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Polosin Val. & Rezvan E. Asiatic Museum Project: 1. Data-Base on Muslim Seals // Manuscripta Orientalia. Vol. 1, No 1, July 1995. Pp. 53-55.

The St. Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies, Academy of Sciences, Russia, is the oldest center for oriental studies in the country. Its history dates back to November 11 (23) , 1818, when the Asiatic Museum was founded within the framework of the Russian Imperial Academy of Sciences.

The St. Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies is famous today for its collection of ancient and medieval oriental MSS, the largest in the Russian Federation. It can only be compared to the collections of the British Library and Bibliotheque Nationale. The collection includes 30 funds, the total amount of MSS is 85 thousand units. Here one can find texts produced in the Near, Middle and Far East, as well as from Innermost and South Eastern Asia, written in sixty languages and dialects on different sorts of paper, parchment, leather, palm leaf, birch bark, wood, metal, stone — practically on all materials ever used for writing. Some of the funds of the collection of the St. Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies are unique or very rare. Among them there are the collections of Tangut secular and Buddhist MSS, Old-Khwarezmian business documents, the best European collection of the Tibetan MSS and block-printed books, MSS representing the written tradition of the Karaites of the Crimea, a collection of Muslim MSS created in the late Middle Ages in the regions of the Volga river, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

In August 1992, according to the results of an open competition, the Ministry of Science, High School and Technology of the Russian Federation took the decision to start sponsoring the project Asiatic Museum presented by the St. Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies. The aim of the project is to produce a data-base on the MSS collection of the Institute as a part of the future net of data-bases to be created in the principal museums and research centers of St. Petersburg. For some time the Asiatic Museum project was sponsored by the Russian Foundation for Fundamental Researches.

It will be a three level computer description of all the MSS collections. The differences between the levels are connected with the scope of description and the degree of access freedom to the information via the network. The first level represents basic information on a MS, which is almost common to all the national manuscript traditions. The second includes image files of incipit and some other elements of a MS as well as the block of codicological information. The questions which are posed by a scholar to a MS on the second descriptive level are common to all the MSS within the corresponding national tradition. The third level of description can be connected with any specific approach to this or that kind of manuscripts or any of their features. On the second and third level it will be possible to use national languages for the description.

It was decided to start the creation of the Asiatic Museum data-base with nearly ten thousand Arabic [3] and ten thousand Tibetan MSS from the above mentioned collection. The latter will be described by Russian scholars together with the Asian Classics Input Project (USA, Dr. Michael P. Roach, Director).

Unfortunately, because of the shortage of funds we have to begin the work not with the general description, but with the two data-bases of the third level. The paper by Efim Rezvan which was presented at the Durham University in December 1993 was devoted to one of them — the data-base on the early Qur'an MSS. A computer database on seals in Muslim manuscripts is the subject of the present paper…


The entire paper


Manuscripta Orientalia, selected papers
Muslim seals

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