Islamic Manuscripts Cataloging Project

July 1, 2013

Online Cataloging for the New Series of Islamic Manuscripts at Princeton

Cataloging is now available online for the entire collection of the nearly 2200 manuscripts comprising the New Series of Islamic Manuscripts in the Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library. The New Series constitutes the premier collection of predominantly Shi`ite manuscripts in the Western Hemisphere and among the finest in the world. The online records have been created as part of the Islamic Manuscripts Cataloging and Digitization Project, to improve access to these rich collections and share them worldwide through digital technology. Generous support from the David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Project has funded this ongoing effort. Researchers can now locate Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish manuscripts by searching the Library’s online catalog:

Over the past two years, the Princeton University Library has created online biblio­graphic records covering over 800 Persian and Ottoman Turkish manuscripts in the New Series. Most of these had previously been described only in abbreviated format in the Preliminary Checklist of Uncataloged Islamic Manuscripts in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library, while approximately 200 of them were completely undocumented. Each manuscript was given a full catalog record that includes an authorized name, title and title variations where appropriate, dating in both Hijri and Gregorian formats, incipit, physical description of the entire manuscript, description of the text, references, and appropriate subject headings.

The newly cataloged manuscripts largely reflect the core topical focus of the New Series, namely the rich intellectual and spiritual tradition of Shi`ite Islam. In Persian this tradition is represented mainly by works on doctrine, prayer, and the lives of the Imams, composed after the rise of the Safavids down to the early 20th century. Noteworthy are three manuscripts purporting to be in the handwriting of the prolific Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi: `Ayn al-hayat (no. 775), Zad al-ma`ad (no. 1495), and Ziyarat-i `Ashura (no. 1450). Of the more unusual manuscripts are two volumes of a four-volume work on doctrine, likely Shaykhi, the Bahjat al-arwah by Nasir al-Islam, an autograph manuscript written in the 1920s (no. 190 and no. 470); as well as the second volume of Bahr al-masa’ib by Muhammad Riza Parvin, an autograph manuscript dated 1862 which recounts the martyrdoms of the Prophet’s family (no. 471).

New Series also contains numerous collections of poetry by both famous and lesser known poets in Persian. The entire works of Tughra-yi Mashhadi are collected in a two-volume manuscript dated 1696 (no. 372-373), and there is an autograph collection of the poems of Musahibi Na’ini, written in 1893-1902 (no. 132). While there is ample representation of poets hailing from Persia, there are also manuscripts of Persian poetry by Indian poets, such as Ghanimat (no. 2065) and Ghaws (no. 2068). Also worth mentioning is the small collection of Ottoman Turkish poetry, which includes the Tale of Seyfülmülûk by an unknown author (no. 1558).

While the bulk of the series is comprised of Shi`ite works and Persian poetry, there are substantial holdings in medicine, history, grammar, lexicology, astronomy, astrology, occultism, Sufism, and Sunni law. For example, Bektashi Sufi doctrine and practice is addressed by a collection of Ottoman Turkish texts which includes the Fakrname attributed to Ja`far al-Sadiq (no. 2043), and in Persian of Indian origin are several commentaries by Parvanah Shah on the Siraj-i anjan, a Sufi treatise written by Muḥammad Siraj Allah and `Abd Siraj al-Raḥman (no. 1794, no. 1812, and no. 1853). The tradition of illumination is well-attested in the series, a striking example being a richly illuminated copy of the Mi’at kalimah with interlinear Persian translation (no. 710). Additionally, a few manuscripts contain miniatures, such as Layla va Majnun by Hatifi (no. 1585) and a Persian translation of the Ramayana (no. 1751).

For more information about the cataloging, contact Denise L. Soufi, Islamic Manuscripts Cataloger, at [email protected]; for information about the overall project, contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, at [email protected].