Qalamos – the new Germany-wide portal for manuscripts from Asian and African scriptural tradition goes live!

Qalamos, the portal for manuscripts from Asian and African scriptural tradition, starts on 28 June 2022. The portal pools the metadata and digital copies of manuscripts from this area from over 20 German institutions and makes them publicly accessible together for the first time.

Qalamos | SBB-PK CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Qalamos | SBB-PK CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Qalamos offers a new infrastructure to scholars and the interested public, enabling direct access to metadata and digital copies of all Oriental manuscript collections in Germany. Currently, around 135,000 manuscript data sets on over 120,000 physical objects of Asian and African scriptural tradition in over 160 languages and 80 scripts are presented. This puts an end to the tiresome search of multiple copies of a work in printed catalogues or in highly disparate databases. It can be seen at a glance how many copies there are of one manuscript. In cases where individual parts of one work are held by different institutions, these can be found quickly as well. Moreover, the new portal offers the possibility to find interrelated texts, such as the manuscript itself and a commentary or translation.

It is intended to document the Oriental holdings and their digital copies held by German heritage institutions (libraries, museums, etc.) as comprehensively as possible, while remaining open for international cooperation at the same time. Qalamos already presents collections from Indonesia, Mauritania and Yemen today, which result from research cooperation projects with German institutions.

The launch of Qalamos is celebrated with an evening event at the Berlin State Library on 28 June 2022.  For more information, please visit the blog of the Berlin State Library (SBB-Blog).

The portal is developed within the scope of the DFG project "Orient-Digital" (running from 2020 to 2023). The project partners are the Berlin State Library, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich, the Research Library of Gotha and the University Computing Centre of Leipzig. Currently, the focus is on the language groups of Arabic, Persian and Ottoman-Turkish. In a planned second project phase, the focus will be on South-Asian language groups.
"Qalamos" is an ancient Greek term which, with modifications, means "reed pen" in many languages – from Arabic to ancient Ethiopian, from Swahili to Sanskrit. It indicates the great variety, but also the interconnectedness of the written cultures. In the portal, more than 1500 years of priceless written heritage and cultural heritage of mankind is safeguarded, explored and made usable for a common future.

Qalamos is a MyCoRe application of the Computing Centre of the University of Leipzig. The Orient Department of the Berlin State Library – Prussian Cultural Heritage bears the overall responsibility for the project.


Information on the DFG project "Orient-Digital":

Information on the collections of the Oriental and Asian Department of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek:

Press release for download  (PDF, 104 KB)  (in German)

Contact persons
Dr. Thomas Tabery
Oriental and Asian Department
Phone  +49 89 28638-2656

Peter Schnitzlein
Press and Public Relations
Phone  +49 89 28638-2429

Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
Ludwigstrasse 16, 80539 Munich