T’ao-K’larjeti: The cradle of the Georgian Empire

From crumbling cathedrals to gleaming spires

Boundaries of the Kingdom of T’ao-K’larjeti in 900. (source)

In the late ninth century CE, after centuries of foreign domination in Tbilisi, the Bagratid family fled to their ancestral lands of ტაო T’ao and კლარჯეთი K’larjeti to the south. Here in their place of refuge, the Bagratids established the Kingdom of the Iberians. In doing so, they launched a cultural, religious, and political renaissance which would culminate in the establishment of the Georgian Empire and a dynasty that would endure for a millennium…

Niko Kontovas and a local in the village of Cevizli in Artvin Provice, Turkey, formerly known as ტბეთი T’beti in Georgian.

My name is Niko Kontovas. I work as the Nizami Ganjavi Subject Librarian and Curator for the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Ottoman Turkish. Almost every summer for the past decade, I have toured the ruins of the Kingdom of the Iberians (Georgian: ქართველთა სამეფო Kartvelta Samepo, existing from around 888 to 1008 AD) in what is now southern Georgia and northeastern Turkey. Also known as the Kingdom of the Georgians or The Kingdom(s) of T’ao-Klarjeti, after its constituent regions, this state holds a special place in the memory of many Georgians as the place where the Bagratid dynasty established itself as the rulers of an “independant” Georgia. This is the same dynasty which would go on to found the The Georgian Empire (Georgian: საქართველოს სამეფო Sakartvelos Samepo) a.k.a. the Georgian Kingdom, the Empire of Georgia, or the Kingdom of Georgia. Though the Empire would only last around 500 years from 1008 to 1490/1493 AD, the Bagratids continued to play a role in Georgian political and cultural life, and remain the only serious current claimants to the Georgian throne — even though Georgia itself has become a republic.

Though my adventures in ტაო-კლარჯეთი T’ao-K’larjeti began long before my position here at Oxford, the collections of the Nizami Ganjavi Library hold materials on the region which are truly unparalleled in terms of their breadth and depth in collections outside Georgia. Our current book display combines photos and notes from my fieldwork in the region with selections from the library for readers to learn more about this fascinating but little studied slice of Eurasian history.

The devil’s in the details

The Devil’s Fortress at Çıldır. (photo courtesy of Niko Kontovas, 2023)

Among the most impressive structures in historical ტაო-კლარჯეთი T’ao-K’larjeti is the Devil’s Fortress (Turkish Şeytan Kalesi) in the Turkish province of Çıldır. Though its origin is uncertain, it had already attained its current form by 1064, when it is mentioned by the invading Seljuk Sultan آلپ آرسلان Alp Arslan, suggesting it dates to the period of the Kingdom of the Iberians.

In Georgian, the fortress is known as ქაჯის ციხე Kajis Cixe “The Kaji’s Fortress”. The ქაჯი kaji are a race of magical beings in Georgian mythology or, alternatively, a tribe of humans similarly adept at magic appearing in შოთა რუსთაველი Šota Rustaveli’s 12th c. epic ვეფხისტყაოსანი Vepxist’q’aosani “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin”. Many Georgians equate the ქაჯის ციხე Kajis Cixe in Çıldır with the ქაჯთა ციხე Kajta Cixe “Fortress of the Kajis” mentioned as the home this tribe in Rustaveli’s poem.

The heroes of შოთა რუსთაველი Šota Rustaveli’s ვეფხისტყაოსანი Vepxist’q’aosani “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin” look out upon the ქაჯთა ციხე Kajta Cixe “Fortress of the Kajis”. From a 2011 illustrated Georgian edition of the text available to read the the Nizami Ganjavi Library.

The unassuming origins of empire

If ტაო-კლარჯეთი T’ao-K’larjeti is the cradle of the Georgian Empire, კლარჯეთი K’larjeti is the cradle of the Kingdom of the Iberians which started it.

