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His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, has donated 12,000 valuable Arab and Islamic arts titles to House of Wisdom Image Credit:

Sharjah: His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, has donated 12,000 valuable Arab and Islamic arts titles to House of Wisdom.

The books donated are written in more than 10 languages. The donation is a testament to the Sharjah Ruler’s continuous mission to enrich the knowledge of generations with sources of sciences and literature. The titles comprise rare and valuable publications specialised in the history of Arab and Islamic art and architecture, to the House of Wisdom (HoW), an iconic architectural marvel and the emirate’s new cultural edifice that celebrates the prestigious UNESCO World Book Capital 2019 title bestowed on Sharjah.

The rare titles include the private library of German Professor Richard Ettinghausen and his wife, Dr Elizabeth Ettinghausen, which His Highness acquired and donated to HoW to serve as an invaluable reference on the history of Arab and Islamic Arts. The library is home to titles written in more than 10 languages, including Arabic, English, German, Persian, Japanese, Urdu, French, Spanish, Turkish, Russian and Italian.

The library’s contents include rare research on arts in the Arab and Islamic world including in Turkey, Iran, India, and Spain, curated by two of the most renowned researchers in Islamic arts and architecture in the world. Ettinghausen carried out his work on the Islamic collection of Berlin’s Bode Museum – formerly known as Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum – and taught at the Institute of Fine Art, New York University. In 1938 he was appointed an associate professor at the University of Michigan. His wife, Elizabeth, was an expert and specialist in Islamic textile and oral arts in the Arab and Islamic world.

Special exhibition to unveil the collection

A team of specialists at the House of Wisdom is sorting and categorising the collection’s books to be featured at a special exhibition that will be open to researchers, book lovers and the general public, who will be able to view the most prominent works in the collection. These will include high-value manuscripts and publications in various languages on the history of Islamic arts.

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Marwa Al Aqroubi, Director of HoW, expressed her gratitude towards the Sharjah Ruler for the donation which enable local and regional libraries to continue providing community members with knowledge sources in various fields.

World Book Capital title

“Due to the unwavering support of His Highness to books, authors, and libraries, Sharjah received UNESCO’s prestigious World Book Capital title in 2019, in recognition of the emirate’s status, and its relentless efforts to instil the habit of reading and building individual’s capacities. The House of Wisdom is a true representation of the title and the inspiring vision of Sharjah Ruler,” she said.

Al Aqroubi stressed that the new and rare collection is a testament to the deeds of a wise leader and a ruler who understands the true value of books. She said the new additions would be available to visitors soon to expand their knowledge while remembering the contributions of Sheikh Sultan to Emiratis, Arabs, intellectuals, and cultural institutions worldwide.

Rare and limited editions

The donated collection of books comprises a host of very rare titles, including limited editions and many that are over 100 years old.

One of the prized possessions in the collection is a rare 1888 edition of Haza kitab-i mustatab-i Vasaya-yi Khvajah Nizam al-Mulk, penned by the Persian vizier Abu Ali Hasan ibn Ali Tusi, better known as Nizam al-Mulk. One of only two copies listed globally, this book is a treatise on governance and political science.

Amongst other rare books are an 1898 large-style publication on Oriental glassware and Islamic decoration and ornaments by Gustav Schmoranz; and an original edition (1910), very rare catalogue on Islamic art and decorative arts titled Die Ausstellung von Meisterwerken muhammedanischer Kunst in München. The book is edited by Friedrich Sarre, a prominent German Orientalist and art historian, and F.R. Martin, a Swedish cultural historian and art collector.

Readers can gain valuable insights into the history of the Middle East with Max Freiherr Von Oppenheim’s, Vom Mittelmeer zum Persischen Golf: Durch den Hauran, die syrische Wüste und Mesopotamien. This 1899 book is a rare complete edition with maps and a detailed description of the region.