The Digital Muṣḥaf Project aims to create a database of images of early Qurʾānic fragments from dispersed muṣḥafs or codices of the Qurʾanic text and, as far as possible, virtually re-create the original codices so that they are available for scholars and the public in one place together with descriptions and metadata.
There is an ever-growing scholarly interest in Qur’anic Studies in the East and the West. The newly founded International Qur’anic Studies Association (IQSA) is but one manifestation of this. In particular there is an interest in early Qur’anic fragments from a number of points of view including those of chronology, textual criticism, art history, palaeography, and codicology. There may be a number from the high-hundreds to as many as a figure in the low-thousands of fragments from early muṣḥafs from the 7th to 10th centuries C.E., scattered throughout the libraries of the world, the exact figure is not known, and although Whelan (1990), Dutton (1999) and others have done valuable work in identifying fragments belonging to the same muṣḥaf, much work remains to be done.
For this Pilot Project, the team decided to focus on a single muṣḥaf, namely the codex discussed by Estelle Whelan (Writing the Word of God, Part I, p. 116-118 ) of which 344 folios are known to be dispersed throughout various libraries. We have given this Codex the rubric Digital Muṣḥaf 1 (DM1). Please refer to Appendix 1 for details of currently known fragments.
Of this muṣḥaf, the following fragments have been selected for the pilot project:
- Chester Beatty Library, CBL Is 1407, fols. 1-4.
- Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, Cod. 12.11 Aug. 2°, fols. 1-6.
- BNF Cod. 350a, fols. 99-141.
- The Bodleian Libraries, MS. Marsh 178, 22 fols.
For the online reconstruction of DM1, 149 images from the four participating libraries have been gathered for display: 44 from the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford, seven from the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, 86 from the Bibliothèque nationale de France, and 12 from the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel. Our reconstruction of the original codex is powered by the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF), a set of standards and tools for creating interoperable image repositories.
The images of DM1 are hosted in IIIF-compatible format by the Bodleian (in the case of the Chester Beatty, Wolfenbüttel and Bodleian images) and the BnF (in the case of the BnF’s own images). To bring all 149 images together, and to display them in the correct original sequence rather than in the order in which the libraries’ fragments have been bound, the Bodleian team created a IIIF manifest (http://iiif.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/manifests/mushaf.json), a piece of linked data in JSON-LD format that specifies the sequence, location and associated metadata for a collection of digitized objects. The Digital Mushaf manifest specifies the location and technical details for each DM1 image, along with page-level metadata provided by our scholars.
Once we had created the manifest, we fed it into Mirador, an open-source IIIF image viewer, which uses the instructions contained in the manifest to retrieve the images from the Bodleian and BnF servers and then to display the images and metadata. We have also made the manifest publicly available so that researchers will be able to use and edit it in conjunction with other IIIF tools.