Slovakia - Basagic’s Collection of Islamic Manuscripts in the University Library of Bratislava

Basagic’s collection contains unique manuscripts and essential works of medieval Islamic scholarly literature and belles-lettres, spanning the interval from 12th to 19th century, and prints from two centuries, starting from 1729.

© University Library Bratislava
Ibrahim Hakki

The 284 manuscript volumes and 365 printed volumes portray the more than a thousand year long development of Islamic civilization from its commencement to the beginning of 20th century. Safvet Beg Basagic – a collector, literary, journalist, poet, translator, professor, bibliographer, curator of a museum, politician – a Bosnian intellectual, preserved in this collection an image of Bosnian literature and Muslim literary heritage. His collection of Islamic manuscripts and prints comprises Arabic, Persian and Turkish works and rare Serbian and Croatian texts written in Arabic script. Basagic’s collection contains unique manuscripts and essential works of medieval Islamic scholarly literature and belles-lettres, spanning the interval from 12th to 19th century, and prints from two centuries, starting from 1729. The 284 manuscript volumes and 365 printed volumes portray the more than a thousand year long development of Islamic civilization from its commencement to the beginning of 20th century. 

The very history of the journey of Basagic’s collection of Islamic manuscripts and prints was dramatic and its termination almost unbelievable. Basagic tried to preserve the collection in a more secure place than was the Balkan region of his time. In the turmoil of the turbulent development of Balkan nations in 19th and 20th centuries, his valuable collection eventually found its haven of rest in the University Library in Bratislava. Unfortunately, further historical development on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina confirmed the foresightedness of his steps. After the destruction of the collections in the fire of National Library in Sarajevo during war events in the former Yugoslavia has Basagic’s collection become a solitary and precious preserved corpus of monuments of Bosnian Muslim culture and Islamic culture in general in European context. 

The University Library in Bratislava makes considerable provisions for the protection of Basagic’s collection documents that are adequate to its worth and value. The whole collection has been professionally assessed by Czech and Slovak scholars and is carefully stored and used for scientific purposes. UNESCO has included the Basagic’s collection in the Memory of the World Register in 1997. In order to adequately protect the original documents and so to preserve them for the next generations and, at the same time, to enable the public to use them, the Library has decided to digitise the collection and publish it in an electronic form. This resulted in a CD-ROM with samples of illustrations, calligraphic art, and manuscript bindings, together with bibliographic records of individual titles in the original oriental language and in English with digitised images of the beginning and the end of the text.

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