Journal of Ottoman Calligraphy

Lectures & Editorials on Calligraphy

Archive for October 2006

The Skilliter Centre for Ottoman Studies, Cambridge, UK

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The Skilliter Centre for Ottoman Studies supports research into the history, literature and culture of the Ottoman Empire. It seeks to encourage knowledge and understanding of a major Muslim empire with large European and Mediterranean territories, and to assist scholars from many disciplines in exploring connections between their own work and Ottoman studies. It is the only research centre devoted purely to Ottoman Studies in the UK and Western Europe and has an international profile. The Skilliter Centre, which has no political affiliations or agenda, is administered by Newnham College, Cambridge, and receives support from a generous legacy from Dr Susan Skilliter, formerly University Lecturer in Turkish.


Kate & Ebru in Centre

The Skilliter Centre collection focuses on Ottoman history. It has a large collection of travel accounts and Ottoman material from 19th and early 20th centuries and collections of published archival material. There are also special collections, the Judith Humphry collection, on Crete, and the Niyazi Berkes collection on late Ottoman and Turkish Republican history, on loan from the Faculty of Oriental Studies. The Skilliter Centre also has a rare books collection which includes volumes from the early sixteenth century.

The library, which is not a lending library, may be viewed by appointment only.


* Kate Fleet (ed.), The Ottoman Empire in the Eighteenth Century (Oriente Moderno XVIII/1, 1999)
* Kate Fleet (ed.), The Ottomans and the Sea (Oriente Moderno XVIII/1, 2001).

Cover of Eurasian Studies Journal

The aim of Eurasian Studies, which is published jointly by the Skilliter Centre for Ottoman Studies, Newnham College, Cambridge University, and the Istituto per l’Oriente C.A. Nallino, Rome, is to encourage international academic co-operation and, by covering a wide geographical area stretching from the Balkans to Central Asia and including the eastern Mediterranean, Anatolia, the Middle East and Iran, to break down traditional compartmentalisation of history and foster a more interdisciplinary and interregional approach to historical studies of the area as a whole. By encouraging as much international co-operation as possible, this being the reason behind the Journal’s large editorial advisory board, the editors hope that the journal will play a part in the integration of different methodological approaches to academic research and the promotion of a questioning of the often restrictive conventional systems or schools of thought, thereby opening up the field to more diverse interpretations of history. Eurasian Studies is intellectually independent, being neither Euro-centric, Orientalist, Post-Modern, nor in any other way ideologically or fashionably centric.

Tel: +44 1223 335804
Fax: +44 1223 357898

©2003 Newnham College


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October 25, 2006 at 6:35 pm

St. Petersburg branch of The Institute Of Oriental Studies, Russia

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The history of the St. Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies can be traced back to 1818, when the Asian Museum of the Imperial Academy of Sciences was founded in St. Petersburg. The Museum was keeping the Eastern antiquities and books of the famous collection of the Russian Tsar Peter the Great. The collection was enhanced during the XIX century through the voluntary donations of the personal libraries and archives of envoys, travellers, statesmen, merchants and scholars. In 1930 the Institute of Oriental studies was organized on the base of the Museum, in 1951 it moved to Moscow, keeping the Branch in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg. From 1996 to 2003 St. Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies was headed by a famous specialist on history of China and Central Asia Professor Evgeny I. Kychanov.

Now the collection includes the manuscripts and early printed books (in total number of 100 000 items in 63 living and dead languages) and is one of 3—4 most prominent libraries on Eastern Studies outside Asia. Here one can find almost all known oriental scripts and a varied range of media, including stone, metal, wood, leather, papyrus, parchment, birch bark, palm leaf and different types of the paper. The most famous among the manuscript holdings in St. Petersburg are the Tunhuang materials which were acquired by S. F. Oldenburg (1863—1934) in the province of Kansu in North-West China during his expedition of 1914—15. The big Central Asian manuscripts collection, formed mainly in the beginning of the XX century, represents the unique texts from Central Asia in Sanskrit, Saka, Tokharian and Tibetan; the Tangut texts from Khara-Khoto etc.

The collection of the documents comprises the material on a great number of subjects like notes of Russian orientalists on history, literature, geography, folklore of the peoples of the East, the documents on their scholarly and social activities, their letters, photographs, plans etc. The archives keep the materials of various research institutions, congresses of orientalists, the Russian Palestine society, the Russian ecclesiastical mission in Beijing, drafts of some works, day-books, descriptions and reports of expeditions. Among the personal archives are materials of such famous scholars as N. Ya. Bichurin, V. A. Zhukovsky, O. M. Kovalevsky, I. P. Minaev, N. A. Nevsky, A. Ye. Snesarev and others. The earliest archives documents date back to the middle of 16th century. The Archives is divided into three categories, 131 collections including 60 thousand files.

Basic research areas. The main field of the scientific activities of St. Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies is the fundamental research of the countries and peoples of Asia and North Africa and the Pacific Region; the study of the ancient and medieval Orient, its history, philology, religion, philosophy, law. The many-sided research of the ancient manuscripts and books of rarity in the Eastern languages of the Institute’s collection. The scholars of the St. Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies have drawn heavily on the primary sources included in the Institution’s collection for their research. Since first days of the history of the Asian Museum the cataloguing of the collection, publication, translation and investigation of the concrete manuscripts and sources are of the primary importance for the Eastern studies and Sinology in St. Petersburg. At the same time there is no strong obligation for the work on the catalogues and texts, and the scholars have a free choice of individual research themes.
There are 9 departments in the Institute, 3 of them put emphasis on Chinese studies: the Department of the Far East, the Department of the Chinese and Central Asian Historiography and the Group of the Far Eastern textual criticism.

Main scientific achievements. The foundation of the unique branches of the science — the Dunhuang studies (L. N. Menshikov, L. I. Chuguevsky); the Tangut studies (N. A. Nevsky, E. I. Kychanov, K. B. Kepping); the Sabaean studies (A. G. Lundin); the Turkish Runes studies (S. G. Kliashtorny); the Kurdish studies (K. K. Kurdoev). The publication of the catalogues of the collections of the Asian Museum — St. Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies in Persian (O. F. Akimushkin); Arabian (A. B. Khalidov); Turkish (L. V. Dmitrieva); Mongolian (A. G. Sazykin); Japanese (V. N. Goregliad) and others languages; the compiling of the Chinese-Russian and the Mongolian-Russian dictionaries. The study of the fundamental problems of the Ancient East (V. V. Struve, I. M. Diakonov, M. A. Dandamaev); the Chinese studies (V. M. Alekseev); the Japanese studies (N. I. Konrad); the Korean studies (M. I. Nikitina, A. F. Trotsevich, D. D. Eliseev); the Sogdian studies (V. A. Livshits). The translation of “The Secret History of Mongols” (S. A. Kozin), of “The Ibn-Fadlan’s Trip” (A. I. Kovalevsky); “The Collection of the Annals” of Rashid Ad-din (O. I. Smirnova). The publication of V. V. Bartold’s works (N. N. Tumanovich).

Recent scientific achievements. The publication of 1—3 volumes of “The History of Caliphate” (in 2001 O. G. Bolshakov was awarded the State Prize of the Russian Federation for this work); the compiling of 4 issues of the reference book “Islam on the Territory of the Former Russian Empire” (S. M. Prozorov); the compiling of the computer catalogue of Tibetan manuscripts and block-prints (L. S. Savitsky); the compiling of the catalogue of the Christian manuscripts in Arabian of St. Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies (Val. V. Polosin, Vl. V. Polosin); the publication of the Eastern Christian apocrypha (E. N. Mescherskaya); the translation of the ancient Chinese treatise “The Discussion on the Salt and Iron” (Yu. L. Kroll).

International cooperation. The Institute has been cooperating with the Scientific Center “Toyo Bunko”, the State University in Kyoto (Japan); Institut de Recherches et d’Etudes sur le Monde Arabe et Musulman (France, Aix-en-Provence); Jewish National Library (Jerusalem); the Publishing House “The Ancient Book” (China); the Bible Society (USA); the Institute of Philology and History, Academia Sinica (Taiwan); the British Library.

