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Libraries everywhere, including libraries in Iraq, are in the habit of putting ownership marks (such as rubber-stamp or seal impressions) inside their printed books and manuscripts. This helps them to keep track of their books and to claim and recover items that might be lost or stolen from their collections.
The aim of this project - launched by the Middle East Librarians Association's Committee on Iraqi Libraries - is to collect images (scanned photographs or photocopies) of library stamps and other ownership marks used by various libraries and manuscript collections in Iraq and make these images available on the Internet.
The samples of ownership marks of Iraqi libraries, posted on this website, are intended for use as a reference guide by customs agents, investigators of Interpol and national law enforcement agencies, by honest dealers and other concerned individuals, in order to help identify books, manuscripts and other materials that may have been illegally removed from Iraqi libraries.
Ownership marks can be found not only at the front of printed books and manuscripts (NOTE: Arabic-script books start on the right-hand side, at what would be the end of an English-language text), but can often also be seen stamped in the top or side margins of other pages within a volume.
Of course thieves and unscrupulous dealers may attempt to erase or remove ownership marks from stolen items before putting them on the market. If such is their intention, they will probably try to do so in any event. Professional criminals need no encouragement from sites such as this one to be reminded of the potential perils of dealing in identifiable contraband. However, past experience has shown that book thieves can be careless and may not be particularly diligent or successful in their efforts to obliterate all traces of ownership marks (especially when doing so would result in damage to the book, thus diminishing its resale value).
There are several different kinds of stamps and seal impressions seen on the pages of books and manuscripts owned by Iraqi libraries.
The simplest and most common ownership mark is a modern rubber stamp, inscribed with the name of the library and its location (example: stamp of the Ayat Allah al-Hakim Library in Najaf), sometimes with a space in the center where cataloging information or inventory numbers can be added - in this particular case blank fields can be seen in the center of the stamp, but no information has been entered.
A more old-fashioned sort of stamp marks the book or manuscript as the property of an Islamic pious endowment (waqf). The ownership mark of the waqf can be a traditional seal impression: [example 1]; [example 2], or a more modern-looking stamp at the bottom of the image.
In addition to the above, there may also be a stamp indicating that the manuscript is part of a particular collection within a library (e.g. the books of Muhammad al-Samawi, part of the Ayat Allah al-Hakim Library in Najaf - stamp at top of image reads: "Books of Muhammad al-Samawi" - stamp at bottom is that of the Ayat Allah al-Hakim Library).
The same manuscript may have combinations of several of the marks described above: the old-fashioned seal of a previous private owner or donor, the seal of a waqf, and one or more modern rubber stamps denoting the library, or the particular collection within that library: [example].
The Stolen Works of Art Division of INTERPOL: email@example.com
We seek the assistance of scholars who have worked in Iraqi libraries or with microfilmed materials from Iraq, and who can provide images from their own photographic, microfilm, or xerographic collections of library stamps and other distinguishing markers not yet included in this index.
To offer assistance, please contact: Charles E. Jones, The Oriental Institute, University of Chicago firstname.lastname@example.org
Traditional owner's seal in a manuscript from the library of the Madrasah of Yahya Pasha al-Jalili in Mosul. Translation of incription surrounding the seal: "The owner and possessor of this [book is] `Ali, professor (mudarris) of the Tughaniyyah Madrasah (theological school) in the city of Mosul."
Manuscript page with multiple stamps -- Top left: library stamp of the Ayat Allah al-Hakim Library in Najaf. Top right: stamp inscribed: "from among the books of Muhammad al-Samawi [year] 1354 (1935)." Bottom: Three traditional owner's seals representing different owners (and styles of seal)
Manuscript page with multiple stamps -- Left: Stamp marking the book as a waqf (deeded as a pious endowment) to the Ayat Allah al-Hakim Library in Najaf. Top right: stamp inscribed: "from among the books of Muhammad al-Samawi [year] 1354 (1935)." Bottom right: library stamp of the Ayat Allah al-Hakim Library in Najaf
Manuscript page with multiple stamps -- Top: library stamps of the Ayat Allah al-Hakim Library in Najaf (two stamps, one with and one without lines in the center). Center (just below the two library stamps): stamp inscribed: "from among the books of Muhammad al-Samawi [year] 1354 (1935)." Bottom: Stamp marking the book as a waqf (deeded as a pious endowment) to the Ayat Allah al-Hakim Library in Najaf. At left: part of a traditional owner's seal
Prepared for the Middle East Librarians Association Committee on Iraqi Libraries by Charles E. Jones with the kind assistance and advice of many colleagues including Jamil Ragep and others.
Middle East Librarians Association Committee on Iraqi Libraries Home Page
Middle East Librarians Association Home Page
MELA NOTES: The Journal of the Middle East Librarians Association
The MELA Committee on Iraqi Libraries web presence is produced in collaboration with the LOST TREASURES FROM IRAQ project at The Oriental Instiitute, University of Chicago, and is hosted at the Institute's website.
Revised: October 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003 Oriental Institute, University of Chicago; MELA Committee on Iraqi Libraries.