The Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) has recently launched Manuscript@CSIC, an Internet portal that provides public access to visual images of Hebrew, Arabic, and Aljamiado manuscripts housed in the Council’s  Navarro Tomás Library in Madrid and the library of the School of Arabic Studies in Granada. María Teresa Ortega Monasterio, research professor at the Institute of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, and Agnès Ponsati Obiols, of the CSIC Libraries Coordination Unit, co-directed this ambitious project.

CSIC complies with the most up-to-date and comprehensive standards for handling and restoring documents and has worked in close collaboration with the Institute of Spanish Cultural Heritage (IPCE) from the beginning of the Manuscript@ project. The organization adopted a model established by the Institut de Recherche et d’Histoire des Textes in Paris for cataloguing their collection with an eye to providing pertinent information about the origin, contents, and materials of each manuscript to interested researchers and librarians throughout the world. Experts from the IPCE’s Bibliographic, Documentary and Graphic Work Conservation and Restoration Service made a thorough analysis of the physical state and composition of the seventeen manuscripts dating from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century chosen for digital documentation before undertaking their restoration. To date, 42,171 color TIFF images of works from the CSIC collection have been made using a Zeutschel scanner which have been used to create JPEG and PDF images for the Manuscript@ website. The result is nothing less than amazing.

Visitors to the site can view images of manuscripts before and after restoration, page through bound volumes, study documentation about the processes and procedures employed, and learn more about the provenance of the items that form the two libraries’ collections. Of particular interest to codicologists and paleographers are the large number of Aljamiado manuscripts dating from the beginning of the seventeenth century that were discovered in the false ceiling of a house in Almonacid (a town near Saragossa) in 1884. Aljamiado is the name given to manuscripts in which Arabic script was used to transcribe Romance languages such as Mozarabic and Ladino. The word Aljamía comes from the Arabic word ajamiyah, which means “foreign language.”

The CSIC’s new digital archive was created as a Creative Commons initiative. In accord with Creative Commons standards, the archive graciously allows scholars and interested visitors to use these images for noncommercial purposes. All of the images featured in this blog are reproduced from the Manuscript@ portal with no commercial intent.