Preserving Pious Print: digitising early Islamic print in the Maalim Muhammad Idris Collection, Zanzibar, Tanzania (EAP1114)

Aims and objectives

This project will digitise early printed materials contained in the library of the late Zanzibari scholar, Maalim Muhammad Idris (d.2012). Using digital photography, the project will digitise approximately 300 Islamic items dating from the late nineteenth century to the 1940s. Digital copies will be deposited with the British Library and the Zanzibar Institue for Archives and Records (ZIAR). The collection will be transferred from its current storage to a suitable facility in Zanzibar Stone Town. Additional funding will be sought for physical preservation and for local awareness-raising. The collection will also be profiled through established websites and social media.

The Maalim Idris collection is invaluable because it contains printed material dating from the period of transition from manuscript to print in the Arabic/Islamic tradition (c.1870-1940). Its known provenance and diverse nature gives insight into the Islamic history of East Africa. The materials range from locally printed pamphlets to books printed in Cairo, from basic instruction to legal manuals, many with handwritten commentary by East Africa's leading scholars, as well as early locally printed Arabic-Swahili translations. The collection is a "snapshot" of an intellectual tradition in transition and a cross-section of the nascent networks of print in Islamic Africa.


The records copied by this project have been catalogued as: