Sunday, July 12, 2009

Today we are launching the first phase of the Virtual Manuscript Room, with full sets of digital images for 71 manuscripts from the Mingana collection (some 13000 images). You can find the site at Among other things, the site has images of one of the oldest copies of the Qur'an in existence, Mingana Islamic Arabic 1572, recently dated as possibly 7th century.

The site has some interesting features. Firstly, it is completely integrated with the university's institutional repository: see (the manuscripts are at This gives them a presence in the online catalogues, which means they can be found by Google,and also provides a secure long-term maintenance strategy. Secondly, we developed a new image viewer, using the 'Open Layers' software. This is not finished yet, but already offers some nice developments: it does not use Flash (it is entirely javascript based); the viewer resizes horizontally as the window resizes; it has a 'carousel' which allows you to browse thumbnails of all the manuscript pages within the viewer. Finally, following my well-known philosophy, it is low-cost: the imaging cost around 50 pence a page; the whole cost of the site was a few pounds a page. Note that the imaging was done a few years ago and lacks some things (rulers, colour bars) which we should now include.

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