The chronology of historical events contains records of a number of stories that create a colourful mosaic of the World's history. Some of them have become legends and cornerstones for the construction of various cultures. Others are less known, although they are equally and sometimes even more important for the comprehension of the historical development of these cultures. Not all of them have been discovered, examined and understood, especially those that wandered through time as well as space. Such is also the story of Islamic manuscripts and prints, known as Bašagić's collection.
Safvet Beg Bašagić - a collector, literary, journalist, poet, translator, professor, bibliographer, curator of a museum, politician - a Bosnian intellectual, who preserved in his works and collections an image of Bosnian literature and Muslim literary heritage. His collection of Islamic manuscripts and prints comprises Arabic, Persian and Turkish works and rare Serbian and Croatian texts written in Arabic script. Bašagić's collection contains, at the same time, unique manuscripts and essential works of medieval Islamic scholarly literature and belles-lettres, spanning the interval from 12th to 19th century, and prints from two centuries, starting from 1729. The 284 manuscript volumes and 365 printed volumes portray the more than a thousand year long development of Islamic civilization from its commencement to the beginning of 20th century. Especially the authorship and language aspect of the collection represents a bridge between different cultures and a certain overlap thereof.
The very history of the journey of Bašagić's collection of Islamic manuscripts and prints was dramatic and its termination almost unbelievable. Bašagić tried to deposit the collection in a more secure place than was the Balkan region of his time. In the turmoil of the turbulent development of Balkan nations in 19th and 20th centuries, his valuable collection eventually found its haven of rest in the funds of the University Library in Bratislava. Unfortunately, further historical development on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina confirmed the foresightedness of his steps. After the destruction of the valuable collections of Islamic documents in the fire of National Library in Sarajevo during war events in the former Yugoslavia has Bašagić's collection become a solitary and precious preserved corpus of monuments of Bosnian Muslim culture and Islamic culture in general in European context.
The University Library in Bratislava makes considerable provisions for the protection of Bašagić's collection documents that are adequate to its worth and value. The whole fund of the collection has been professionally expertised by Czech and Slovak scholars and is carefully stored and used for scientific purposes. UNESCO has included the fund of Bašagić's collection in the Memory of the World Programme in 1997. In order to adequetely protect the original documents and so to preserve them for the next generations and, at the same time, to enable the unprofessional and scholarly public to use them, the Library has decided to digitalize the collection and publish it in an electronic form. The output is a CD-ROM with samples of illustrations, calligraphic art, and manuscript bindings, its analysis, bibliographic records in the original oriental language and in English with a digitalized image of the beginning and the end of the text of individual titles. This stage of processing and presentation of the manuscript collection aims, among other things, at making the documents available to the rest of the experts at Islamic literature, arousing interest in their study and discovering new, hitherto unknown secrets. It is assumed that the collection will be subsequently published in an ampler and visually more attractive form. Bašagić's collection, which is a part of the memory of the World and Islamic cultural heritage, belongs to our cultural treasure as well. The University Library in Bratislava will continue to preserve and improve this treasure.
PhDr. Tibor Trgiňa