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Digital Network for the History of Greek Libraries in Istanbul – i-STAMBOUL

Submission summary

This project aims at the virtual digital reconstitution of the corpus of Greek manuscripts (about 200 items) that Metrophanes III, Patriarch of Constantinople, collected in the 16th century at the library of the Monastery of the Holy Trinity (on the island of Halki near Istanbul). The core of this collection is now in the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, while a significant portion was dispersed in the second half of the 16th century, especially by Western travellers in search of Greek manuscripts, and is currently to be found in various libraries in Europe and North America.
In addition to the value of this collection in its own right — still unknown to the scientific community —, the library of the Holy Trinity is an excellent case study. It is significant in being one of the few ancient Eastern Mediterranean libraries which can be reconstructed fairly accurately, both in terms of the state of the original collection and its history between the 16th and 20th centuries. This is due to the existence of inventories of the period, Western travel accounts mentioning the library, and notes of ownership on the manuscripts themselves.
To carry out the complex task of reconstructing this corpus, it is necessary to develop and create a network of tools adapted to the analysis of Greek manuscripts and the history of ancient libraries. Central to this digital network is the online database Pinakes, developed at the Institut de recherche et d’histoire des textes (IRHT), which lists all the Greek manuscripts currently existing in libraries around the world and provides for each of them indications of content, elements of codicology and bibliographical references. The project involves the development of this database by providing improvements and adding to it the specific tools needed for the project (a module specifically designed for online cataloguing of Greek manuscripts, a digital tool for editing inventories of libraries, a digital library of images of manuscripts). The second task will be to create links between Pinakes and other online resources on Greek manuscripts, in order to create an international network of these resources.
At the completion of the project, the library of the Holy Trinity will be virtually reconstructed in several ways. A website dedicated to the project will provide the possibility to view online the images of the manuscripts, in addition to giving a historical presentation of the library. This will comprise those manuscripts currently in the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul and those that are to be found in other institutions around the world. This will give a wide audience the opportunity to appreciate the exceptional richness of this collection and enhance the Christian heritage still present in Turkey. The catalogue and the Pinakes database will provide scientific information on the contents of these manuscripts, their physical description, and their history, as well as a wide range of possibilities for browsing (with links to manuscripts similar in content, history, copyists, etc.. but also to additional online resources being developed by the international partners involved in the project).
The reconstruction will be accompanied by a study of the historical context that saw the birth and historical development of this library. Its history will be traced through the publication and study of ancient inventories and Western travel accounts. The project will produce a high performing network of digital tools. A survey will be undertaken to assess their potential for application to other collections of Greek manuscripts that were dispersed in modern times. The partners of this project, the Greek Section of IRHT and Laboratory of Paleography of the University of Crete, intend to create a new impetus in a field of study relatively neglected until now, the history of Greek libraries which remained in the Ottoman Empire, and especially in Istanbul, after the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Project coordination

André BINGGELI (Institut de recherche et d'histoire des textes) –

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


Laboratoire de paléographie, Université de Crète
IRHT Délégation Régionale Ouest et Nord
IRHT (UPR 841) Institut de recherche et d'histoire des textes

Help of the ANR 254,998 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2012 - 36 Months

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