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The House of Wisdom

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The House of Wisdom is our new Islamic reading room, named after one of the most important libraries of the Islamic 'golden age' - the Bait-al-Hikma of 9th century Baghdad. Under refurbishment at the moment, our slightly smaller version is due to be up and running by July 2011.

Why the 'House of Wisdom'?

The Bait-al-Hikma housed more than half a million volumes at a time when the largest libraries in Europe contained no more than a hundred. It is regarded as one of the earliest public libraries, having pioneered the 'library catalogue'. It also, like Gladstone's Library, provided accomodation for visiting scholars from around the world.

Read: In the name of thy Lord who created man from a clot. Read: And thy Lord is the Most Generous who taught by the pen, taught man that which he knew not. - Qur'an [96:1-5]

But the most important reason for paying homage to this institution is that its spirit of cosmopolitan scholarly enquiry fed directly, through translations and commentaries on Greek works and advances in philosophy, mathematics and chemistry, into the scientific and cultural movements of the European renaissance, without which the cascade from Reformation to Enlightenment and 'modernity' would not have been possible.

Our Collection and Resources

In line with this heritage of open-access and bridge-building scholarship, the Islamic collection in Gladstone's Library's 'House of Wisdom' is being selected and organised according to the following criteria:

• Can it help to counter public misrepresentations of Islam and Muslim communities?

• Does it represent the contributions of Islam and Muslims to understanding our shared past, to solving the social issues of contemporary society and to shaping a common future?

• Can it be relevant, useful and accessible for both scholars and non-specialists; and for both non-Muslims and Muslims?

We welcome any suggestions for new titles and relevant topic areas that you think should be covered in the collection. For any comments on the collection or to donate titles please email the Head Librarian Patsy Williams on [email protected].

As with the rest of Gladstone's Library's collection, the contents of the House of Wisdom are searchable online using our Heritage database. As the collection develops we will also be providing a range of subject area bibliographies and links to digital resources. For more information on our Islam subject areas and holdings please click here. But, of course, the best way to explore this unique resource is to come and visit!

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