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National Library to digitize 2,500 rare Islamic manuscripts and books

Expected to be completed in three years, project will allow users around the world to search and examine high-quality images of the texts

Manuscript of Nur al-Din Jami's 'Tuhfat al-Ahrar,' produced in 1484 (Courtesy The National Library of Israel)
Manuscript of Nur al-Din Jami's 'Tuhfat al-Ahrar,' produced in 1484 (Courtesy The National Library of Israel)

The National Library of Israel on Monday announced a new project that will allow digital access to over 2,500 rare Islamic manuscripts and books.

The institute said in a statement that the project, which is expected to be completed in three years, will allow users from around the world to search and examine high-quality images of the texts.

As well as high-resolution images, the project will include the development of a digital platform that can be operated in English, Arabic and Hebrew.

Experts will also inspect all the items to be uploaded, and carry out any conservation or preservation work that is necessary.

Opening page of Qur’an manuscript from Isfahan, dated to 1735 (Courtesy The National Library of Israel)

Dr. Raquel Ukeles, curator of the Islam and Middle East Collection, said that the library hoped the project would lead to greater global understanding of the Islamic civilization.

“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,” she said.

The digitized materials for the project, which has been funded with a grant from the UK-based Arcadia Fund, include an Iranian copy of the Persian mystical poet Nur al-Din Jami’s collection “Tuhfat al-Ahrar.” The text was produced in 1484 just a few years after its composition, during the poet’s lifetime.

Manuscript of Nur al-Din Jamis ‘Tuhfat al-Ahrar,’ 1484 (Courtesy The National Library of Israel)

Other materials to be part of the project include copies of the Quran and manuscripts from across the Muslim world.

The 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.

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