Saturday, November 08, 2014

Your chance to explore medieval Arabic manuscripts from your basement

by Salman Hameed

This is a phenomenal resource. The Qatar Foundation in collaboration with The British Library have just digitized and placed 25,000 medieval Arabic documents in the collection of The Digital Qatar Library. And the access is free! Basically you can now do your historical research in your pajamas. The archive actually contains documents all the way to the 20th century. You can search this digital library by subject, by type (for example, photographs, maps, letters etc), or by people or organization.  So for example, here are pictures of Mecca and Medina from 1907: Album of 'Views of Mecca and Medina' by H. A. Mirza & Sons, Photographers, and here is a sample picture:

But of course, you can also browse through documents related to Arabic science. The Guardian has done of fine job of highlighting some of the key pictures from those documents (tip from Vika Gardner). For example, here is a page from the Arabic translation of the one of the most influential books of ancient/medieval astronomy, Ptolemy's Almagest (see here for more detail):

And here is a page from a treatise on astrology by 10th century philosopher, al-Biruni (though this copy was probably made in the 15th century - se here for more detail):

And here is a primer by al-Biruni on the construction and use of astrolabes (see here for more detail):

There is a lot more at the digital library. If you have a chance, spend a few minutes and at least browse through some of the books. 


Nasreen said...

Wow, way to go Qatar. That's awesome.

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