Collections News (page 1)

Collections News (page 1)

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Cataloging is complete for 2,192 items from the Bibliothèque al-Cady al-Aqib, the library of the Sankoré Mosque in Timbuktu, Mali (ELIT AQB). The building dates back to the 14th century and is named for al-Qāḍī al-ʻAqīb (1504-1583 CE) who commissioned or restored many of the town's mosques. The al-ʻAqīb family remain hereditary Imams to this day, and many collection items bear their handwriting.

The collection is mainly in Arabic, with some items featuring West African languages such as Fulfulde and Bambara written in Arabic script. The oldest items date to the early 17th century, though many will have been copied from older originals now lost. The library contains the typical core curriculum from the region, including Qurʼans, hadith, and legal texts. It is noteworthy for its collection of works on the Qurʼanic sciences, and other subjects relating to memorization and study. View now

The Ethiopian Manuscript Microfilm Library consists of over 9,000 manuscripts microfilmed in Ethiopia from 1973 to 1994. The staff brought manuscripts to a photography studio in Addis Ababa, where the manuscripts were microfilmed and then returned to the churches, monasteries, libraries, and museums from which they had been borrowed. The impact that this collection has had upon Ethiopian Studies is difficult to fully describe as these microfilms dramatically increased the number of manuscripts accessible to scholarship.

Catalog work on this collection began in Ethiopia under the direction of Dr. Sergew Hable Selassie. His metadata serves as the foundation for this work. The cataloging effort of EMML at HMML began with Dr. William F. Macomber. He cataloged the first 1100 manuscripts of the collection in volumes 1-3 of the catalog series. After assisting Macomber with volume 3, Dr. Getatchew Haile continued cataloging the EMML collection with manuscripts 1101-5000 in volumes 4-10 and an additional nine hundred manuscripts in an unpublished volume 11. Ted Erho continued the cataloging work for EMML manuscripts with numbers higher than EMML 5904 and he cataloged over 130 manuscripts directly into Reading Room. Moreover, Ted Erho, Dr. Ralph Lee, and Dr. Jeremy R. Brown have added metadata and additional cataloging data for thousands of the EMML manuscripts cataloged by Macomber and Getatchew Haile. The digitization of manuscripts and metadata creation are now complete for EMML volumes 1-4, which accounts for the first 1,500 manuscripts microfilmed by the project. All these manuscripts are now available in Reading Room.

The first 1,500 manuscripts in EMML are a treasure trove from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. These manuscripts include biblical manuscripts, hymn and chant books, liturgical texts for the life of the church, hagiographies of saints, and chronicles of Ethiopian history.

Of particular value to scholars of the Bible are EMML 25 and EMML 26, two manuscripts that were copied at Gunda Gundē Monastery, came into the possession of a bookseller in Addis Ababa, and now are preserved in the Institute of Ethiopian Studies at Addis Ababa University.

Another important contribution to scholarship is the quantity of manuscripts from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that provide insight into the copying work of the royal scriptoriums in those centuries. EMML 217 is a wonderful example of a manuscript of the Life of Stephen copied at the command of Empress Zawditu and donated to a church dedicated to that same saint, Dabra Salām Qeddus Esṭifānos Church in Addis Ababa.

Another remarkable manuscript is EMML 76, a richly illuminated copy of the Miracles of Mary with over 300 stories about the wondrous acts performed by the Virgin Mary. This manuscript’s paintings depict Emperor Menilek and Empress Ṭāytu alongside scenes of the Virgin Mary’s life.

The EMML collection has already revealed numerous important and remarkable manuscripts and will certainly continue to do so as even more of these microfilms are digitized and studied.

Cataloging is complete for the collection of the Stadtarchiv Eisenberg in east-central Germany. Over the centuries, the archive has suffered from local and national disasters, as well as lack of a proper facility. It was first created in 1855 and was stored in the town hall. A fire in 1906 destroyed some archival material and damaged others, and the surviving materials were moved to the nearby castle Schloss Christiansburg. In 1945, some material was destroyed and removed; since then, the archive was unattended, moved, and improperly stored in humid conditions several times, which resulted in further damage to the files. In 1994, HMML filmed 14 codices dating from the 16th to 18th centuries. Finally, in 1995, the archive was moved to a suitable climate-controlled building. Due to the damage to the files over the years, there is a risk of continued deterioration, and HMML’s microfilms help preserve a better condition of the files.

