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Holy Qur'an
According to Islamic belief, the Holy Qur'an was revealed by God to the Prophet Mohammad (570–632) by the Angel Gabriel over a period of 22 years. The Qur'an speaks in powerful, moving language about the reality and attributes of God, the spiritual world, God's purposes with mankind, man's relationship and responsibility to God, the coming of the Day of Judgment, and the life hereafter. It also contains rules for living, stories of earlier prophets and their communities, and vital insights and understandings concerning the meaning ...
Contributed by
National Library and Archives of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Etymology
Etymologiae (Etymology) is the best known work by Saint Isidore of Seville (circa 560–636), a scholar and theologian considered the last of the great Latin Church Fathers. It takes its name from a method of teaching that proceeds by explaining the origins and meaning of each word related to a topic. Saint Isidore drew on many different sources in his attempt to summarize all ancient knowledge and save it for posterity. The fame of the work led to it being widely copied and disseminated, and its popularity lasted even ...
Contributed by
National Library of Spain
Titus Andronicus
This 1594 copy of Titus Andronicus is the only known copy of this quarto in existence, and, along with a version of Henry VI, Part 2 from the same year, is the earliest extant printed Shakespeare play. Quartos printed after about 1598 often display the name William Shakespeare; as this is an earlier quarto, the name of the acting company is shown instead. Quarto editions of the plays, which began to appear in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, were inexpensive and were sold unbound, sometimes in small numbers ...
Contributed by
Folger Shakespeare Library
City of God
Saint Augustine of Hippo (354–430) is generally considered one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time. He was born in Thagaste (present-day Souq Ahras, Algeria) in Roman-ruled Africa, the son of a pagan father and a Christian mother (Saint Monica). After studying in Carthage and teaching rhetoric in his native city, he moved to Rome in 383 and to Milan in 384. Under the influence of his mother and Ambrose, bishop of Milan, he converted to Christianity in 387. He was ordained a priest in 391 and rose ...
Contributed by
John M. Kelly Library, University of St. Michael's College in the University of Toronto
Letters, Essays, and Sermons by Saint Gregory Nazianzus
This 18th-century manuscript is a collection of letters, essays, and sermons by Saint Gregory Nazianzus (died circa 389). The manuscript is thought to be the first Arabic translation from the original Greek and has not yet been edited or published. It is the second volume of a two-volume work. Gregory of Nazianzus, also known as Gregory the Theologian, is recognized as a Father of the Church in both the Eastern and Western traditions. He was born in Cappadocia (eastern Anatolia), where he spent much of his life. He was a ...
Contributed by
The American University in Cairo Rare Books and Special Collections Library
City of God
This codex of Saint Augustine’s De civitate dei (City of God) is from the Plutei Collection of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence. The volume is bound in red morocco leather with the Medici coat of arms at the center and on each corner of the front cover. It has an illuminated page (recto of folio 11) and a number of illuminated initial capital letters (e.g., recto of folio 31). Saint Augustine of Hippo (354–430) wrote more than 100 works, of which his Confessiones (Confessions) and De ...
Contributed by
Medicea Laurenziana Library, Florence
Concerning Virgins and Other Works
This codex of De virginibus seu potius opera varia (Concerning virgins and other works) by Saint Ambrose (circa 340−97) is from the Plutei Collection of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence. The book has the distinctive Medici red leather binding and a beautifully illuminated first page (recto of folio 1) executed by Matteo da Milano (active circa 1492−circa 1523). On the last page, the colophon gives the name of the copyist as “Martinus Antonius” and the date of completion as “Ides of October 1489.” Ambrose was born in ...
Contributed by
Medicea Laurenziana Library, Florence
Five Books of the Sentences
This codex from the Plutei Collection of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence is a compilation of texts related to the Christian Church in Visigothic Spain. As stated on the colophon, the volume was originally made for King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary (1443–90). It includes Sententiarum libri V (Five books of the sentences) by Taio Samuel (died 683), followed by a collection of writings by the Church Fathers chosen by Isidore of Seville, and a letter by Quiricus, bishop first of Barcelona and then of Toledo, to Taio Samuel ...
Contributed by
Medicea Laurenziana Library, Florence
Seven Books of the Saturnalia
This codex from the Plutei Collection of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence contains the complete text of Saturnalia by the fourth−fifth century Latin author Macrobius. The work takes the form of a series of dialogues among learned men at a fictional banquet at which they discuss antiquities, history, literature, mythology, and other topics. The manuscript may have been copied by a scribe belonging to Bernardo Nuzzi’s circle of copyists in Florence. It organizes the seven original books of Macrobius into five books. The inscription on the recto ...
Contributed by
Medicea Laurenziana Library, Florence
The Historical Theater in the Year 400 AD, in Which Both Romans and Barbarians Resided Side by Side in the Eastern Part of the Roman Empire
This map in Latin by the great French mapmaker Guillaume de L’Isle (1675–1726) shows the eastern parts of the Roman Empire circa 400 AD and the territory of adjacent tribes and kingdoms not under Rome’s control. The latter include the Sarmatians and the Scythians, peoples that the Romans regarded as barbarians. Arabia is shown divided into its three traditional divisions, Arabia Petrea, Arabia Felix, and Arabia Deserta. Qatar is indicated as “Catarei.” The eastern part of the map shows the empire of Alexander the Great, including Persia ...
