National Library of Israel: Over 2,500 rare manuscripts to become available online

National Library of Israel, Arcadia Fund, announce major initiative to open digital access to over 2,500 rare Islamic manuscripts and books.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

A page from Nur al-Din Jami's Tuhfat al-Ahrar
A page from Nur al-Din Jami's Tuhfat al-Ahrar
Courtesy - The National Library of Israel, Jerusalem

The National Library of Israel (NLI) in Jerusalem has announced that with a generous grant from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, it will be opening digital access to over 2,500 rare Islamic manuscripts and books from its world-class collection.

The project will include digitization and uploading of high-resolution images; improving item descriptions in Arabic and English; and the design and development of a tri-lingual (English-Hebrew-Arabic) digital platform. As an important preliminary step, NLI conservation and preservation experts will also meticulously review all of the items to be scanned, undertaking critical preservation and conservation measures for any items found to be in problematic physical condition.

The digital platform will enable users from around the world to discover and enjoy the entire collection, featuring high-resolution images accompanied by user-friendly search options, tools and content. The project is expected to be completed in three years' time.

The newly digitized materials will include an exquisite Iranian copy of the great Persian mystical poet Nur al-Din Jami's collection "Tuhfat al-Ahrar," produced in 1484 just a few years after its composition, during the poet's lifetime. Each page of the manuscript is illuminated with a different background in gold leaf. The opening and closing pages have double-sided miniatures that were added later, apparently in the 17th and 18th centuries. Other collection treasures include gorgeous Qur'ans and a range of literary works decorated with gold leaf and lapis lazuli, from across the Muslim world.

The NLI's Islam and Middle East Collection is home to thousands of manuscripts and rare books in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish, dating from the ninth to the 20th centuries. The majority of the manuscripts were acquired and donated by Abraham Shalom Yahuda (1877-1951), a Jerusalem-born Arab-Jewish scholar and one of the most important Islamic manuscript collectors of the early 20th century. The collection holdings span all major Islamic disciplines and literary traditions. Highlights include illuminated items from royal Mamluk, Mughal, and Ottoman libraries; scholarly works copied during or near the lifetimes of their authors; and later autograph copies. It also serves as a leading research collection serving scholars with contemporary works related to Islamic and Middle Eastern culture.

Dr. Raquel Ukeles, Curator of the Islam and Middle East Collection at the National Library of Israel, said: "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."

Professor Peter Baldwin, co-founder and chairman of Arcadia, added: "We are pleased to support the National Library of Israel to provide free access to its exceptional collection to people around the world."



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