Ardanuç Fortress (photo courtesy of Niko Kontovas, 2023)

On a hilltop plateau in the centre of the modern town of Ardanuç in Turkey (Georgian არტანუჯი Art’anuji) stand the ruins of an impressive fortress. This fortress was built by the Bagratid prince and Duke of კლარჯეთი K’larjeti, აშოტ I დიდი Ašot’ I Didi, a.k.a. Ashot I or Ashot the Great, around 813-818 on the site of an older castle, supposed to have been built by ვახტანგ I გორგასალი Vaxtang Gorgasali, or Vakhtang the Wolf’s Head – the semi-legendary ruler of an earlier Georgian kingdom in the 5th c. Later Georgian historiography has tended to view Ashot I’s choice of location as a conscious reassertion of an older tradition of Georgian kingship, though whether Ashot I also thought this way is a matter of some debate.

It was from here that Ashot I launched numerous campaigns against the Muslim rulers who had taken over various Georgian duchies – a process continued by his son, ადარნასე II Adarnase II, who united კლარჯეთი K’larjeti with the neighbouring dutchy of ტაო T’ao, and his twice great grandson, ადარნასე IV Adarnase IV, the first ruler of the Kingdom of the Iberians. In time, these Bagratid-lead campaigns would result in the takeover of the old capital of Tbilisi and the proclamation of the Empire of Georgia.

Ashot I also sponsored the creation and expansion of Georgian Orthodox churches in the region, supporting the efforts of გრიგოლ ხანძთელი Grigol Xanżteli, or Gregory of Khandzta – another village currently located in Turkey which houses the ruins of one of the many monasteries which he built. Monks trained by Gregory would act as emissaries to the Byzantine Emperor, and may have been instrumental in his granting Ashot I the title of κουροπαλάτης kouropalatēs – employed as a sort of Byzantine Christian “defender of the faith” at the time in the Caucasian borderlands of the Empire.

You can read more about the rise of Bagratid არტანუჯი Art’anuji and Byzantium’s recognition thereof in Evans, N. “Kastron, Rabad and Ardūn: The case of Artanuji” in Matheou et al. (ed.) From Constantinople to the frontier: The City and the cities (2016).

What makes an empire?

Scholars debate whether the Georgian polity which followed the Kingdom of the Iberians in T’ao-K’larjeti should be referred to as the Georgian Kingdom or the Georgian Empire. Whatever you choose to call it, it is beyond doubt that it had a profound impact on neighbouring empires and, as a result, the history of Eurasia as a whole.

Its imperial nature is exemplified by the Georgian Bagratid dynasty (ბაგრატიონი Bagrat’ioni in Georgian), which for numerous reasons epitomized Georgian interconnectedness. In his article on Iberia on the eve of Bagratid rule (in Le muséon LXV, 1952, pp. 199-259), Toumanoff argues that the Georgian Bagratids emerge as political players from a branch of the Armenian Bagratids (Բագրատունի Bagratuni in Armenian). While this is a matter of much debate amongst scholars, the Georgian Bagratids undoubtedly controlled many lands previously inhabited by Armenian-speaking peoples and polities.

Exterior view of Սուրբ Գրիգոր Լուսավորիչ Եկեղեցի Surb Grigor Lusavorič’ ekeɫec’i The Church of Saint Gregory the Illuminator at Ani, popularly referred to as Տիգրան Հոնենց Եկեղեցի Tigran Honenc’ ekeɫec’i The Church of Tigran Honents. Built during the period of Georgian imperial domination.
(photo courtesy of Niko Kontovas, 2023)

If a kingdom becomes an empire through its incorporation of foreign states, no single Bagratid ruler bears more right to claim the title of Emperor than თამარ მეფე Tamar Mepe Queen Tamar. Under her rule, the Georgian Empire helped to liberate the ancient Armenian capital of Անի Ani, which it then ruled first directly and then by proxy through the semi-Georgianised Armenian Զաքարյան Zak’aryan or Zakarid dynasty. Several churches the ruins of which are still well preserved at Ani were built during the period of Georgian domination, such as the splendidly decorated Սուրբ Գրիգոր Լուսավորիչ Եկեղեցի Surb Grigor Lusavorič’ ekeɫec’i Church of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, popularly referred to as Տիգրան Հոնենց Եկեղեցի Tigran Honenc’ ekeɫec’i The Church of Tigran Honents after the wealthy merchant who funded its construction.