Contributed by
Library of Congress
Taishokan
Taishokan is a story loosely based on the life of Fujiwara no Kamatari (614−69), who was a famous court official. In the story, the daughter of Kamatari is married to the emperor of China. When she hears that her father is going to build the main hall of the Kōfuku-ji Temple in Nara, she sends him Mugehōju, a precious crystal with divine powers, as a gift. While a military escort is sailing to Japan with the crystal, dragons attack the ship and the treasure is carried down to the ...
Contributed by
National Diet Library
Tortuguero Box
This object, called the Tortuguero box because its inscriptions are comparable to those found in Tortuguero, Mexico, is a diminutive offering box, one of very few surviving Mayan personal objects made of wood. The full-length portrait of a Mayan lord on the cover of the box and the 44 hieroglyphic signs tell a story that yields important insights into the Mayan social system. The narrative begins with the image of the box’s owner, Aj K'ax B'ahlam, the holder of an important position under the patronage of the ...
Contributed by
Library of Congress
Su Ruolan
The portrait is of Su Hui, a gifted fourth-century female scholar and poet who had the courtesy name of Ruolan (“like an orchid”). She is famous for a palindromic poem that she embroidered in several colors of silk to express her love for her husband, who had been exiled to a distant point on the trade routes to Central Asia. Different versions of the poem exist. One has 112 characters arranged in eight rows of 14 characters. They make no sense unless the reader starts with the character "husband" in ...
Contributed by
National Central Library
Diamond Prajna Paramita Sutra
This complete scroll from the first year of the Yifeng era (676) of the Tang dynasty was unearthed in Dunhuang, China. The scroll contains the Diamond Prajna pāramitā sutra, a work that is an important sacred text in the prajñā line of Mahayana Buddhism as well as a foundational text in Chinese Chan (Japanese Zen) Buddhism. The text was transmitted to China in the Period of Southern and Northern Courts in many translations, but the translation by Kumārajīva is the most respected. For generations, it was felt that reciting the ...
Contributed by
National Library of China
Johnson Papyrus
Herbals are directories of plants, their properties, and their medicinal uses. Herbals most likely were at first not illustrated, but in late antiquity they acquired illustrations. This fragment of a leaf from an illustrated herbal from Hellenistic Egypt shows a plant that is possibly Symphytum officinale, or comfrey. The herbal is made of papyrus, a plant that flourished in the valley of the Nile, and the text is in Greek, the language of science throughout the eastern Mediterranean at this time. The fragment is probably from a copy of the ...
Contributed by
Wellcome Library
Shirin and Khusraw
Shirin va Khusraw (Shirin and Khusraw) is a story written in the 12th century by Shaykh Niẓāmī Ganjavi (circa 1140-1202), based on a tale found in Shahnamah (Book of kings), the epic-historical work of Persian literature composed at the end of the tenth century by the poet Firdawsi (circa 940–1020). The legend was well known before Firdawsi and further romanticized by later Persian poets. The story chosen by Niẓāmī was commissioned by and dedicated to the Seljuk Sultan Tughrul and to the sultan’s brother, Qizil Arsalan. This copy ...
Contributed by
Allama Iqbal Library, University of Kashmir
The Life of the Prophet
Maghāzī al-Nabī (The life of the Prophet) depicts the life of the Prophet Muhammad in poetical form. The original work was composed by a famous Arabic and Persian scholar of Kashmir, Ya‘qub Ṣarfī (1521–95). The unique poetic and biographical work, transcribed in two columns on each page of manuscript, includes some supplications and eulogies for the Prophet of Islam. Each column is bordered in lines inlaid with gold. The writing of the manuscript is clear and vivid.
Contributed by
Allama Iqbal Library, University of Kashmir
Parzival
Wolfram von Eschenbach composed his medieval German epic poem Parzival, which consists of more than 24,000 lines, in the first decade of the 13th century. It tells the story of the juvenile fool Parzival who, having grown up in the seclusion of the forest, is ignorant of the world and causes much grief as he ventures out to become a knight. He arrives at the Castle of the Grail, but fails to pose the question to the sick King Fisher Anfortas about the source of his suffering—a question ...
Contributed by
Bavarian State Library
Parzival
Wolfram von Eschenbach composed his medieval German epic poem Parzival, which consists of more than 24,000 lines, in the first decade of the 13th century. It tells the story of the juvenile fool Parzival who, having grown up in the seclusion of the forest, is ignorant of the world and causes much grief as he ventures out to become a knight. He arrives at the Castle of the Grail, but fails to pose the question to the sick King Fisher Anfortas about the source of his suffering—a question ...
Contributed by
Bavarian State Library
Books 1–5 of the Histories
Under the influence of Italian humanism and of his book-collector tutor János Vitéz, the Archbishop of Esztergom, Matthias Corvinus of Hungary (1443–1490) developed a passion for books and learning. Elected king of Hungary in 1458 at the age of 14, Matthias won great acclaim for his battles against the Ottoman Turks and his patronage of learning and science. He created the Bibliotheca Corvinian, in its day one of Europe’s finest libraries. After his death, and especially after the conquest of Buda by the Turks in 1541, the library ...
Contributed by
Bavarian State Library
The Song of the Nibelungs (Codex A)
The Nibelungenlied (The Song of the Nibelungs) is the most famous heroic poem in Middle High German. It tells the story of the dragon-slayer Siegfried from his childhood and his marriage to Kriemhild to his murder by the evil Hagen and Kriemhild's subsequent revenge, culminating in the annihilation of the Burgundians or Nibelungs at the court of the Huns. Originally based upon an older oral tradition, the poem was written down about or shortly after the year 1200, probably at the court of Wolfger von Erla, Bishop of Passau ...
Contributed by
Bavarian State Library