The mission of the Islamic Scientific Manuscripts Initiative (ISMI) is to make accessible information on all Islamic manuscripts in the exact sciences (astronomy, mathematics, optics, mathematical geography, music, mechanics, and related disciplines), whether in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, or other languages.
ISMI represents a collaborative effort between the Institute of Islamic Studies (IIS) at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG) in Berlin, Germany. At the IIS, ISMI researchers, and their colleagues at the related Post-classical Islamic Philosophy Database Initiative (PIPDI), have collected over 600,000 images from some 4,000 codices that have been the subject of in-depth examination. For their part, the MPIWG has developed an innovative, object-relational database (OpenMind) in which the data collected is stored and retrieved for analysis.
At present, the database contains entries for 2,200 “persons” (authors, annotators, copyists, correctors, dedicatees, illuminators, illustrators, inspectors, owners, patrons, students, readers, teachers, translators), who span the entire Islamic world from Islamic Spain to India and the borders of China, beginning in the 8th century and continuing until the 19th. We continue to electronically link these individuals with texts, manuscript witnesses, locations of teaching and study, and so forth.
In this phase of our project, we are making available images of 123 scientific and mathematical codices from the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin (STABI), an initiative made possible by the cooperation between the STABI, MPIWG, and IIS. Metadata and data for these codices are based on the catalogue of Wilhelm Ahlwardt, published 1887-1899. Entries have been checked against the manuscript images and in a number of cases have been corrected and updated. We have used the open-source image viewer DIVA, courtesy of the Distributed Digital Music Archives and Libraries Laboratory, McGill.
In upcoming phases of the project, we expect to add considerably to the number of open-access images. We also intend to make available metadata and data for the entire range of ISMI manuscripts as we check and vet information using images and catalogue information. Such an ambitious goal must clearly be an ongoing enterprise, and we seek and welcome the active support of scholars worldwide.
For further information on ISMI: https://www.rasi.mcgill.ca/ISMI_SharedLegacy.pdf