The 14 codices that HMML filmed provide a historical picture of Eisenberg, primarily through records that span two and a half centuries documenting the taxation of property and goods and the sale of common land. Ecclesiastical records include a correspondence with Protestant reformer Philip Melanchthon, and there are records concerning the longstanding traditions of target shooting and popinjay as well as presence of Trabant guards at royal weddings. View now

Metadata for 12 manuscripts from the Collegium Augustinianum Gaesdonck in Goch, Germany, has been added to Reading Room. The small collection was microfilmed along with the manuscripts at the Bistumarchiv in Münster in Westfalen. The collection stands out for its fifteenth-century theological miscellanies and devotional works closely related to the mileau of the Devotio Moderna. View now

Metadata for 241 manuscripts from the Bistumarchiv of the Diocese of Münster in Westfalen, Germany, has been added to Reading Room. The manuscripts in the archive are divided into three collections, the Domarchiv, the Generalvikariat, and the Pfarrarchiv, the latter which consists of manuscripts from the parishes in the diocese that have been placed on permanent loan in the Bistumarchiv. The archive is incredibly rich in fifteenth-century and sixteenth-century liturgical manuscripts, particularly in graduals, breviaries, antiphonaries, and missals. There are also important church records related to local confraternities and account books and cartularies from the parishes. View now

Metadata for 11 manuscripts from the Propstei St . Remigius in Borken, Germany, has been added to Reading Room. The small collection was microfilmed along with the manuscripts at the Bistumarchiv in Münster in Westfalen. The collection stands out for its collection of late medieval liturgical manuscripts. It also includes the Cartulary of Walling, Germany, and the statutes of the Propstei St . Remigius. View now

Cataloging is complete for 18 manuscripts from Dayr Mār Mīkhāʼīl (MKLB), the Greek Orthodox monastery of St. Michael in Biskintā, Lebanon. The collection ranges from the 17th century to the 19th and is almost entirely Arabic, with one manuscript including some Greek written in Arabic script (MKLB 00010). The contents are primarily liturgical, theological, and grammatical, but there is also an early example of a treatise on logic by the 17th-century Muslim author Qāsim al-Khānī (MKLB 00007). One unique find is an otherwise unknown apology for Catholicism by the Coptic Catholic priest Yūḥannā Qudsī al-Ṭūkhī, written in the early 19th century (MKLB 00003). View now

Cataloging is complete for 31 manuscripts from Mar Petyun Keldani Kilisesi (CHAL), the Chaldean Catholic Church of St. Pethion in Diyarbakır, Turkey. Many of the manuscripts in this collection are account books and registers of baptisms, deaths, and other events that provide detailed archival data on the Chaldean community and its cultural institutions in 19th- and 20th-century Diyarbakır. Other items include devotional, liturgical, apologetic, and theological works.

The collection testifies to the linguistic diversity of southeast Anatolia, including substantial material in Arabic, Ottoman Turkish, and Syriac; one death register (CHAL 00013) also includes a single notice in French regarding a German officer who died in the city during World War I. One particularly significant find (CHAL 00031) is a partial copy of Ibn al-Maḥrūmah's (14th c.) Ḥawāshī (Glosses), an important late medieval Arabic work of Christian-Jewish-Muslim dialogue previously known only from a single example at the Biblioteca Angelica in Rome. View now

The manuscripts in the Bibliothek of St. Nikolaus-Hospital in the town of Bernkastel-Kues reflect the collecting and interests of its founder, Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464), a German cardinal, religious reformer, and theologian. The library includes an important collection of translations of Greek and Arabic works, particularly treatises on medicine and philosophy, into Latin. The collection also contains two rare medieval Hebrew Bibles as well as prayers used in religious rites. There are several autographed works by Nicholas de Cusa, who donated them to the library after his death. Of note too are several manuscripts containing the works of Ramon Llull, an important source for Nicholas de Cusa's own theological writings. View now

