Tag Archives: manuscripts

New Acquisitions Week, Day Three: Calligraphic Devotion and Haitian Rights

We’re celebrating the beginning of a new fiscal year with a week’s worth of new acquisitions from the first half of 2012.  Two newly acquired selections will be featured in a post every day this week.  All of these amazing resources are available for today’s scholars, and for future generations of researchers in the Rubenstein Library!

  •  Kitab Dala’il al-Khairat wa Shawariq al-Anwar fi Dhikr al-Salah ‘ala al-Nabi al-Mukhtar [Guidebook of Benefits and Illuminations of Prayers to the Chosen Prophet].  The Dala’il al-Khairat of al-Jazuli (Al-Jazuli, Abu ‘Abdallah Muhammad ibn Sulaymana, d. 1465) is one of the most popular devotional works in Islam, comprising a cycle of prayers to the prophet Muhammad.  The manuscript now at Duke is Arabic written in the Maghrebi script, and likely was created in North Africa in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century.  The manuscript also contains other prayers and devotional texts.  Its calligraphy and ornamentation are beautiful witnesses to a text of surpassing importance in the Muslim faith.
Opening from the newly acquired manuscript of the Dala’il al-Khayrat. Arabic in Maghrebi script.
  • National Coalition for Haitian Rights Records: This organization is dedicated to furthering the civil and international human rights of the Haitian community in the US and helping influence US policy over Haiti to support human rights.  In over 146 linear feet of material, the records document the activity of the Coalition from 1981 to 2003.  This adds to a growing collection of material in the Human Rights Archive related to human rights in Haiti; see the Human Rights Archive’s LibGuide for more information on other collections related to human rights in Latin America.

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In the Lab: Housing Papyri and Early Manuscripts

Two big rehousing projects have been underway in the conservation lab for several months now.  One, the papyrus project, has been mentioned in the conservation department’s own blog, Preservation Underground.

Duke’s papyri collection is one of the largest in the country with approximately 1400 items, each housed between sheets of glass.  Until now, those glass “sandwiches” have been loosely stored in boxes.  The conservation team is now making individual folders for them, made of mat board and padded with Volara (polyethylene foam), each clearly labeled for safer, easier access.

Once a month, everyone in the department joins in to make hundreds of these customized folders which will go into storage boxes to return to the stacks.  Such a big project is a logistical challenge, necessitating lists, spreadsheets, careful documentation, and also cooperation.  As a department, we are becoming a well-oiled papyrus-housing machine.

Papyri housings, before and after
Papyri housings, before and after
Papyrus item in its new folder
Papyrus item in its new folder

A similar logistical challenge has been the early manuscript housing project, of which the papyrus collection is a subset.  As well as books, the collection includes a wide variety of loose materials, from ancient Roman metal tablets, Ethiopic scrolls, pages from Greek Bibles, papal bulls, and oversized sheets from choral books.

Like the papyri, many of these flat items can go in our own customized mat board folders with either a paper pocket or a clear polyester sleeve.  But items that are oversized, three-dimensional, or particularly fragile have required special solutions.  Some examples can be seen below!

Group of Early Manuscripts
1. Breviary, French 15th century 2. Gospel of Mark, Greek 14th century 3. Roman diploma on bronze, A.D. 209 4. Persian illuminated manuscript page 5. Coptic homily, Egypt 6. Catherine de Medici letter
Housings for Early Manuscripts
Examples of housings for early manuscripts

Post contributed by Grace White, Conservator for Special Collections, as part of our ongoing “In the Conservation Lab” series.