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Jamia digitises rare, old books, manuscripts as part of conservation project

Jamia has a collection of around 2,500 rare books and manuscripts out of which 2,230 are digitalised under this project

education Updated: Feb 21, 2019 16:29 IST
Fareeha Iftikhar
Fareeha Iftikhar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
jamia milia islamia,jamia digitisation,jamia manuscripts
The entire process was done using DSLR cameras with help from Iran Culture House in Delhi(Burhaan Kinu/HT PHOTO)

Around 2,230 rare books and manuscripts—including a 13th-century book by popular scientist of the time Abu Ali Sina, also known as “Ibn Sina”, 18th century translated versions of the Mahabharata and Padmavat in Persian and Urdu and a copy of 17th-century Persian books on human anatomy—will soon be available online at Jamia Millia Islamia’s (JMI) central library.

The university concluded its year-long process of conserving and digitising of these rare books and manuscripts on Wednesday.

Jamia has a collection of around 2,500 rare books and manuscripts out of which 2,230 are digitalised under this project. “We started this project in February last year. We first conserved the books using tissue lamination as per the norms of national archives of India and then digitised them. The books are as old as 13th century and the pages extremely brittle. We bound them before digitisation,” Umaima Farooqui, assistant archivist and in charge of the manuscript section at the university library, said.

“There are around 80 copies of handwritten Qurans in different calligraphic styles with gold and indigo illuminations. We have digitised a 17th-century Persian book, Ajaib-al-makhluqat, having gold illustrations,” she said, adding the university is simultaneously producing the metadata of these books and manuscripts and it will soon be available for the access of research scholars at the library.

According to retired JMI history professor Azizuddin Husain, among the digitised books is “Ahkaam ul Adviya wa Qalba”—a medical science book written by 13th-century Persian scientist Abu Ali Sina in 1236 AD. “As per historical evidence, the book has only two copies in the world and Jamia has one of them. Ibn Sina is considered as the first Muslim medical scientist and this book is based on his observations on health issues related to the human heart,” said Husain, who was the former editor of the university’s archives section.

In the absence of a proper a digisation setup at the campus, the entire process was done using DSLR cameras in collaboration with Iran Culture House in Delhi. “We generally use scanners for the digitisation of old books and manuscripts. But, here, we used DSLR cameras instead. Though we could not capture the images as per standards of scanners, it cost us much less,” said Naseem Hasan of Noor International Microfilm Centre situated at Iran Culture House.

After this digisation project, the university has received an assurance of Rs 10 lakh as financial assistance from the National Archives of India to set up its own digitisation and conservation unit for archives. “We will discuss this with the university administration and sought some financial assistance from them to set up our own conservation unit. This will help us to digitise our rare books, manuscripts and newspapers in a more professional way,” said Farooqui.

Manas Ranjan, assistant archivist at the National Archives of India, said, “The university has very good collection of rare books and it needs to be preserved in digitised form. So, we have extended financial support to them to set up their own unit.”

First Published: Feb 21, 2019 16:29 IST