Princeton University starting a project to digitize and post online rare Islamic texts collection

When a Muslim cleric or scholar painstakingly wrote out a copy of the holy Quran in the 9th century, he couldn't possibly have imagined how long his work would survive or what is about to happen to it.

The ornate Quran, written in flowing and ornamental Kufic script on delicate paper, is part of the largest collection of Islamic manuscripts in North America, amassed mostly by a Princeton University alumnus in the late 1800s and given to the university in 1942.

Numbering more than 10,000 texts, the collection is an invaluable source of insight into Islamic life through the centuries, including handwritten interpretations of the Quran and Islamic law, treatises on philosophy, science, art and medicine, as well as literature including poetry and history.

Now the university is starting a four-year project to categorize the entire collection, and digitize and post online about 200 of the most important works so that scholars around the world can study them.

The texts to be reproduced online will be photographed by special cameras that will not damage the delicate inks and papers; scanned into large graphic files and eventually posted on the Internet. Overhead digital cameras to be used for the project can photograph only about 4 or 5 pages per hour because of the large size of the files.

About 200 of the texts should be scanned within the next two years, and it should take another year and a half to two years to have them online.

Written in Arabic script in Persian, Turkish and other languages, the manuscripts are stored in special climate-controlled vaults guarded by an elaborate security system.

The digitized texts will be made available with no strings attached, reported AP. P.T.

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