To read more about the integral role which the Georgian Empire and other Georgian polities have played throughout Eurasian history, see Donald Rayfield’s Edge of Empires (London: Reaktion, 2012).

Likewise, the Empire of Trebizond, a Byzantine rump state centred around the Black Sea coastal city now called Trabzon, owes its existence to Bagratid Georgia. Though founded by the Κομνηνός Komnēnos family, the Empire of Trebizond’s founder, Αλέξιος Α΄ Μέγας Κομνηνός Alexios I Megas Komnēnos or Alexios the Great, had like his grandfather before him taken refuge in the Georgian imperial court during in-fighting over the Byzantine throne. Though the extent of Trebizond’s cultural Georgianisation has been debated, Alexios was no doubt aided in establishing the independence of his Empire by his maternal aunt, Queen Tamar.

How the mighty have fallen

Just northwest of the village of Penek in Turkey’s Erzurum province lies the ruins of a royal cathedral known as ბანა Bana in Georgian and բանակ Banak in Armenian.

Bana Cathedral (photo courtesy of Niko Kontovas, 2023).
You can read more about Bana – and the other sites mentioned in this exhibit – in Giviashvili and Akder(ed.)’s The Georgian Kingdom and Georgian Art: Cultural Encounters in Anatolia in Medieval Period (Istanbul: Koç University Press, 2014).

Bana Cathedral is a testament not only to the splendour of ტაო-კლარჯეთი T’ao-K’larjeti, but to its interconnectedness with the other regional powers. Though some have argued that it was built on the site of an earlier Armenian church (see Bogisch & Plontke-Lünning, “The Cathedral of Bana in Tao: Architectural Tradition and Liturgical Function” in Kudava (ed.) Tao-Klarjeti: Abstracts of Papers. Tbilisi: National Centre of Manuscripts, 2012. p. 126-7), the ruins which remain reflect a structure built by ადარნასე IV Adarnase IV, the Georgian Bagratid prince who proclaimed the Kingdom of the Iberians in ტაო T’ao and კლარჯეთი K’larjeti provinces in the year 888.

Heavily damaged by Russian fire in the late 19th c., Bana was once the royal cathedral of ტაო T’ao. In 1032, it hosted the wedding of ბაგრატ IV Bagrat IV of the newly established Georgian Empire and the Byzantine princess Ἑλένη Ἀργυρή Elenē Argyrē.

ႱႠႳႩႳႬႭ ႾႱႤႬႤႡႠ (Memory eternal)

Along with ტაო T’ao and კლარჯეთი K’larjeti, the historical region of შავშეთი Šavšeti (Turkish Şavşat) also occupies a special place in the Georgian imagination – in part because of the many monasteries which Georgian monks built there under Bagratid patronage. During the spring and summer months, the ruins of these monasteries are awash with Georgian pilgrims and tourists, many of whom light candles and leave offerings on the very walls built by the Bagratid rulers over a millennium ago.

The monastery of ტბეთი T’beti, now located in the town of Cevizli in Turkey’s Artvin province, was once home to the famous monk, გიორგი შავშელი Giorgi Šavšeli. He would later move to the Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem, where he would be known as Saint Prochorus the Iberian. Among other exemplary manuscripts, he penned a book of hours now housed in the Weston Library.

Pilgrims’ offerings at the ruins of ტბეთი T’beti monastery (photo courtesy of Niko Kontovas, 2023).
Leaf from Saint Prochorus the Iberian’s book of hours, 11th c. Jerusalem. Prochorus was born გიორგი შავშელი Giorgi Šavšeli, i.e. George of Shavsheti, and was trained at ტბეთი T’beti Monastery in what is now Cevizli village, Şavşat Prefecture, Artvin Province, Turkey. Written in Middle Georgian in ნუსხური nushkhuri and ასომთავრული asomtavruli scripts. (Oxford, Bodleian Library MS. Georg. b. 1)

Who cares for shared heritage?

