About the resource

Arabic medicine was once the most advanced in the world and now entire digital facsimiles of some of its most important texts have been made freely available on-line. The unique online resource, based on the Wellcome Library's Arabic manuscript collection, includes well-known medical texts by famous practitioners such as Avicenna, Ibn al-Quff, and Ibn an-Nafis, lesser-known works by anonymous physicians and rare or unique copies such as Averroes' commentaries on Avicenna's medical poetry.

The Wellcome Arabic Manuscript Cataloguing Partnership (WAMCP) combines the efforts of the Wellcome Library, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, and King's College London Department of Digital Humanities and is funded by JISC and the Wellcome Trust.

All the manuscripts have been photographed in their entirety, and can be viewed in detail alongside the comprehensive manuscript descriptions. Sophisticated cataloguing tools were built based on definitive standards in order to achieve rich, thorough manuscripts descriptions.  Users are able to link between specific descriptive fields and the related images with the possibility to compare two manuscripts side-by-side on the screen to illuminate the differences. Moreover, significant passages in the manuscripts, such as the incipits, basmala, explicits and section headings (for most but not all manuscripts), are fully transcribed. Extensive physical descriptions have been recorded by conservation specialists for most of the manuscript descriptions.

Researchers may explore the content of the online catalogue more selectively, where manuscripts may be browsed according to their categories or searched via the full text search facility. Significantly, the system allows users to search using the old Arabic alphabet through a virtual keyboard, matching the original content of the manuscripts. The results of the searched manuscripts may be further narrowed down through the faceted filters, which retrieve more precise results for the researcher's convenience.

We are still adding content to this site, updating the records and providing further functionality over time. If you have any questions about what is available, and what you can do with the site, please contact us.


Further information


The Project partners

The Wellcome Library holds the physical manuscripts. The manuscripts were digitised at the Wellcome Library, and much of the cataloguing work was carried out here. The project director is Dr Richard Aspin, Head of Research and Scholarship, and the Project Manager is Dr Christy Henshaw, Wellcome Digital Library Programme Manager. Dr Nikolai Serikoff, Asian Collections Librarian, developed the vision and overall design of the cataloguing approach and schema used. Gillian Boal, Conservation and Collection Care Manager, oversaw the codicological cataloguing work. The manuscripts were digitised by Tom Cox and Laurie Auchterlonie of the Wellcome Library's photography team.

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina lead on the software and web development, as well as carrying out a large proportion of the cataloguing remotly using the cataloguing tool created as part of the project. They also host the Wellcome Arabic Manuscripts Online website and data repository. Leading the project at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina is Professor Magdy Nagi and Dr Noha Adly, Director and Deputy Director of the ICT Sector, in conjunction with Professor Youssef Ziedan, Head of the Manuscripts Museum. Cataloguing at Alexandria was managed by Mohamed Abdelsamie and Sherif al Masry. Technical development was managed by Younos Aboulnaga and Engy Morsy.

King's College London staff provided expert advice on the creation of technical specifications and designing the WAMCP/ENRICH TEI XML schema for metadata management. Simon Tanner directed King's involvement, Gerhard Brey wrote the technical and functional specifications for the cataloguing tool and provided technical consultancy and trouble-shooting. Dr Elena Pierazzo adapted the TEI P5 / ENRICH schema in order to accurately describe manuscripts written in Arabic script.



The project partners would like to acknowledge the intellectual and technical input of the following groups as follows: