Union Académique Internationale

Catalogue of Oriental Manuscripts Collections

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Project nº53, adopted in 1996

There are tens and thousands of Oriental manuscripts preserved in German collections and new acquisitions of German libraries are still going on, thus outrunning previous efforts in the production of catalogues. These manuscripts are valuable sources for Oriental studies in languages, literature, religions, culture and history, but also in other fields, such as art history. To allow and facilitate access to these Oriental manuscripts and to meet the needs of scholars, German orientalists suggested the creation of a union catalogue of Oriental manuscripts in 1957, which was implemented in the same year with the research project "Union Catalogue of Oriental Manuscripts in German Collections" ("Katalogisierung der Orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland", abbreviated KOHD). The project was initiated by Wolfgang Voigt, the then director of the Oriental Department at the Westdeutsche Bibliothek at Marburg, under the auspices of the German Oriental Society (Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft). Until 1989 the project was financed by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft). In 1990, it became a research project of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities, financed by both the German federal government and the German states (Akademienprogramm der Gemeinsamen Wissenschaftskonferenz von Bund und Ländern). In 1996, the Union Académique Internationale, Bruxelles, placed the union catalogue as project 53 under its patronage. The KOHD project, which currently includes work groups for Arabic (Hamburg and Jena), Coptic (Berlin), Khmer/Thai-Khmer (Göttingen), Old Turkic (Berlin), Persian (Marburg), Tamil (Köln), Tibetan (Bonn and Hamburg), and Sanskrit (Göttingen) manuscripts, is due to continue until 2022. The project's aim is to register manuscripts in German collections in Oriental scripts and languages which have not yet been catalogued and to make them accessible through printed catalogues and via database. The printed catalogues are being published in the publication series Verzeichnis der Orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland (VOHD) by the Franz Steiner Verlag Stuttgart, edited by the project's director on behalf of the Göttingen Academy. Until June 2019, 172 volumes were published in the project's series (and another 52 in the supplement series, which cover monographs on specific manuscripts and manuscript-related topics). The catalogue entries provide detailed descriptions concerning the content of the single manuscripts as well as codicological information, following detailed rules for compilation and description, the latter being adjusted to the special needs of the respective language groups. The sub-items considered by default include shelf number, cover, material, state of preservation, page number, format, number of lines, writing style, illumination, scribe, date, origin, author, title of the work, quotation of the first and the last line of the text as well as of the colophon, further remarks and a number of registers or concordances. Since 2016, the remaining uncatalogued manuscripts held by the Bavarian State Library, the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, The Asian Art Museum - Berlin State Museums, the Göttingen State and University Library, the Berlin State Library - Prussian Cultural Heritage, the Hamburg State and University Library, the Municipal Scientific Library Mainz and the Berlin Papyrus Collection are primarily recorded in two online databases. These are (1) KOHD Digital for manuscripts in Old Turkic, Arabic, Dravidian, Khmer, Persian, Sanskrit and Tibetan, and (2) KOHD Coptica, which is adapted to the needs of Coptic manuscripts and compatible with other papyrological databases. They were both relaunched in 2019 and are constantly extended by further manuscript descriptions. The records which are to be found here are based on the rules for the presentation in printed catalogues, but are of lesser extent in order to ensure the widest possible processing of the uncatalogued manuscripts in the remaining time. An overview of the recent activities of the project and its progress is provided by the annual reports, published in the Jahrbuch der Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Further information on the KOHD project and its workgroups as well as an overview of the publication series VOHD can be found on the KOHD website.