The physical remnants of ტაო-კლარჯეთი T’ao-K’larjeti are overwhelmingly located within the borders not of the Georgian Republic, but of the Turkish Republic.

Though the region was the site of bloody battles between the Russian and Ottoman Empires in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, few now seriously challenge Turkish claims on these lands. Relatively free movement across the Georgian-Turkish border means that Georgians can visit medieval sites in Turkey fairly easily.

Tourism to ტაო-კლარჯეთი T’ao-K’larjeti generates significantly less revenue than, say, tourism to Ottoman or Classical Hellenistic sites in Western Turkey. Still, several joint projects have been undertaken to excavate and restore some Georgian sites within the region. You can learn more about these construction projects in გრემელაშვილი, „ტაო-კლარჯეთის ხუროთმოძღვრული ძეგლების კვლევისა და რესტავრაციის შესახებ“ in Kudava et al. (eds.) International Conference Tao-Klarjeti: Materials. Tbilisi: National Center of Manuscripts, 2010, pp. 106-124.

The fully restored church of იშხანი Išxani Ishkhani (Turkish İşhan) in Artvin Province; restoration complete as of 2019, yet still closed to the public as of 2023. (photo courtesy of Niko Kontovas, 2021)

Some of these projects, such as the reconstruction of the church of იშხანი Išxani Ishkhani (Turkish İşhan) in Artvin Province, were nearly complete as of 2019. Others, such as the reconstruction of the massive cathedral at ოშკი Ošk’i Oshki (Turkish Öşkvank) in Erzurum Province have proceeded much more slowly.

Even in the case of successful reconstructions, most sites which have been the object of big projects have, sadly, still not fully opened. While the reasons for this are officially uncertain, locals often claim that municipal and provincial governments are worried that an influx of Georgians may prompt official requests to hold religious services at these sites, which could aggitate local sensitivities and possibly provoke irredentist claims from Georgia. Some also claim that official openings have been delayed until Georgian authorities show similar interest in restoring Muslim religious sites in Georgia.

Read more about the fascinating history of ოშკი Ošk’i Oshki cathedral through two of the inscriptions found on the structure itself in ჯობაძე, ოშკის ტაძარი. თბილისი: მეცნიერება, 1991.

Despite this, some of the best preserved site still fully visitable in the region today are those which have been transformed into mosques, such as the church of the monastery of ხახული Xaxuli Khakhuli (Turkish Haho) in the village of Bağbaşı, Erzurum. Additionally, many Muslims in the region of შავშეთი Šavšeti Şavşat consider themselves both Turkish and Georgian, sometimes even speaking Georgian at home. Even where destruction of Georgian sites has been documented in the past, locals now overwhelmingly want to see the sites restored and reopened, as much out of a sense of pride for this shared heritage as to attract more revenue from tourism to otherwise impoverished rural areas.

You can see some older pictures of sites in the region with less destruction in Kalandia, Ekvtime Takaishvili and Tao-Klarjeti. Tbilisi: Zviad Kordzadze, 2017.

Visit from Brother Anthony of Taizé


On 4th May 2023, the NGL was delighted to welcome a very special guest: Brother Anthony of Taizé!

The Bodleian Libraries house many important Korean manuscripts and books brought back from Korea by missionaries since the end of the 19th century.  Brother Anthony suitably follows in the footsteps of Bishop Trollope and Monsignor Richard Rutt by donating his personal library to the Bodleian.

His visit started with viewing some important Korean manuscripts and books at the Weston Library.  He then gave a talk ‘Books and People: a Korean Cornucopia’ in the Window on Korea Room, Nizami Ganjavi Library, commenting on selected books and the personalities behind them.

The lecture was followed by drinks and 장구 Janggu, a Korean drum performance in the Chapel, Hertford College.

To learn more about Brother Anthony, his fascinating work, and his extraordinary life as a bridge between the UK and Korea, visit his person web page.





New Day, New Face!


Welcome to the new face of the Nizami Ganjavi Library blog!

It’s been a long time since our last post, but going forward we hope to use this site more actively to keep our visitors up to date on the Library’s holdings, events, and related activities in Oxford and beyond.