Cataloging is complete for 926 items from the Ordre Basilien Choueirite (OBC), a Melkite Greek Catholic monastic order based in Khinshārah, Lebanon. The vast majority of the collection is in Arabic, but it includes a few items in other languages such as French, Latin, English, Syriac, and Ottoman Turkish. There are more than 50 liturgical and other items in Greek, including dozens of examples of Greek written in Arabic script, testifying to the ubiquity of this phenomenon among the Melkite communities of the Middle East.

In addition to liturgical texts, the collection includes significant numbers of theological, devotional, philosophical, and grammatical works, particularly works composed or translated by Catholics in the Middle East in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some basic textbooks on topics important to the monks, such as the theological compendium of Jean Claude de la Poype de Vertrieu (1655-1732) or the Ladder of divine ascent by John Climacus (6th century), occur in dozens of copies, including one rare Egyptian recension of the Ladder copied in 1322 (OBC 00783). Other texts are unique copies, such as Ḍiyāʼ al-nafs (OBC 00706), whose author Alejandro de la Madre de Dios (1656-1708) has now been identified for the first time. Many of the manuscripts come from the personal collection of ʻAbd Allāh Zākhir (1684-1748), who worked to establish one of the most important Christian Arabic printing presses at this monastery in the early 18th century.

While the bulk of the collection is Christian, some of the rarest and oldest items in the library have an Islamic origin. This includes a text on dream interpretation bearing the incredibly early date of 923 CE (OBC 00384) and a theological work copied in 1196 (OBC 00454). Another interesting Islamic item is the Ottoman Turkish divan (collected poetry) of Fıtnat Hanım (died 1780), one of the few published female poets of the Ottoman Empire (OBC 00474). View now

The collection of the Bibliothèque Orientale at the Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut (USJ) is one of the largest and richest collection of Eastern Christian manuscripts. The collection is now cataloged in Reading Room, where there are 2,929 objects, including 18 volumes combining manuscript and print, as well as 11 printed works. The collection is mostly written in Arabic (2680), but there are also texts in Arabic Garshuni (137), Syriac (85), Ottoman Turkish (72), Persian (32), Armenian (7), and a few European languages.

The University was founded in 1875 by French Jesuit missionaries. Its manuscript library was originally a small collection of liturgical and theological texts moved from the Jesuit College in Ghazīr to Beirut the year of its establishment. The library was renamed “Bibliothèque Orientale” in 1894 under the supervision and direction of the Jesuit father, Louis Cheikho, who helped to acquire and collect the first large collection of manuscripts. The USJ collection is not exclusively a collection of Eastern Christian texts; instead, it encompasses a wide range of subjects, including texts by Muslim authors. In fact, the oldest manuscript held at the USJ is an estimated 10th-century fragment (USJ 2 00825) of Ṣaḥīḥ by Bukhari (the most famous collection of hadith of the Prophet Muḥammad). Some volumes of the collection were lost during WWI, but the institution remained intact, and the manuscript collection kept increasing to the present day. In August 2020, an explosion at the Beirut Port damaged the buildings of the USJ, but fortunately the manuscripts were not affected. Lebanon in situated in a critical and unstable political region, making its manuscript heritage at high risk of destruction and/or dispersion. View now

Cataloging is complete for the collection of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of ʻAkkār (AKKAR) in far northern Lebanon. This collection of 8 manuscripts is entirely liturgical, including the basic liturgical books of the Byzantine Rite in their Arabic versions, copied in the 18th and 19th centuries. The colophons and endowment notes testify to the close interactions in the Ottoman period across what is now the international border between Lebanon and Syria: several manuscripts come from the Ṭarṭūs region of coastal Syria, including two copied at the Crusader castle of Chastel Blanc in the town of Ṣāfītā. View now

