The John Rylands Library houses remarkable and diverse collections of manuscripts from many periods and cultures. Among the most important is a substantial collection of cuneiform artefacts; with 1164 pieces, it is the third largest collection of such material in the UK. The majority of these objects (1030) are economic records dating to the Ur III period (ca. 2100-2000 BC) giving a representative view of the centralised Babylonian economy at the end of the 3rd millennium BC. Most of these documents have previously been known only from early hand copies or catalogues. The collection contains a smaller number of earlier documents, most notably 23 administrative texts dating to the Old Akkadian period (ca. 2340-2200 BC) and written in a very fine scribal hand.
In addition, the JRL holds a sizeable collection of Old Babylonian letters. Sumerian literature from the same period is represented, among other pieces, by an outstanding manuscript of the composition “Gilgamesh and Aga” (see also the University of Oxford’s online edition. Finally, the collection contains several royal inscriptions from various periods of Mesopotamian history. Most noteworthy are a large cone-shaped inscription of the neo-Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 BC) and a fine example of a votive inscription by Gudea of the Lagash II dynasty (ca. 2100 BC) inscribed on serpentine.
All texts were imaged by CDLI with conventional photography using High Dynamic Range technology. Some 300 tablets have also been imaged using Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) with the assistance of a photo dome.
Thanks to the cooperation and friendly assistance of the Library’s Special Collections staff, the results of the John Rylands Library collaboration have now been added to CDLI pages.
Any queries concerning the collection should be directed to Elizabeth Gow, Manuscript Curator and Assistant Archivist of the Library <firstname.lastname@example.org>); any amendments or comments on the catalogue and associated online files should be directed to CDLI <email@example.com>.
The imaging in Manchester and post-capture processing were undertaken by Klaus Wagensonner (University of Oxford) and were made possible by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. They are part of the on-going mission of CDLI to ensure the long-term digital preservation of ancient cuneiform inscriptions, and, in furtherance of humanities research, to provide free global access to all available text artefact data.
For the JRL and the CDLI:
Elizabeth Gow, Manuscript Curator and Assistant Archivist, The John Rylands Library, The University of Manchester <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Jacob L. Dahl, University Lecturer in Assyriology and co-PI of the CDLI, Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford <email@example.com>