The Zaydi Manuscript Tradition (ZMT) project: digitizing the collections of Yemeni manuscripts in Italian libraries
Sagaria Rossi, Valentina
The literary tradition of the Zaydi community, a branch of Shiʿi Islam that originated in Kufa and later developed in Northern Iran and Yemen, is among the richest and most variegated strands within Islamic civilization and at the same time one of the least studied due to issues of preservation and access. The literary production by Zaydi scholars stretched over more than a millennium, starting in the 9th century, and covers a wide spectrum of disciplines. Moreover, Zaydis were at all times intimately familiar with the relevant intellectual strands beyond the confines of Zaydism and actively engaged in them, and the typical library of a Zaydi scholar comprised not only works belonging to his own religious tradition but also an array of titles of authors from other communities, Sunni as well as Shiʿi. The Zaydi manuscript tradition is widely dispersed and for the most part poorly documented. During our talk, we will present the ZMT project, an attempt to create a digital library of the literary tradition of Zaydism. To date, our partner, Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, provides access in its virtual reading room to some 1,500 manuscripts. The largest collections of Zaydi manuscripts outside of Yemen are housed in Italian libraries, and at present we are surveying the holdings of Yemeni manuscripts in Italy, including many collections that have been completely ignored until today. These will be digitized and added to the virtual library, and we are also planning to prepare metadata for the material. In addition to facilitating historical studies, the virtual library will also allow for a comprehensive study of the visual and textual aspects of this outstanding manuscript tradition.