Researching in Digitized Libraries

How Digitization has Transformed Manuscript Research: New Methods for Early Modern Islamic Intellectual History: The mass digitization of manuscripts is blurring the long held boundaries between manuscript libraries and archives and altering the act of research in the process. Scholars often view the changes that digitization entails in a negative light as the physical document is increasingly removed from the hands of the researcher. Here, though, I would like to take a different approach and explore the true possibilities provided by digitization as scholars are able to ask new questions, discover unknown texts, and gain a different understanding of intellectual life in the early modern Islamic world in particular. My belief is that a fundamental shift has occurred now that researchers can view twenty, fifty, or even one hundred manuscripts a day rather than two to three. In what follows, I examine some of the techniques we can use and the insights we can gain when given the opportunity to look at thousands of manuscripts during a research period.

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