500+ Beautiful Manuscripts from the Islamic World Now Digitized & Free to Download

Math­e­mat­ics, astron­o­my, his­to­ry, law, lit­er­a­ture, archi­tec­ture: in these fields and oth­ers, the Mus­lim world came up with major inno­va­tions before any oth­er civ­i­liza­tion did. This Islam­ic cul­tur­al and intel­lec­tu­al flow­er­ing last­ed from the 11th through the 19th cen­tu­ry, and many of the texts the peri­od left as its lega­cy have gone most­ly unre­searched. So say the cre­ators of Man­u­scripts of the Mus­lim World, a project of Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, the Free Library of Philadel­phia, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia, Bryn Mawr Col­lege, and Haver­ford Col­lege aimed at cre­at­ing an online archive of “more than 500 man­u­scripts and 827 paint­ings from the Islam­i­cate world broad­ly con­strued.”

As UPenn Libraries Senior Cura­tor of Spe­cial Col­lec­tions Mitch Fraas tells Hyper­al­ler­gic’s Sarah Rose Sharp, “The aim of this project was to find and dig­i­tize all the Islam­i­cate man­u­scripts in Philadel­phia col­lec­tions and along the way we part­nered with Colum­bia on a grant to take a mul­ti-city approach.”

To the sources of its man­u­scripts it also takes a mul­ti-cul­ture approach, includ­ing “texts relat­ed to Chris­tian­i­ty (Cop­tic and Syr­i­ac mss. galore), Hin­duism (epics trans­lat­ed into Per­sian in Mughal India), sci­ence, tech­nol­o­gy, music, etc. but which were pro­duced in the his­toric Mus­lim world.” There are also texts, he adds, “in Per­sian, Ara­bic, and Turk­ish of course but also in Cop­tic, Tamazight, Aves­tan, etc.”

If you can read those lan­guages, Man­u­scripts of the Mus­lim World obvi­ous­ly amounts to a gold mine. (You may also find some­thing of inter­est in the dig­i­tal archives of 700 years of Per­sian man­u­scripts and 10,000 books in Ara­bic we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture.) But even if you don’t, you’ll find in the col­lec­tion mar­vels of book design that will appeal to any­one with an appre­ci­a­tion of the lush aes­thet­ics, both abstract and fig­u­ra­tive, of these places and these times. Some of them aren’t even as old as they may seem: take the man­u­script at the top of the post, “over­paint­ed in the 20th cen­tu­ry to mim­ic Mughal style.” Or the one below that, whose colophon “says the copy was com­plet­ed in 1121 A.H. (1709 or 1710 CE),” which “does not make sense giv­en the author like­ly lived in the 19th cen­tu­ry.”

The oth­er pages here come from a set of “illus­tra­tions from Qur’ānic sto­ries” (this one depict­ing “Abra­ham sac­ri­fic­ing his son”) and a “Per­sian cal­lig­ra­phy and illus­tra­tion album.” You’ll find much more in Man­u­scripts of the Mus­lim World, host­ed on OPENN, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­ni­a’s online repos­i­to­ry of “high-res­o­lu­tion archival images of man­u­scripts” accom­pa­nied by “machine-read­able TEI P5 descrip­tions and tech­ni­cal meta­da­ta,” all released into the pub­lic domain or under Cre­ative Com­mons licens­es. Though each man­u­scrip­t’s entry comes with basic notes, the col­lec­tion is, in the main, not yet a thor­ough­ly stud­ied one. If you have an inter­est in the Islam­ic world at its peak of cul­tur­al and intel­lec­tu­al influ­ence so far, you may just find your next big research sub­ject here — or at the very least, mate­r­i­al for a few hours’ admi­ra­tion. Enter the col­lec­tion.

via Hyper­al­ler­gic

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Com­plex Geom­e­try of Islam­ic Art & Design: A Short Intro­duc­tion

How Ara­bic Trans­la­tors Helped Pre­serve Greek Phi­los­o­phy … and the Clas­si­cal Tra­di­tion

Learn Islam­ic & Indi­an Phi­los­o­phy with 107 Episodes of the His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy With­out Any Gaps Pod­cast

700 Years of Per­sian Man­u­scripts Now Dig­i­tized and Avail­able Online

Down­load 10,000+ Books in Ara­bic, All Com­plete­ly Free, Dig­i­tized and Put Online

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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  • Kannan says:

    Do u know any­thing bout hin­du civ­i­liza­tion? Do u know that they steal the find­ings frm indi­ans? Pls dont make any false state­ments.

  • Kemas A.R. Panji says:

    Saya adalah maha­siswa Pas­casar­jana di UIN Raden Fatah Palem­bang, saya ingin neli­hat dan mem­ba­ca kolek­si naskah yang ada, apakah diizinkan?

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