Given the theme of renewal, it seems only fitting that the first post on our new site would revolve around the theme of Nowruz — the Persian New Year and a spring festival celebrated across much of Eurasia — which is also, incidentally, the theme for our book display for the month of March 2023!

What is Nowruz?

Nowruz is, at its core, a celebration of spring and – more specifically – of the spring equinox. In the Iranian calendar, which is a solar calendar, this is also the first day of the first month, فروردین Farvardīn, making Nowruz the Iranian New Year celebration.

While Nowruz is celebrated by numerous groups which do not make use of the Iranian calendar, the name Nowruz and certain traditions associated with it betray a common origin somewhere in the distant, pre-Islamic past of greater Iran.

Though the ultimate origins of the holiday are debated, the Persian epic poem, the شاهنامه Šāhnāma of Firdawsī, tells of how the legendary king Jamšēd saved the world from an endless winter by building a gold and bejewelled throne which, when raised up towards the sky, shone like the sun and banished the darkness, saving humanity. In commemoration of this “New Day”, the Iranians celebrate Nowruz < Persian نو naw “new” + روز rōz “day”.

One of the Library’s many versions of the ŠāhnāmaDick Davis’ English translation, Shahnameh: the Persian book of kings (New York/London: Penguin, 2007) can be found on our book dispaly this month.

You can also find جواد برومند سعید Javād Barūmand Sa‘īd‘s excellent research collection on the history of Nowruz, نوروز جمشيد: پژوهشى نوين از پيدايى نوروز Nawrūz-i Jamshīd: pizhūhishī nuvīn az paydāʼī-i Nawrūz.

Nowruz is celebrated in different cultures across Eurasia, so it’s no surprise that there are different ways to render/spell/pronounce the name of the holiday. One book on our display, Fatih Köse’s Osmanlı Devletinde Nevrûz (İstanbul: IQ Kültür Sanat, 2007) relates how Nowruz celebrations were once common among certain classes and populations within the Ottoman Empire, even if they are primarily associated with Kurds in Turkey today.

Here are some other versions of the name for this holiday in languages you may come across.

name language(s)
Navrez Crimean Tatar
Neowrez Mazandarani
Nevruz Albanian, Turkish
Newroz Kurmanji, Zazaki
Novruz Azerbaijani
Nowruz Turkmen
Nûroj Kurmanj (rare/learned)
Навруз Navruz Nogay, Russian
Науруз Nauruz Bashkir
Наурыз Nauryz Kazakh
Нәүрүз Näwrüz Volga Tatar
Нооруз Nooruz Kyrgyz
نەورۆز Newroz Sorani
نورۇز Noruz Uyghur
نوروز Nowruz Gilaki, Iranian Persian
Nawrōz Balochi, Dari, Pashto
نوورځ‎ Nawwraź Pashto (rare/learned)

The Nizami Ganjavi Haft-Sin Table

The Haft-Sin (“Seven S’s”) Table — سفره‌ای هفت سین  Sofre-ye Haft-Sin (Sufra-yi Haft-sīn) in Persian — is a fixture of most Iranian households during the Nowruz season, much the same way as a Christmas tree or Chanukkiah. The table is decorated with seven items, each starting with the letter س S in Persian.

In many regions, Nowruz traditions involve the number seven. Exactly why this is in uncertain, but it likely derives from the importance of the number in the Zoroastrian tradition.
In the Avesta, the most holy text of the Zoroastrian religion, Aməša Spəṇta “The Eternal Holies” are seven emanations of the supreme god, Ahura Mazdā, personified in the form of seven divine beings, each representing one of the seven eternal aspects of creation. You can read about this yourselves in an original-language copy of a portion of the Avesta in the form of William A. V. Jackson’s Avesta Reader (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1893), currently adorning our Nowruz dispay in the NGL.