Cataloging is complete for the collection of the Universitätsbibliothek Rostock in northeastern Germany, microfilmed by HMML in 1998. Out of the 527 manuscripts, just over three quarters are written in Latin and around a third are written or partially written in German, Low German, and Dutch. Sixteen manuscripts written in Hebrew, Arabic, Arabic Garshuni, Syriac, Persian, Turkish, and Aramaic were cataloged by Dr. Joshua Mugler. The majority of the manuscripts date between the years 1300 CE and 1600 CE. The earliest manuscript is a 9th-century fragment of the Bible, and the latest texts include 17th-century historical chronicles of Hanseatic cities in northern Germany.

It is remarkable to find Low German texts from the medieval period that have been preserved. The Christian presence in the region around Rostock was relatively late and sparse, giving monasteries less time to build up their libraries. The rise of the Protestant Reformation, which had a stronger foothold in northern Germany, led to the destruction or relocation of the monasteries’ manuscripts, so that Low German texts are rare. Nonetheless, the collection at the Universitätsbibliothek Rostock features manuscripts from former monasteries, including the Franciscan Sankt Katharine and the Dominican Sankt Johannis. The collection contains manuscripts from privately owned libraries donated to the university, most notably that of Johann Albrecht I, Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, who was a patron of humanistic learning. Rostock also boasts a substantial body of early modern manuscripts and incunables, as well as ones pertaining to the Protestant Reformation, notably an autograph by Martin Luther that he was preparing for print in 1530 while exiled from the Holy Roman Empire (49045). The university library of Rostock offers some online facsimiles and a highly researched catalog, yet many of the manuscripts remain inaccessible; by digitizing this catalog in Reading Room, HMML presents a more comprehensive overview of the collection’s contents, allowing scholars to locate the more obscure texts in the collection. View now

The manuscripts in the Bistumarchiv in Trier largely come from the city of Trier and its religious institutions, as well as several manuscripts from the Diocese of Hildesheim. The collection a remarkable set of liturgical manuscripts from the Diocese of Trier, especially from the fifteenth century. Notable too are the manuscripts from the Benediktinerabtei St. Matthias in Trier, and the Benediktinerkloster St. Maximin in Trier. Seveal manuscripts entered the collection during the nineneeth century, when the library of Franz Hyazinth Christoph Philipp Anton von Kesselstatt was donated by his heirs to the Diocese. View now

Cataloging has been updated and completed in Reading Room for the collection of the library of Stift Klosterneuburg. In October 1966, Father Oliver Kapsner, OSB, arrived at Stift Klosterneuburg with his two technicians to begin the microfilming of approximately 1,270 manuscripts dating chiefly from the 11th to the 17th centuries. This constitutes the largest monastic collection preserved in Austria, where one can find materials related to all areas of pre-modern European history and culture.

First founded as a monastery for secular canons in 1113 by the Babenberg Margrave, Leopold III (1073-1136), Stift Klosterneuburg became an Augustinian house in 1133 and has remained so until today. During the Middle Ages, Stift Klosterneuburg was a center for manuscript production, with ties to the University of Vienna and the Austrian rulers. Beyond the large manuscript collection filmed by HMML, the Stift also has extensive art collections, including the famous Verduner Altar and one of the remaining copies of the Austrian Archducal coronet.

Father Oliver appeared mostly to enjoy his four-month stay at Klosterneuburg, but still found the winter spent there a bit cold and uncomfortable. In his letters he mentions the wood-burning stove in his room at the monastery (which was fed from outside in the hallway) and the down comforter (“tick”) that kept him warm at night. However, his feelings about praying the hours in the church were a little less enthusiastic:

  • But the huge stone church is a cold, cold place. Completely unheated all winter, this otherwise beautiful house of God will [be] getting colderer and colderer week by week. I am always glad when we are finished with the longer morning prayers there. [letter from Oliver Kapsner, OSB, to Julian G. Plante, dated 20 November 1966]

Cataloging is complete in Reading Room for the 219 manuscripts of Gunda Gundē Monastery in Ethiopia. The collection was photographed by Michael Gervers, Ewa Balicka-Witakowska, Jan Retsö, and Denis Nosnitsin in a partnership between HMML and University of Toronto Scarborough. Most of the collection is written in Geʻez. Earlier cataloging efforts on this collection include those by Antonio Mordini and Roger Schneider, and much more recently by Michael Gervers and Ewa Balicka-Witakowska.

