West African Arabic Manuscript Database

A database/union catalogue of Arabic and Arabic-script writing from West Africa.

What is AMMS?

[The Arabic Manuscript Management System]


AMMS is a bi-lingual database that was originally developed at the University of Illinois in the late 1980s to describe a collection of Arabic manuscripts in southern Mauritania (Boutilimit). Subsequently, seven other West African collections have been entered, including the manuscript libraries at the Institut Mauritanien de Recherche Scientifique, Nouakchott; Northwestern University; the original hand-list of manuscripts at the IHERIAB (Centre Ahmad Baba) repository in Timbuktu; the library of al-Hajj `Umar conserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; and a number of print catalogues from West Africa published by al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation. For more information on the activities and publications of the Foundation and these catalogues visit http://www.al-furqan.com. Additional collections are being added to further enhance the data base as both a resource and an authority file for the identification of manuscripts.

The database is comprised of five interactive data sets: the manuscript records, their authors, the authors’ nisbas, subjects, and the collections themselves. It has a search engine designed to identify manuscripts and authors when only fragmentary information is available, in Arabic or Latin characters. Experimental linkage of digital images of manuscript texts to the records is currently underway.

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Manuscript collections included: Boutilimit Ahl Sidiyya 1992 cat.
Ghana Northwestern U. 2008
Ibadan Furqan cat. # 37, 2001
Kano Northwestern U. 1991
Niamey IRSH 1979 cat.
Nouakchott IMRS 1992 cat.
Segou CNRS 1985 cat.
Shinqit Furqan cat. # 7, 1997
Timbuktu CEDRAB 1991
Wadan Furqan cat. # 7, 1997
ALA V Arabic Literature of Africa series, volume 5

The database and the AMMS cataloguing input tool are publicly available at no cost to users. Manuscript curators interested in using the input system developed for AMMS are encouraged to write to the editors to request access to data input forms. Thirty-odd fields in Arabic and English cover all the descriptors normally employed in manuscript work and we encourage the inclusion of newly-catalogued material into the main database; please contact the editors. Spreadsheet entries for transfer into AMMS can be made here.

Funding for the development and elaboration of AMMS during the past 25 years has been provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, The Johns Hopkins University, al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, and Duke University.

Historical Context: Notes on the Arabic Literary Tradition of West Africa