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October 25, 2006 at 6:32 pm

The House of Wisdom, Baghdad

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Named after the great Abbasid dynasty library established in 832 and destroyed in the last invasion of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258, the House of Wisdom had been installed in 1995 in one of the few surviving 13th century Abbasid structures in Baghdad. This building was the site of the first Iraqi parliament. The institution had a small collection of 100 manuscripts but these included a 9th century Koran and an Ibn Sina text of philosophy. The institution possessed a 5,500-volume set of documents from the British foreign office, US congressional documents concerning the 1940 coup in Iraq, a number of documents concerning the Jewish community in Baghdad, as well as Ottoman property registrations and court documents. Although these collections were all copies, the originals were held in the National Library and may have burnt.

On April 11, the facilities were looted. An Ottoman costume exhibit was looted in addition to furniture and moveable parts of the building. The looters retuned the next day, stealing the library’s most valuable manuscripts and books. The facility was then torched. Witness have reported that the arsonists \”were instigated,\” according to Al-Tikriti’s report, which does not indicate by whom. Books from the collection have been seen for sale on the streets of Baghdad.


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October 25, 2006 at 6:30 pm

Maktabat al-Jami` al-Kabir (Maktabat al-Awqaf), The Great Mosque, San`a’-Yemen

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The Great Mosque of San`a’, established in 6th year of hijra when the Prophet(P) entrusted one of his companions to build a mosque. It is considered to be the first mosque in Yemen and among the oldest in Islamic world. The mosque was extended and enlarged by Islamic rulers from time to time. The manuscript collection (ca. 7,000) of the Great Mosque is housed in three libraries in the mosque complex. The first to be established was Al-Maktaba al-Sharqiya which was completed during the reign of al-Imam Yahya Hamid al-Din (1904-1948). The second to be established was Al-Maktaba al-Gharbiya which houses the manuscripts and books of Al-Hay’a al-`Âmma li-l-Âthar wa Dur al-Kutub. Both these libraries are located in the southern side of the msoque. The Maktabat al-Awqaf, the main modern library, is housed on the second floor in the new three-story building of the Great Mosque of San`a’. It contains some of the rarest Islamic manuscripts in the world, including rare manuscripts of the Qur’an. Subjects include theology, jurisprudence, Qur’anic sciences, tafsir, terminology of hadith, sirah, sciences of the Arabic langauge, lexicography, literature, poetry, history, politics, philosophy, logic, astronomy, mathematics, medicine and agriculture. Among the manuscripts in the collection is a copy of the Qur’an reputed to be in the handwriting of Al-Imam `Ali Ibn Abi Talib, Zayd Ibn Thabit and Salman al-Farsi, in two parts, each of 150 pages, in large unpointed Kufic script.

In 1385 H/1965 CE heavy rains fell on San`a’. The Great Mosque was affected and the ceiling in the north west corner was damaged. During the survey, the workers discovered a large vault full of parchment and paper manuscripts of both the Qur’an and non-Qur’anic material. The dig at the Great Mosque in San`a’, Yemen, had found a large number of manuscripts of the Qur’an dating from first century of hijra.

The UNESCO, an arm of the United Nations, had compiled a CD containing some of the dated San`a’ manuscripts as a part of “Memory of the World” programme. In this CD there are more than 40 Qur’anic manuscripts which are dated from 1st century of hijra (in both Hijazi and Kufic scripts), one of them belonging to early 1st century. More than 45 manuscripts have been dated from the period 1st / 2nd century of hijra. A few examples of the manuscripts from 1st, 1st/2nd, 2nd and 2nd/3rd centuries of hijra can be seen at this website.

A few more examples of the 1st and 1st / 2nd century Qur’anic manuscripts from San`a’ can be found in the book Masahif San`a’. This book is a catalogue of an exhibition at the Kuwait National Museum, with articles by Hussa Sabah Salim al-Sabah, G. R. Puin, M. Jenkins, U. Dreibholz in both Arabic and English. World Survey Of Islamic Manuscripts covers the catalogue of manuscripts at the Great Mosque published in various books.

[1] Memory Of The World: San`a’ Manuscripts, CD-ROM Presentation, UNESCO.

[2] Masahif San`a’, 1985, Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, Kuwait.

[3] Geoffrey Roper (ed.), World Survey Of Islamic Manuscripts, 1992, Volume III, Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, London, p.p. 664-667.

