic of the Oguzes, a nomadic Turkish tribe.

Mulana Fuzûli, Benk u Bâde (Mscr.Dresd.Eb.362): An Ottoman poem, written on rose paper, narrating a dispute about rank between wine and hash (cannabis).

Kemāl Paša-Zāde: Tevârîh-i Âl-i Osmân (Mscr.Dresd.Eb.391): The story of the Ottomans in a two-volume manuscript with 25 depictions of cities, fortifications and harbor facilities.

Seyyid Loqmān, Qiyā-fet al-insānīyeh fī shemā’il othmanīyeh (Mscr.Dresd.Eb.373): Book of the Ottoman Characteristics, containing 12 portraits of Turkish sultans.

Machsor mecholl haschana (Mscr.Dresd.A.46.a): Jewish prayer book for the High Holidays, in Southern German handwriting from the end of the 13th century.

Moreoverو “Catalogus codicum manuscriptorum orientalium Bibliothecae Regiae Dresdensis”, is the inventory of most of Islamic manuscripts except the new acquisitions. This index was published in Leipzig in 1831 by Heinrich Leberecht Fleischer (1801-1888) and is available from here diglib.hab.de/wdb.php

Ibadi Studies: ibadi history & manuscript culture / دراسات إباضية

Ibadi Studies is a research blog launched in 2013 and maintained by Dr. Paul Love, a Historian teaching North African, Middle Eastern, and Islamic History at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane (AUI), Morocco. Interested in  the Ibadi communities as well as in manuscript studies, libraries, and intellectual history, Dr. Love is the author of a monograph entitled Ibadi Muslims of North Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2018). According to his profile on the blog, he is currently working on a new publication on the history of the Ibadi community in the post-formative period in Cairo.

Although focused exclusively on one scholar’s research, Ibadi Studies remains an interesting resource for anyone interested in the topic. The main thread displays numerous call for papers, conferences and workshops announcements, and articles about manuscripts or lithographs housed all over the world (including the McGill Library, see image below).

The Library Catalogs & Inventories section dedicated to listing existing catalogues of Ibadi manuscripts and rare books, thus far includes lists for libraries in Djerba (Tunisia), Lviv (Ukraine), and Naples (Italy).

The blog is in English, but some posts have abstracts in Arabic.

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For those of you curious about the McGill Library Ibadi holdings, here’s a detailed list with links to full bibliographic records:

A manuscript from Morocco, Al-Zahrāwīsur’s 30th manuscript volume: ‘Surgery’

In the Umayyad era, during the 11th century, Al-Zahrāwī, H̱alaf ibn ‘Abbās Abū al-Qāsim, known in the west as Abulcasis (936-1013?), was a distinguished Andalusian Arabic physician. One of his most well known contribution in the field of medicine is an encyclopaedia called “Al-Taṣrīf liman ‘aǧiza ‘an al-Ta’līf”.  This masterpiece comprises of thirty books covering various medical topics, starting with general medical information, continues with theories, pharmacology, diagnosis, therapeutics and ends with surgery and instruments.

This manuscript is housed at the Bibliothèque Nationale du Royaume du Maroc (BNRM) (National Library of the Kingdom of Morocco).  Volume 30th  of this work, the manuscript about surgery, is the most important and the highlight of this document and the reason to its world significance.

What is particularly interesting about this last part of Al-Zahrāwīsur’s work is that, it is a unique heritage to humanity because of its script, antiquity, colored drawings, Andalusian calligraphy and its historical values “as it is to the best of our knowledge, the oldest in the world: AH 610/1213”.

Moreover, what makes this manuscript so exceptional and irreplaceable, is because it is considered to be the first work in the history of surgery to provide surgical explanations and instruments all illustrated in colour. All these values made this document to be a good candidate to be listed as a World Documentary Heritage on UNESCO’ Memory of the World Programme registry, in 2016 it was nominated by Morocco and was inscribed in 2017.

The values of this manuscript:

– It is devoted entirely to the subject of surgery.

– It has influenced the work of surgeons in both the East and West for several centuries.

– It is an important reference to the surgical profession.

– It is the first work in surgical history to provide illustrations and explanations of surgical instruments, many of which were invented by al-Zahrāwīsur himself.

– It has been translated into several languages.

 

“Due to its great importance, this book has, for five centuries, remained part of the surgery programmes at the Universities of Salerne and Montpellier.”

Moreover, besides its World Significance, some historical values add up to the importance of this manuscripts:

The author of the manuscript is a perfect reflection of his time. The period in which al- Zahrāwī studied medicine in Cordoba coincides with the rise of Arabic Medicine as represented by these great physicians: Ibn Sina in Isfahan, Al Baghdadi in Damascus, Ibn an Nafis and Ibn Abi Usaybia in Cairo, Ishaq Ibn Imran and Ibn Al Jazza in Kairouan and the renowned Averroes and Abulcasis (al-Zahrāwī) in Cordoba, of Tolido, Seville and Zaragoza, the last of whom rapidly distinguished himself in the field of surgery.

Related materials/sources available at McGill Library can be found here.

Consult resource: Manuscript’s Nomination Form on Memory of the World Programme.