The Written Heritage of the Muslim World
Over the past decades, digital collections of texts produced by Muslim authors writing in Arabic during the premodern period have mushroomed. Major libraries include al-Maktaba al-Shāmila, currently containing some 7,000 books; Noor Digital Library, with 35,169 books to date; PDF Books Library, currently containing 4,355 books; Arabic Collections Online (ACO), providing access to 15,131 volumes; Shia Online Library, with 4,715 books; and al-Maktaba al-Waqfiyya, containing some 10 million pages of published books (in addition to a growing number of manuscript surrogates), to name only the most important ones. Moreover, since printing technologies were adopted in the Islamic world at a relatively late stage and slow rate, [fig. 1] much of the written cultural production of the Islamic world is until today preserved in manuscript form. And although there has been a steady rise in the publication of manuscript catalogs all over the Islamic world over the past one hundred years, much material is still unaccounted for, and discoveries of titles that were believed to be lost or that were entirely unknown regularly occur. In parallel, numerous libraries have started to digitize their collections of Islamic manuscripts, and a fair number among them provide open access to their holdings through institutional digital repositories, in addition to a growing number of online gateways to Islamic manuscripts. At the same time, what is available online, whether published or in manuscript form, is only the tip of the iceberg ....