The seven items on a Haft-Sin table sometimes vary, but the standard seven are, along with the things they are often said to represent:

Persian translation symbolic meaning
سیب sib (sēb) apple beauty
سیر sir (sīr) garlic health
سنجد senjed (sinjid) oleaster love
سمنو samanu (samanū) malted wheat pudding strength
سماق somāgh (sumāq) sumac the sun
سرکه sirke (sirka) vinegar patience
سبزه sabze (sabza) greens rebirth

Additional items beginning with س S that are sometimes used alongside or instead of the above are:

Persian translation symbolic meaning
سکه sekke (sikka) coin prosperity
ساعت sāʿat clock time
سنبل sonbol (sunbul) hyacinth spring

Other items are often placed on the Haft Sin table for their symbolic significance regardless of the letter they start with:

Persian translation symbolic meaning
آینه āyine (āyina) mirror introspection
شمع shame’ (šam‘) candle light
تخم مرغ رنگی tokhm-e morgh rangi (tuxm-i murğ rangī) red painted egg fertility
نارنج nārenj (nārinj) orange in a bowl of water the earth
شیرینی shirini (šīrīnī) sweets pleasure
اسفند* esfand (isfand) seeds of Ruda graveolens (rue) banishing evil
شیر shir (šīr) milk purity
بیدمشک bid-meshk (bēd-mišk) branch of a Salix aegyptiaca (musk willow) nature
**کتاب ketāb (kitab) book wisdom

(* Indeed, in some dialects and in older varieties of Persian, this word was pronounced سفند sifand or سپند sipand and would have therefore begun with س S.)

(** The book in question is traditionally one of four: the Qur’ān, the Avesta, the Šāhnāma, or the Dīvān of the poet Ḥāfiẓ of Shiraz. For our display at the NGL, we’ve chosen a version of the دیوان حافظ شیرازی Dīvān-i Ḥāfiẓ-i Šīrāzī — one of many available in our collections!)

Haft-Sin tables are nevertheless as varied as the people who make them, and no book demonstrates this better than Maryam Khosrowshahi’s Sofreh: the art of Persian celebration (London: ACC Art Books, 2014), also on our book display.

In the two-volume set, you’ll find superbly decorated tables, not only for Nowruz but for other Persian celebrations.

Speaking of which, you can learn more about traditional Persian holidays from another of our holdings on display this month, Aly Mazahéri‘s Le Nowroûz et le Mihrikân (Paris: Association des disciples d’Aly Mazahéri, 1992).

Since Nowruz is such a big part of the culture of so many regions within the NGL’s purview, we’ve decided to celebrate this year by adorning our Nowruz book display with a traditional Haft-Sin table!

The board shows even more information about Nowruz traditions from around Eurasia, so don’t forget to stop by before the end of March and see how many of the items above you can spot on our display.

November News and Holiday Reminders

Holiday Opening Times and Deliveries

Over the Christmas Vacation, we will be opening from 9-7 until the week beginning 11th December, when we will start to close at 5pm.

We will be closed for Christmas from 5pm on Thursday 21st December until 1st January inclusive.

After Xmas we will be opening until 5pm for the first week back, from Tuesday 2nd January and then reverting to our Term time opening of 9am to 7pm from Monday 8th January.

The last book delivery from the Book Storage Facility before Christmas will be on the morning of Thursday 21st December; any books ordered after 7pm on Wednesday 20th will be fetched on Tuesday 2nd January, either in the morning or afternoon runs, depending on the backlog of orders which has built up over the vacation.


Care of Library Materials

Readers are politely requested to please take the best care possible of books borrowed from the Oriental Institute, as any damage caused may result in the removal of the book from circulation, and therefore its loss to everyone who might have wished to use it.

Some of our materials are quite old and quite fragile, or have been misused in the past and suffered damage, and we rely on our readers to make sure they do not become any more damaged than they already are.

A short while ago a book was returned to us which was soaked with coffee – fortunately only on the covers and the edges of a few pages – which, had it been worse, might have been removed from circulation altogether. We were able to rescue it, but we would really rather not have to deal with situations like that in the first place.

No action was taken against that particular reader, but we do reserve the right to charge for the replacement of damaged library items if they cannot be salvaged.


