Amazement is the overwhelming feeling when visiting the website of this rare collection. Originally compiled by the French Orientalist Prisse d'Avennes, one of the greatest pre-20th century Egyptologists, the book constitutes one of the most important books on the Islamic monuments of Egypt. The first edition was published in 1869; therefore, many of the examples produced in the book have since disappeared. The work postdates the Description de l'Egypte by six decades and can be seen in some ways as a commentary upon it.
This valuable collection, which consists of three plate volumes (222 plates) and a text volume (388 pages), was digitized by ISIS. The digitized output has been published and is freely accessible through the Internet (http://lartarabe.bibalex.org).
The website is impressive for several reasons:
- Firstly, because it displays a huge collection of plates showing the Islamic monuments with their breath taking greatness and sophisticated details;
- Secondly, for the very unique accuracy of the drawings which capture the finest details in an unmatched artistic style; the artists commissioned to draw the monuments, though evidently pulled in the way of the picturesque, never sacrificed precision for the grand effect;
- And finally, for the high quality of the digitization process of the collection which gives you exceptional clarity of both pictures and text and preserves the feeling of holding the hard copy.
The website provides enhanced functionalities to help you best view and benefit from the collection including:
- Full search on the text volume with highlights on the search keyword
- Zooming in without sacrificing the quality and the high resolution and at the same time, maintaining downloading speed
- Several table of contents where the text and plates are indexed into categories and subcategories, making it easier to find a certain subject
- Cross referencing between plates and text
- A special text viewer with a clear and print friendly interface including hyperlinks to the plates
- A special plate viewer with different viewing tools such as zooming in/out, rotating picture, etc. and including hyperlinks to the corresponding descriptive text of the plate in the text volume
- A favorites list where you can add bookmarks to the specific plates you are interested in for easy reference
- Saving a copy of your favorite plates or pages on your computer in JPEG or bitmap formats of a reasonable resolution
- Data sharing with friends, where you can send a particular plate or page via email
The International School of Information Science (ISIS) scanned and processed the four volumes of plates and text. This required forming a team of four specialists who processed more than 600 pages with 400 dpi resolution for plates and 600 dpi for text. The processing phase included treatment of the destroyed pages and renovation of the defected parts while keeping the original look. Also a flipping feature was developed to give the feeling of holding the original book. An image service was provided which makes the pages load bit by bit, allowing quick access to the collection even with low-speed connections.
Last updated on 18 Nov 2012