The collection contains several of the earliest manuscripts of the Bible in Geʻez that still exist, such as a 13th-century manuscript of Sirach (GG 00202). There are also hagiographies and poems for the abbots of Gunda Gundē Monastery that exist nowhere else (GG 00018 and GG 00076). A final highlight is the distinctive art style of Gunda Gundē Monastery, which is presented in both its miniatures and its decorative headings known as ḥarags (for example, GG 00044 and GG 00002). View now

The Mamma Haidara Library is the private library of Abdel Kader Haidara. Haidara descends from one of Timbuktu’s established scholarly families, and he inherited the core manuscript collection from his father. However, his collecting efforts in Timbuktu and a wide area surrounding it have grown the collection significantly. Haidara founded and directs SAVAMA, a Malian NGO and cooperative of private Timbuktu library owners. His relocation of his own library, as well as 35 others, from Timbuktu to Bamako during the Malian crisis of 2012 brought him considerable media attention and local and international fame. So far HMML has cataloged around a quarter (11,344) of this huge collection of over 41,000 digitized manuscripts. While the four-volume Al-Furqan catalog of the library’s holdings, published in 2000, lists information about the first 4,000 or so manuscripts, HMML’s work is drawing public attention to the remaining items for the first time.

The collection includes numerous fine copies of classical books and authors from the Middle East, North Africa, and Andalucia. However, the most remarkable aspects of the collection are the significant proportion of previously unknown authors, largely from Masina, Timbuktu, and areas of present-day Mauritania, pointing to a thriving community of scholars in Islamic law, Qur’anic studies, poetry, and spiritual pursuits. These discoveries are particularly valuable for understanding intellectual life in the region between the end of Timbuktu’s "golden age" (typically the Moroccan invasion of 1591 CE) and the period of societal reform that produced the Islamic states of Hamdallahi and Sokoto (from 1804 CE onwards). Examples include Muḥammad ibn Alfā Sarasire (died 1696 or 1696 CE) who wrote a popular treatise on inheritance law; Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad Bagayogo al-Wankarī (died 1665 or 1666 CE), who versified al-Sanūsī’s introduction to Islamic ritual, Umm al-barāhīn; and Muḥammad Dafa ibn al-Ṭāhir al-Sūqī (active 1734 CE).

The library is also valuable for the large number of letters and other documents it contains. Most revealing are over 80 items of correspondence of the al-Ghadāmisī trading family in Timbuktu; specifically, letters between ʻĪsá ibn Aḥmayd al-Ghadāmisī, the two enslaved brothers N’ji and Samba who acted as the family’s principal agents, and the various customers who bought and sold commodities through them. They take us from the 1850s CE into the early colonial period, and while they are an important source for the items being traded across the region during this time, the most fascinating details are how status is represented and negotiated. Specifically, the terms of address for N'jī and Samba changed as they became trusted members of the family and were eventually manumitted. The library also contains correspondence between the Muslim states of Sokoto and Hamdallahi, and the Kunta family, as well as numerous texts written by their leaders. The library also features ʻajamī writings (African languages written in Arabic script) from Fulfulde poems in praise of the Prophet (SAV BMH 19796; SAV BMH 35067) to glosses in Tamashek, Bambara, and Songhai. 