Food and Drink in the Library

With this in mind may we also remind everyone that *only* water is allowed in the library. A bottle of Oasis juice was found by the Photocopiers earlier this week and several staff have observed coffee cups in the wastepaper baskets. Sugary drinks may attract pests, which might then damage the books, and may also cause mould outbreaks which can be a health hazard.

There is a common room downstairs, and most library materials – apart from the BSF books which cannot leave the library – can be borrowed, so we would much prefer people take their refreshments outside the library. A break from your desk is supposed to be beneficial, after all!


Shiny new pipes!

Observant* readers may have noticed a new set of shiny copper pipes, which have appeared on the wall around the Photocopiers and along the edge of the Periodicals section, as well as in the Back Office.

These have been installed in advance of the new heating system which is due to be fitted next summer. Fortunately all the work took place outside normal opening hours so we have not been disrupted by noise.

*They had been there for several days before your humble blogger noticed them, but I do tend not so spend too long looking at the ceiling…


We would like to wish all our readers a good break, a Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it and a Happy New Year to all. We will be back in January with our usual review of 2017 and (hopefully) fewer complaints about food in the library!


Stapler Competition Winner

The end of term crept up on us too soon, so we were unable to do this before the new year, but we are delighted to announce that, after a late rush of entries, we have a winner for OIL’s “Name the Stapler” competition.

Stapler Competition winner

Rowena Abdul Razak wins a generous prize of a £10 book voucher and a bottle of wine for her suggestion “Sir Manytooth Steelmate, Director of Stapler Studies at the Oriental Institute”. We may shorten this for the label, though!

We also have a runner up, Clementine Brown, who suggested “Al-Stabul Ur-Text”, and who wins the second prize of a box of chocolates. We particularly liked the fact that she explained that she had used a letter b as there is no letter p in Arabic.

All prizes were generously donated by Dinah Manisty. Thanks Dinah!

A special mention goes to Ryan Lynch, whose suggestion included a long introduction to the reasoning behind it; we appreciated the effort and thought, but as you were a runner-up last year we thought that it would be better to allow others to win the prizes.

Other entries were as follows:

“Alligator” – from Saba Halepota

“Zubayr” – from Ryan Lynch

“Colossus” from Amelia Green

“The Quire Master” from Henry Mason

“Attila” from Stephanie Pambakian

And finally two more suggestions from Clementine Brown: “The Quire master” (again!) and “Pulp Fixion-er”.

HUGE thanks to all our entrants! Things took a while to get going, but it was pleasing to have a last rush of entries. It is only a bit of fun, but we think this kind of thing adds to the friendly atmosphere which makes OIL a fun place to work, and hopefully to study!


November Headlines and Reminders for December

November Headlines

November saw things settling down a little from the beginning of Term, but we have still seen many new faces and enjoyed meeting all the various people who are now using the Library. As always, do ask us if you can’t find something; we know that the set-up here can be a little confusing!

Term is still upon us for the next week, so we would encourage anyone who hasn’t to enter our “Name the Stapler” competition, a winner of which will be announced on Friday.

Vacation Loans are now in operation, having started on Saturday 28th November; books borrowed from then on will be due back on the 20th January (Tuesday of 1st week).


December Reminders

We are running a Research Skills Toolkit session on Thursday 4th December – there are flyers at the front desk for anyone who is interested in attending and learning more about this valuable resource.

We will be doing some reorganising in the Library of Congress section over the vacation, moving books up into the spaces vacated as Kate has been reclassifying the collections, so may be making a bit of noise and/or leaving the desk for periods of time, but there will be someone around in the office and we will leave a note telling readers where we are. This is essential work – there is no more room in certain sections due to the volume of material being added – so we beg your patience for a few weeks until we can get things back to something resembling order.

And finally, the Library closes for Christmas on the 23rd December at 5pm, re-opening on Monday January 5th at 9am.


October Headlines and new e-Resources

As ever, we’ve had a very busy month, so apologies if this is a bit of a long post…

Firstly, and most importantly for those of you who hadn’t realised, the Library now opens at 0900 rather than 0915, allowing an extra quarter of an hour a day for all that essential reading!

The OIL open day for new students (and anyone else tempted by the sweets) was held on the afternoon of Friday 10th October and was well-attended, with many of the students staying behind after the introductions for training on SOLO, PCAS and other library-related matters, and also to sample the abovementioned sweets, generously provided this year by Dinah Manisty and Alasdair Watson. Alasdair also made himself available to talk to people about Arabic Manuscripts, and had an interesting slideshow on his laptop showing some fine examples.


Kate hinted during the introductions that there would be a new competition for Michaelmas Term, the final announcement of which was delayed by a week due to operational matters (she and her colleague at the Humanities Theses desk, Rob Wilkes, moved into the Weston Library from Osney Mead on the 16th October and things were a bit hectic for a few days). We have now, however, launched the “Name the Stapler” Competition – see posters at the Library desk or the previous blog post for details. We hope to have a good number of entries before the competition closes in 8th week, so get naming!

We welcomed Dawn back from her trip to Australia on the 20th – it sounds like she had a lovely time!

New e-Resources for Arabic materials

Dinah has asked that we pass on information about the following exciting new electronic resources which are available to Library users.

Firstly, there is the Qatar Digital Library Online portal at the British Library, a great new archival resource on the region.

Qatar clip

The QDL has been developed as part of a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding on Partnerships between the Qatar Foundation, the Qatar National Library and The British Library.
A wide range of content from the British Library’s collections (more specifically their colonial archives related to the Gulf Region) have been digitized since 2012, reaching a total of 500,000 images that will be available to browse and search by the end of 2014.

The Qatar Digital Library (QDL) is making a vast archive featuring the cultural and  historical heritage of the Gulf and wider region freely available online for the first time. It includes archives, maps, manuscripts, sound recordings, photographs and much more, complete with contextualised explanatory notes and links, in both English and Arabic.

This archive is bound to transform the study of Gulf history, improving understanding of the Islamic world, Arabic cultural heritage and the modern history of the Gulf.

You can find more info on the Qatar Digital Library at  http://www.qdl.qa/en/about.

Try it for yourself (Qatar Digital Library portal) and please let the students know about this great (and free!) new resource.

Also, do let us know what you think of the following, available until November 22nd:

1) Classic Arabic Texts Online (trial until 22 November 2014)

And finally, we have added the following to our Brill package:

2) Early Western Korans Online: Koran Printing in the West, 1537-1857

Dinah is responsible for this side of the Library’s work, so do let her know if you have used these and whether you have any feedback to give; we try to keep up as best we can with the latest resources which are available, but if any of you know of any we should have and don’t, please do get in touch!

As we said, a bumper post for October! We hope for more of the same in November!

It’s Competition Time!

Announcing… the Michaelmas Term competition at OIL!

After the success last year of the “Mystery Object”, the decision has been taken to run another competition for readers at the Library during Michaelmas Term 2014.

In the absence of any more obviously “mysterious” objects (the previous incumbent being a piece of reinforced concrete bent into an interesting shape after being rescued by a former member of staff during a refurbishment project), we have instead decided to link our new competition to a bit of library psychology, and equipment.

The blog below was the inspiration for this year’s adventure:

Blog snipping






To summarise, the author mentions that staplers which have been given a name tend not to be broken as quickly as those which remain nameless, possibly because the users identify with them a little more as objects. With this in mind we have decided to run a “Name the Stapler” competition, having acquired over the summer a large, heavy-duty stapler which we would rather not die too soon. Anyone wishing to read the whole post can find it at: http://tragicoptimist.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/on-the-care-and-feeding-of-academic-library-staplers/

The rules of the competition are simple: find a name for the stapler. Entries can be via the Facebook Page or at the Library Desk, where a suitable receptacle will be found for paper entries.

Entrants must be a member of the University or hold a valid Library card.

The top prize for this year’s competition is a £10 book token, generously donated by Dinah Manisty. There will also be a chocolate-related runner-up prize.

Please refrain from any offensive or obscene suggestions; this is a bit of fun. Anything we deem inappropriate may be reported.

The winner and a runner-up will be announced during 8th Week.