A union catalogue of manuscripts from the Islamicate World

FIHRIST is the union catalogue of manuscripts from the Islamicate World, a collaborative project to map the manuscript collections housed in more than twenty participating institutions in the UK and Ireland. It is a fast-growing catalogue, with new holdings added regularly and existing records being updated and expanded over time.

The platform is completely open-source and manuscript descriptions are created in TEI/XML, an international standard for encoding text. The records incorporate elements of codicological/bibliographic description (including Name Authority and

), links to digitized resources if available, information about how to request an item, and a “comments” function which allow users to contact relevant curators. For a sample record see Persian MS 579 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library).

FIHRIST is a powerful discovery tool. Apart from a keyword search engine, which allows users to explore holdings housed in various libraries, it offers a browse function that allows scholars to explore collections by four macro-categories: classmarks, titles, people, and subjects. Additionally, FIHRIST offers the possibility to filter results by various parameters such as media, decorations, and an extensive selection of “roles” for individuals associated to the production or ownership of each manuscript.

The combined “browse” and “filter” functions afford researchers the ability to collate items on a certain subject or works compiled by a specific author. Similarly, it is possible to recreate digitally entire collections that are now dispersed across multiple institutions simply by clicking on the name of a former owner.
FIHRIST is a sophisticated, yet user-friendly discovery tool, and indeed a valuable resource for all those working on or interested in knowing more about manuscripts from the Islamicate World.

Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Yasmin Faghihi (Cambridge University Library and FIHRIST Co-Chair) for advising on this month’s Council Choice.

Alessandro Bianchi, member of Council