Conservation and digitisation of manuscripts from the Raja Mahmudabad Library (EAP842)

Aims and objectives

This project will seek to catalogue, preserve and digitise the most vulnerable Arabic and Persian manuscripts from the library of the Raja of Mahmudabad in Lucknow, India. The project team will also compile a survey of the content of the manuscripts, including a brief summary of what subject areas they fall under and therefore which fields of research they could be beneficial for. It is hoped that this pilot project will lead to the undertaking of a future major project that will carry out comprehensive preservation of the library's collection of nearly 2500 manuscripts, 400 photographs and other newspaper and magazines. At the moment they are housed in the palace of the Raja of Mahmudabad in Lucknow in conditions unsuitable for conservation and preservation. They are kept in steel cupboards and because of the condition of the building, as well as the general weather in that part of India, suffer the extremes of hot and cold as well as high humidity. Furthermore, bookworms and silverfish have caused damage to some of the manuscripts.

The Mahmudabad family is one of the oldest Shia families of the Indian sub-continent and apart from the manuscript collection in Lucknow, also have a famous library of 80,000 printed books, journals and photographs from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries housed in the Qila or Fort of Mahmudabad in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. The manuscripts in possession of the family are one of the most valuable privately held collections of Arabic and Persian documents in India.

Some of the manuscripts are up to 500 years old, with most being between 150-250 years old. The collection of manuscripts span various subjects including Quarans, works of exegesis (tafaseer), works on mathematics and astronomy (riyadhi and nujoom), medicine (tibb), mantiq (logic), metaphysics and gnosis (taawwuf and irfan), beliefs and jurisprudence ('aqaid and fiqh), Prophetic sayings (ahadith), history (tarikh), poetry and many other disciplines. The sheer range of the collection itself makes it an invaluable resource for scholars and researchers interested not only in the history of Islam in the sub-continent, but also in the wider networks and genealogies at play.

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