An Exhibition in Celebration of the 60th Anniversary of The Institute of Islamic Studies

Curated by Mr. Adam Gacek

Among the rare books in the McGill University Library there are some 670 volumes of manuscripts written in the Arabic, Persian, Ottoman-Turkish, and Urdu languages. In addition, there are approximately 280 single or double-leaf fragments and pieces of calligraphy, including illustrations from Persian MSS and signed calligraphs. Originally these manuscripts were housed in four different libraries, namely Blacker-Wood Library of Zoology and Ornithology, Osler Library of the History of Medicine, Rare Books and Special Collections Division and the Islamic Studies Library. Today, except for the collection belonging to the Osler Library of the History of Medicine, the other collections are housed in Rare Books and Special Collections. The manuscripts at McGill embrace all aspects of Islamic literature: Qurʾanic exegesis, Tradition (Ḥadīth), Jurisprudence, Philosophy, Theology, Mysticism, History, Belles Lettres, and Sciences. Well-represented among the latter is Medicine and the Natural Sciences. Thus, for example, among the manuscripts in the Blacker-Wood collection there are a number of important illustrated texts on falconry and farriery, while Rare Books and Special Collections houses 20 early fragments of the Qur'an and some of the finest examples of book illustration and decoration. These collections span the period from the 9th to the early 20th centuries, with a good number of manuscripts from the late medieval period. Drawing on these rich manuscript collections of the McGill Library, this exhibition explores the beauty of handwritten specimens in Arabic script from a vast area, stretching from the Maghreb to India, and from a variety of historical periods. Selected exhibits include parchment leaves from Qur'ans produced in the early Abbasid period (9th – 10th centuries), pieces of calligraphy from the Arab world, Iran, and India diplomas granted to Ottoman calligraphers, writing implements such as reed pens and pen boxes, and much more. It has been organized to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University.