Foundations of Faith: Islamic MSS in the Cambridge Digital Library

Fragments of a Hijazi Qurʼān probably written in the second century A.H. / eighth century C.E., containing verses from the Sura al-Anfāl (سورة الأنفال).

Several important early Qur’ans and Qur’anic fragments are now available on the Cambridge Digital Library website as part of their Foundations of Faith digitization project. Here’s an excerpt from the site’s About page describing the project and its counterpart, the Foundations of Science.

The Foundations of Faith Collection will include important works from many religious traditions, particularly Judaism, Islam, Christianity and Buddhism. The Library’s faith collections are breathtaking. They include some of the earliest Qur’anic fragments on parchment, the first known Qur’anic commentary written in Persian, an important selection of devotional works and mystical treatises and an outstanding collection of theological works including the unique extant copy of the Kitāb al-Tawhīd by al-Māturīdī.

The Library has a collection of over 1000 manuscripts in Hebrew covering a wide range of texts; Bibles, commentaries, liturgy, philosophy, kabbalah, literature and legal documents. Most of these are in codex form though there are also scrolls and fragments; some date back to the earliest collections in the Library. The oldest manuscript in the collection is a copy of the Ten Commandments written on papyrus, and thought to date from the 2nd century B.C. The Library also holds the world’s largest and most important collection of Jewish Genizah materials, including the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collection – 193,000 fragments of manuscripts considered by many to be as significant as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Our Christian holdings include the Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis, one of the most important New Testament manuscripts, the Moore Bede and the Book of Cerne. Among the Library’s substantial Sanskrit collection are some of the earliest surviving Buddhist manuscripts.

In short, the project should be relevant to medievalists working on the three big Western monotheistic traditions, and I’m hoping that the Foundations of Science project includes equally important medieval material. Perhaps most exciting is the fact that images from the project can be downloaded and used under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial license. The site is also remarkably transparent about data collection and privacy.

Also, be sure to check out the PDF Faith and Fable: Islamic Manuscripts from Cambridge University Library.