Dr. Ali Diakite and Dr. Paul Naylor, HMML catalogers of West African manuscripts, have cataloged hundreds of copies of the Qurʼan and the Dalāʼil al-khayrāt (a collection of prayers on Prophet Muhammad), some of them beautifully decorated, as well as basic introductions to Islamic ritual such as al-Sanūsī’s aforementioned Umm al-barāhīn. This phenomenon can be explained by the instinct to collect as many manuscripts as possible for preservation, and the fact that any literate person in the region would generally have possessed at least one copy of these works. But we also found some stand-out individual manuscripts, such as SAV BMH 16871, a work by a previously unknown son of the famous Timbuktu jurist Ahmad Baba, which summarizes important events of the 16th century, or SAV BMH 16153, a work previously owned by Ahmad Lobbo, the first ruler of Hamdallahi.

The library undoubtedly has many more surprises waiting for us as we continue our cataloging work. View now

The collection of Notre Dame University, Louaize is now fully cataloged and available online in vhmml. This collection represents several smaller collections gathered from the monasteries of the Mariamite Maronite Order such as Dayr Mār Buṭrus wa-Būlus, Karm al-Tīn (Matn, Lebanon) and Dayr Sayyidat al-Luwayzah (Zūq Muṣbiḥ, Lebanon). Manuscripts are mainly in Arabic Garshuni but also in Syriac and Arabic, and only a few manuscripts in Latin. They represent a wide range of Biblical, Maronite liturgical, apologetic, theological, and historical themes, with many commentaries. The earliest manuscript of this collection is a Synaxarion copied in 1253 CE (NDU 00045).

Significantly, many manuscripts of this collection were composed and copied in the Maronite monasteries in Rome, particularly Dayr Mār Buṭrus wa-Marshillīnūs (Rome, Italy), such as the Medulla theologiae moralis of Hermann Busenbaum which was copied there in 1727 CE (NDU 00276). Other manuscripts were copied in Cyprus (NDU 00301, in 1688 CE) and in Marseille, France (NDU 00298, in 1830 CE). Unexpectedly, some manuscripts were copied in small Egyptian cities such as al-Manṣūrah and Damietta, such as NDU 00337 (1898 CE). A unique text in the collection is the Response to the Encyclical letter of Pope Leon (NDU 00332). It is a copy of the printed edition of this text which was composed in Arabic and printed in Kāzān, Russia in 1894 CE. View now

Cataloging is complete for 803 manuscripts of the Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate of Baghdad (CPB), digitized by our partners at the Centre Numérique des Manuscrits Orientaux (CNMO). The collection is primarily in Syriac and Arabic, but also includes European languages and modern Neo-Aramaic dialects. The collection contains some of HMML's earliest Syriac manuscripts, including two dated to 794 and 822 CE (CPB 00464 and CPB 00440, respectively), but tragically, several of these ancient treasures were severely damaged during the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, before they were digitized. The library also includes the private collections of the late Chaldean clergymen Buṭrus Ḥaddād (1937-2010, project code CPB PH) and Yūsuf Gūgī (1886-1971, project code CPB YG), ranging from private notebooks to family heirlooms. View now

Cataloging is complete for the collection of the Universitätsbibliothek Freiburg im Breisgau in Germany, which was microfilmed by HMML in 1987-1988. The collection of medieval and early modern manuscripts is largely written in Latin, with just over a quarter of the texts in German. 29 manuscripts written in Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Turkish, Aramaic, and Coptic were cataloged by Dr. Joshua Mugler.

The majority of the manuscripts—which are comprised of liturgical and devotional texts, theological and scientific treatises, and legal works—fall within the years 1200 CE and 1550. The earliest manuscript is a 7th-century fragment, and the latest manuscript is an index written in 1934-1946 that accompanies a 16th-century German manuscript. By featuring manuscripts gathered from local secularized monasteries and lectures of university figures, the collection offers a glimpse into the spiritual and intellectual history of the sociolinguistic region of the Upper Rhineland that spans Germany, France, and Switzerland. Out of the 608 manuscripts, 46 are clearly identifiable as originally copied for or by a woman or a female community, including two of the most beautiful manuscripts in the collection, Hs. 283. The university library of Freiburg im Breisgau boasts online facsimiles and a robust catalog; by digitizing this catalog in Reading Room, HMML presents the data in an integrated format, allowing for more comprehensive analysis both within the collection and across other collections. View now

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