The National Library of Israel, in coordination with the Arcadia Fund, has announced a major initiative to open digital access to over 2,500 rare Islamic manuscripts and books, according to a press release from library on Monday.
With the aid of a grant from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, the National Library's opening of access will include the digitization and uploading of high-resolution images of books and manucripts, improving item descriptions in Arabic and English and the development of an English-Hebrew-Arabic digital platform.
In order to ensure the conservation of the rare books and manuscripts, the press release stated that experts will be meticulously reviewing all of the items to be scanned, while taking preservation measures on any items deemed to be in poor physical condition.
Users from around the world will be able to access the manuscripts and books, which features high-resolution images, user-friendly search options and unique tools.
A hefty undertaking, the project is expected to be finished by 2023.
Among some of the unique documents to be included in the process includes an Iranian copy of the great Persian mystical poet Nur al-Din Jami's collection "Tuhfat al-Ahrar," originally produced in 1484, during the poet's lifetime.
Other items in the collection feature decorated Qur'ans, literary works embroidered with with gold leaf and lapis lazuli, from across the Muslim world.
Beyond the traditional Arabic, many items in the National Library are written works in Persian and Turkish, dating from the ninth to the 20th century.
The press release noted that most of the manucripts were acquired via donation, from Abraham Shalom Yahuda (1877-1951), a Jerusalem-born scholar, linguist and writer and interpreter of many Islamic manuscripts and medieval Judeo-Arabic texts.
The collection is also noted for spanning all major Islamic disciplines and literary traditions, with highlights including items from from royal Mamluk, Mughal, and Ottoman libraries. The National Library is also an important center for researchers examining works related to Islamic and Middle Eastern culture.
"We are privileged to open digital access to these treasures and hope that this project will contribute to greater understanding and shared inquiry related to Islamic civilization. It is one of a number of initiatives connecting the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem with the global community," said Dr. Raquel Ukeles, Curator of the Islam and Middle East Collection, National Library of Israel.
Professor Peter Baldwin, co-founder and chairman of Arcadia, also remarked on the opening od digital access, saying that "we are pleased to support the National Library of Israel to provide free access to its exceptional collection to people around the world”.