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Masterpieces of the non-Western book

Circa 1,800 images of some of the Bodleian Libraries most valuable and most fragile manuscripts from many cultures of the Near East and Asia. This collection of digital items brings together a wide range of material produced in and relating to Asia, the Near East, and South Asia.

The Hebrew, Islamic, and South Asian collections are particularly rich in fine illustrated and illuminated manuscripts. The Bodleian’s Islamic collections include many fine examples of Arabic and Persian manuscript ornamentation. Illumination is regularly found in Quáns as well as in manuscripts commissioned by wealthy patrons. There are illuminated Qur’ans from the Mamluk period, Safavid and Qajar Persia, and Ottoman and Indian examples.

The Islamic collection also includes: Scientific and technical Arabic manuscripts, Celebrated illustrated Mamluk literary manuscripts; Geographical works with maps and albums of paintings assembled during the time of the Mughal Empire.

The Persian collection includes many fine manuscripts representing successive styles of the long tradition of Persian miniature painting from the 14th to the 19th centuries. Of the highest quality is the Bodleian’s copy of the poet Jami’s Abode of Spring, created for the emperor Akbar in Lahore in 1595 (Bodleian MS. Elliott 254).

There is an important collection of over 800 paintings in the Mughal style, dating from the 16th to 18th centuries. More popular bazaar art is represented by just over 100 Kalighat paintings made in the later 19th century.

The majority of the Bodleian’s Hindu texts are without illustration of any kind, the notable exceptions being some highly decorative eighteenth-century sacred texts on rolls of highly-burnished paper, probably to be kept as amulets. Tibetan manuscripts come from the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Finally, the main collection includes Malay, Chinese, Japanese and Korean masterpieces.

Provided by: Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford