On Monday 3 July 2017 we travelled to Cambridge for the launch of digitized versions of three important manuscripts belonging to the Royal Asiatic Society. These are held on long-term loan at Cambridge University Library. The manuscripts are the Shahnama of Muhammad Juki, copied in Herat between 1440 and 1445 and considered to be one of the finest Timurid manuscripts of the 15th century; the Gulistan of the poet Sa’di completed in 1583 in Fatehpur Sikri; and an autograph copy of Kitab-i Mathnawiyyat-i Zafar Khan copied in Lahore in 1663. The digitization of these three manuscripts means that they are now available online on the Cambridge Digital Library Website.
The launch event for the manuscripts was hosted by Cambridge University Library in conjunction with the 39th MELCom International conference, which also coincided with the 50th anniversary of Melcom UK. Conference attendees and guests from all over the world were able to enjoy a first glimpse of the digitized manuscripts at the end of the first day of the MELCom conference, with speeches from Mark Purcell and Yasmin Faghihi (Cambridge University Library) and Dr Gordon Johnson (President, Royal Asiatic Society).
Providing free public access to its historic collections is one of the chief ways the RAS fulfils its mission to promote scholarly research and public interest in the histories, societies, and cultures of Asia. The Society is delighted that these three manuscripts are now available in digital form to a worldwide audience via the Cambridge Digital Library. The Society thanks Professor Charles Melville and the Cambridge Shahnama Project for the digitization of the Shahnama of Muhammad Juki, and Dr. Barbara Brend for funding the digitization of the Kitab-i Mathnawiyyat-i Zafar Khan and Gulistan.
We are grateful to Cambridge University Library for housing the manuscripts, for enabling their digitisation, and for hosting this launch event. We were also able to view their current exhibition “Discarded History: The Genizah of Medieval Cairo”. We were fortunate to host a lecture at the RAS in 2015 by Ben Outhwaite from Cambridge University on “Lewis, Gibson and the Discovery of the Cairo Genizah”, so it was a special delight to be able to see some of the physical fragments that have been carefully restored and interpreted.
If you wish to see the physical manuscripts, they are available to view at Cambridge University Library. For those who want to see them online, here is a reminder of the website address: https://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/collections/ras. Here at the RAS we are also looking forward to some of our other Collections also being available in digitized format in the coming months.