Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei and Institute for Advanced Study Partner to Digitize Arabic Manuscripts, Enhancing Access and Study of Historic Texts

Press Contact

Lee Sandberg

The Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Rome is collaborating with the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, to provide open access to approximately 5,000 digitized Zaydi manuscripts from Yemen and neighboring countries that are held by Italian libraries. Earlier this year, the two institutions successfully completed the digitization of the Rossi, Ansaldi, and Caetani collections of Yemeni manuscripts that are held by the Biblioteca dell'Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei e Corsiniana (BANLC). This corpus of 68 codices is now available in the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library’s (HMML) online manuscript resource, vHMML Reading Room.

Since April 2017 the Institute and HMML have been collaborating to provide open access to approximately 15,000 digitized Zaydi manuscripts from Yemen and neighboring countries.

Currently, the Institute and BANLC are investigating additional collections of Yemeni manuscripts for digitization, notably the collections brought together by the medical doctors and trained Arabists Tommaso Sarnelli, Emilio Dubbiosi, and by the renowned scholar of Arabic and Islamic Studies Carlo Alfonso Nallino (1872-1938) during their travels to South Arabia in the early 20th century, along with other collections held in various libraries in Rome, Naples, and Milan. The project will be coordinated by Valentina Sagaria Rossi, Curator of Arabic manuscripts at the BANLC, and Sabine Schmidtke, Professor of Islamic Intellectual History in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, and will include a thorough bibliographical and codicological study of all Yemeni manuscripts in Italy.

“Within Europe, the largest and most precious collections of Yemeni manuscripts are held by Italian libraries,” says Sabine Schmidtke.

“In many of the Italian libraries, there are still many unknown collections of Yemeni manuscripts to be made available through digitizing and study, among them very early materials dating back to the 12th century C.E.,” says Valentina Sagaria Rossi, a leading expert in the Italian Arabic manuscript collections.

Thanks to the good offices of Roberto Tottoli, Professor of Islamic History at the University L’Orientale in Naples, the holding libraries that agreed to support this initiative, are the Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente in Rome, Università degli studi di Napoli L’Orientale, and L’Istituto per l’Oriente C. A. Nallino in Rome. Other libraries are invited to join this important project to preserve the manuscript heritage of Yemen and to make it available to a wider global audience.

The digitization of manuscript materials in the various Italian institutions will be coordinated by Valentina Sagaria Rossi, in close cooperation with Sabine Schmidtke. In addition, Sagaria Rossi is currently engaged in surveying other libraries in order to identify additional collections and manuscripts of Yemeni provenance, to be included in the ZMT project.