The project, directed by the art historian and semitist Prof. Ewa Balicka-Witakowska (Uppsala University, Sweden) and organized in cooperation with the book conservators Prof. Weronika Liszewska (Academy of Art, Warsaw) and Dr. Jacek Tomaszewski (Asia and Pacific Museum in Warsaw) is affiliated to the Polish Institute of World Art Studies, supported by the Arcadia Foundation and administered by the British Library.
Its objective is to digitise and by this means preserve and make widely accessible an important collection of 600 manuscripts belonging to the Franciscan Monastery of St. Saviour in Jerusalem (Custodia di Terra Sancta). The collection consists of the codices and rotuli, dating from the 12th to the 20th century and written in Arabic (Islamic and Christian), Armenian, Ethiopic, Hebrew (also Samaritan and Arabic-Samaritan), Greek, Latin, Syriac, Turkish, Spanish, German, Italian and French.
The manuscripts contain great variety of texts: theological and philosophical treatises, biblical and liturgical books, dictionaries, profane and religious poetry, collections of sermons, pilgrim accounts, and also cooking recipes and magic prayers. A special group represents the liturgical books of large size with musical notations, as well as, the precious volumes lavishly decorated and illuminated with miniatures, historiated initials and aniconic ornamentation. Also of particular value are several book covers made of wood, leather, textile, metal, decorative cardboards etc. and executed with use of diverse binding techniques. As the whole, the collection presents remarkably wide spectrum of Western and Eastern manuscript traditions: Christian, Islamic and Jewish.
Since the digitisation is supervised by the conservators the project includes selection and separation of the damaged manuscripts and, if possible, neutralization of further deterioration. One of means would be to draw up the priority list of the manuscripts in need of immediate conservation.
The project runs from December 2015 to September 2017. The manuscripts supplied with short catalogue description are expected to be accessible online at the beginning of 2018.
Jerusalem, 6 May 2016