Over 2,500 rare manuscripts from Islamic world to be released online

Manuscript of Nur al-Din Jami’s ‘Tuhfat al-Ahrar,’ Persian, 1484 (Yah Ms Ar 1013) © Image Courtesy of the National Library of Israel

JERUSALEM: The National Library of Israel is offering free digital access to more than 2,500 rare books and manuscripts from its world-renowned collection.

The National Library of Israel said that the initiative, launched with the help of British-based Arcadia fund, is expected to be completed in three years.

The ambitious project will allow bookworms around the world to discover the institute’s entire collection of books and manuscripts in Arabic, Persian and Turkish, all of which date from the ninth to the 20th centuries.

High-resolution images of the items will be uploaded along with item descriptions in Arabic and English in a new digital platform, which will operate in English, Arabic and Hebrew.

“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 civilisation.

“It is one of a number of initiatives connecting the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem with the global community,” Dr Raquel Ukeles, curator of the Islam and Middle East Collection, said in a statement.

The National Library of Israel has announced that digitised materials will include an exquisite Iranian copy of the Persian mystical poet Nur al-Din Jami’s collection “Tuhfat al-Ahrar.”

The manuscript, created in 1484 just a few years after the composition of “Tuhfat al-Ahrar,” is illuminated by various different backgrounds in gold leaf.

The opening and closing pages feature double-sided miniatures that were added later, apparently in the 17th and 18th centuries but in the 15th-century style.

Other materials to be part of the project include copies of the Qur’an and literary works from across the Muslim world, some of which are decorated with gold leaf and lapis lazuli.

While the portal is still in development, experts will also meticulously review all of the items to be scanned, and carry out any preservation and conservation measures that are necessary.

The National Library of Israel is home to thousands of manuscripts and rare books, most of which were acquired and donated by the late Arab-Jewish scholar and avid collector of Islamic manuscripts, Abraham Shalom Yahuda.