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October 25, 2006 at 6:29 pm

Dar al-Kutub al-Misriyya (Egyptian National Library), Cairo,Egypt

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The manuscript collection in Dar al-Kutub is regarded as one of the largest and most important in the world. The total number of manuscripts in this library are 50,755 out of which 47,065 are in Arabic, 996 in Persian and 2,150 in Turkish. It contains priceless and rare manuscripts from the Islamic heritage, especially from the first four centuries of hijra, as well as extremely rare illustrated manuscripts unmatched anywhere else in the world. There is a high proportion of manuscripts copied in the early centuries of Islam. It holds two of the earliest dated Qur’anic manuscripts dating from dating 102 AH / 720 CE and 107 AH / 725 CE.

Dar al-Kutub has 50,755 manuscripts from which 47,065 are in Arabic, 996 in Persian and 2150 in Turkish. The manuscripts cover nearly all subjects. A complete reference of catalogue of the manuscripts can be seen in:

[1] G. Roper (ed.), World Survey Of Islamic Manuscripts, 1992, Volume I, Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, London, p.p. 212-218.

[2] B. Moritz, Arabic Palaeography: A Collection Of Arabic Texts From The First Century Of The Hidjra Till The Year 1000, 1905, Cairo, See Pl. 31-34 and Pl. 1-12 for 102 AH / 720 CE and 107 AH / 725 CE, respectively.

[3] T. W. Arnold & A. Grohmann, The Islamic Book: A Contribution To Its Art And History From The VII-XVIII Century, 1929, The Pegasus Press, p. 22.

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October 25, 2006 at 6:28 pm

Austrian National Library, Vienna

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As the main scientific library of the Republic of Austria, the Austrian National Library (ANL) can look back on a history rich in tradition dating to the 14th century.

The Austrian National Library owns 170 valuable Persian manuscripts that it acquired between 1868 and 1994. They are texts concerning science, technology, religion, theology, literature, history, geography, miniatures and calligraphies. The collection of Arabic, Persian and Turkish manuscripts acquired by the Court Library since the 16th and 17th century already contained around 2,050 oriental manuscripts by the middle of the 19th century, which were published in the complete catalogue by Gustav Flügel in 1865 and 1879. For the further 1,100 oriental manuscripts acquired subsequently, it was decided to catalogue them separately according to language. 1970 saw the publication of a catalogue of the Arabic manuscripts, while a catalogue of the Turkish manuscripts is currently in production in Ankara. The catalogue of Persian manuscripts has now been completed. With the exception of the 249 Arabic manuscripts from South Yemen in the Eduard Glaser collection, which are currently being restored, this means that the catalogue of oriental manuscripts in the Austrian National Library has been completed in 2004. A second part of the catalogue just published contains a description of 21 Persian manuscripts from the Haus- Hof- und Staatsarchiv that have been acquired since publication of Albrecht Krafft’s catalogue in 1843.

Austrian National Library
Josefsplatz 1
P.O. Box 308
A-1015 Vienna
Phone: (+43 1) 534 10
Fax: (+43 1) 534 10 / 280

Source: © Austrian National Library

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October 25, 2006 at 6:18 pm

The Iraqi National Library and Archive

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The Iraqi National Library and Archive contained 12 million documents. In addition to a substantial book library, it may have had the largest collection of Arabic newspapers in the world. It housed documents from the period of the Hashmenite monarchy (1920-1958) and the Turkish Ottoman period (1534-1918) as well as documents from the Republican period after 1958 to recent times.

Shortly before the invasion in 2003, staff members and Shia clerics removed nearly 40 percent of the book collection and some of the documents for safekeeping. Clerics also had a steel door to one of the collections welded shut and it remained safe.

An entire wing of the library, the Old Library, was almost completely destroyed. This area housed documents from the Republican era, which may have been the reason for the fires.

Also completely destroyed was the microfilm collection of periodicals and other documents. Dr. Saad Eskander, the library’s Director-General, estimates that 60 percent of the Hashmenite documents were destroyed.

A portion of the documents that were removed by the Islamic clerics faced another disaster. These were stored in the basement of the Board of Tourism, which was deliberately flooded by looters.

Dr. Saad B. Eskander, Director General of the Iraq National Library and Archive, has described the events of mid-April, 2003 as a “national disaster beyond imagination.”


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October 25, 2006 at 6:16 pm