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‘World Collections’ databank / collection

The ‘World Collections’ databank / collection holds the digitised outcome of the survey on the collections of Islamic manuscripts in the world, completed and published by the Al-Furqan Foundation in 1994, under the title “The World Survey of Islamic Manuscripts”.. This Survey is available in both the English and Arabic language.

This flagship project (the only one of this type to date) started in 1989, focusing on identifying and recording undocumented Islamic manuscript collections in the world, with the aim to support and instigate research into the field of Islamic manuscripts. A number of known scholars and experts contributed to this encyclopaedic work.

The Survey identified collections in 106 countries. It is a compilation of detailed independent studies, highlighting just over a million and a half Islamic manuscripts from just over 2,500 collections. These collections, in more than 40 languages, belong to public and private libraries in almost 1,300 cities. It gathered extensive information about these libraries, including details about their establishment and the status of their collections, unveiling in the process rare manuscripts. For example, the collection of manuscripts at the Institute of Oriental Culture (University of Tokyo) - that was acquired in 1987 - included several new and unique Islamic manuscripts. The noteworthy discoveries were two copies of Risala fi anwaʿ al-mashruʿat, a comprehensive work on the terminology of jurisprudence, by Luṭf Allah al-Kaydani (died 1349 AD /750 AH). These were significant findings, as they had not even been mentioned in the most renowned classical period references, such as Brockelmann's famous work Geschichte der Arabischen Litteratur (GAL), Sezgin's Geschichte Des Arabischens Schriftums (GAS), and Kaḥḥala's Muʿjam al-muʾallifin.‎

A large number of the identified libraries have listed and included detailed descriptions about the manuscripts held in their collection, in a form of a document or publication. This publication is known as a ‘catalogue’; with most of them published and available for purchase. Another form of a published catalogue is one that was compiled by a group of libraries, known as ‘library consortium’. These libraries partnered to combine their collections into one unified published catalogue, known as a ‘union catalogue’.

Some libraries held collections that were not catalogued or documented. Others made an attempt to describe their collections in simplified lists and general documentations. These were usually not published and are known as ‘unpublished catalogues’.

A unique outcome of the Survey was the identification of all the various catalogues. Just over 5,500 catalogues of Islamic manuscripts were surveyed, including the listing of almost 700 union catalogues, and almost 1,000 unpublished catalogues.

All this information and much more is ready to be explored on theAl-Furqan Digital Library, under the ‘World Collections’ databank.