Between the 9th and 19th centuries, Arabic-speaking scholars translated Greek, Latin and even Sanskrit texts on topics such as medicine, mathematics and astronomy, fostering a vibrant scientific culture within the Islamic world. Some of the most influential texts are now available at the Qatar Digital Library.
The library, a joint project of the British Library and the Qatar Foundation, offers free access to 25,000 pages of medieval Islamic manuscripts. Among some of the most significant texts:
The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices (1206 A.D.), which was inspired by an earlier, 9th-century translation of Archimedes’ writings on water clocks. Devices such as the “Elephant Clock” (pictured below) were the most accurate time-keeping pieces before the first pendulum clocks were built in the 17th century by the Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens.
New information about manuscripts in our collections is often made known through the work of dedicated experts who study specific items in the course of their research. One such case was brought to light through the work of Dr. Hüseyin Gazi Yurdaydın, who successfully identified the author of one of the British Library’s Turkish manuscripts which had previously been described as anonymous (Yurdaydın, 144). Continue reading →
The mirror of health: discovering medicine in the golden age of Islam An exhibition revealing the development of medical tradition in Europe and the Middle East from the collections of the Royal College of Physicians
May 1 thru October 25, 2013
The Royal College of Physicians holds a rare collection of Islamic medical manuscripts dating from the 13th century. Continue reading →
Cataloging is now available online for the entire collection of the nearly 2200 manuscripts comprising the New Series of Islamic Manuscripts in the Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library. The New Series constitutes the premier collection of predominantly Shi‘ite manuscripts in the Western Hemisphere and among the finest in the world. The online records have been created as part of the Islamic Manuscripts Cataloging and Digitization Project, to improve access to these rich collections and share them worldwide through digital technology. Generous support from the David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Project has funded this ongoing effort. Researchers can now locate Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish manuscripts by searching the Library’s online catalog.
Without memory, how can we know who we are? This is the question that drives Dr Saad Eskander, LSE-trained historian and, since 2003, Director of the Iraqi National Library and Archives.Saad talks passionately of the imperative to locate, preserve and digitise as much as possible of Iraq’s documentation so that history will not just remember the oppressors but also the oppressed.
But Saad does not just talk: for the past decade he has also been putting those words into action in many different ways. The books lining his elegant office were once owned by the Iraqi royal family and then passed into the hands of Saddam Hussein. The glamour of their bindings reminds me a little of King George’s Library at the British Library. But conspicuous amongst them are a much tattier pile of books lying on their sides, in clear need of rebinding and conservation. These are an important national collection too but had been long neglected because they are written in Hebrew, not Arabic. It’s Saad’s mission to safeguard all of Iraq’s written heritage, whatever its origins.