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From Abraham to Zarathustra, access to humanity’s spiritual treasure.

Religion: manuscripts

Texts in all their forms
Album of paintings of Indian divinities and sovereigns. Hinudi Trimurti

Album of paintings of Indian divinities and sovereigns. Hinudi Trimurti

Religious texts form a very important part of the Bibliothèque nationale de France’s manuscript collections. Historically speaking, they are at the origin of these collections. They can be found in virtually every collection: Latin, Greek, French, Hebrew, Arabic, and Sanskrit, as well as the Armenian, Syriac, and Ethiopian collections.

Founding texts of monotheistic religions constitute the first major collection: Avestas, handwritten Bibles in Hebrew and Latin, annotated medieval Bibles, Syriac and Greek Bibles, numerous copies of the Gospels, and a large number of copies of the Koran (both complete and individual Juz). Many of these are the oldest versions in the world: fragments of biblical manuscripts in Hebrew from the first century A.D. discovered in Qumran, excerpts from 5th century Greek Gospels, and leaves from the Koran written down 50 years after the death of the Prophet Mohammed. 

The second major section of the religion collection consists of the doctrinal and liturgical writings of monotheistic religions, from their origins to the Renaissance. All streams of Christianity are represented: Eastern Christians (Armenian, Sabean, Syriac, and Ethiopian), Western (including Byzantine) Christians, and Protestants. Exegesis of the Koran and Islamic Fiqh are also covered, as are rabbinical exegesis, Halakha, Kabbalah, and Jewish liturgy.

The Library’s manuscript collections place considerable emphasis on Asian religions: from Indian religions (e.g. Hinduism) to Chinese and Japanese Buddhism. 

The Masonic collection, consisting of archives, printed materials, and manuscripts, traces the history of France’s most important theosophical movement. 

Although some of the Library’s religious texts were used in the publication of early printed materials, a large number have never been studied or released, and thus remain unpublished. Furthermore, a large number of these writings are often lavishly illuminated, making them as interesting for their iconography as they are for their text.

Thursday, July 31, 2014