It was not that long ago that people interested in Syriac studies who did not have the good fortune of living in ancient centers of learning in Europe or close to a handful of great university libraries or research institutions in North America were hamstrung by not having access to important and fundamental works of Syriac scholarship.
Institutions interested in developing new programs in Syriac studies were at a distinct disadvantage, too: while they might be able to purchase new materials in the field of Syriac and Eastern Christianity, older, rarer works were either extremely expensive to purchase or simply not available. A person, for instance, looking to buy Paul Bedjan's editions of Jacob of Sarugh's poetry might look long and hard for them and yet still not locate copies available for purchase, no matter how deep his or her pockets.
The advent of digitization initiatives by Google, Microsoft, the Bibliothéque Nationale de France, Brigham Young University, ULB Halle, Beth Mardutho (eBeth Arke), the Goussen Library, and others, have, however, completely revolutionized this situation and had a radically democratizing effect on the study of Syriac. The world, so to speak, is now flat. So long as he or she has access to the internet, a student can now be anywhere in the world and read, enjoy, and make use of the riches of centuries of Syriac scholarship. The efforts of Sergey Minov and his team at Hebrew University have furthermore greatly facilitated this task by combining the standard bibliographies of Moss and Brock (and others) and putting them into a searchable database, online.
At the same time, the amazing efforts of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, led by the learned and indefatigable Columba Stewart and his remarkable lead cataloger, Adam McCollum, are both preserving manuscript collections throughout the Middle East and making them accessible to scholars and diaspora communities in ways both unprecedented and previously unimaginable. Things that were impossible to see only a few years ago, or known only through descriptions in articles written by Arthur Vööbus, are now readily available to anyone who contacts the good people at HMML. When HMML’s preservation work is complete in the Middle East and their digitized manuscripts have been inventoried, we will have an even richer and more complete understanding of the history of Syriac literature; indeed, their efforts hold the promise of making many fundamental Syriac instrumenta out-of-date.
These initiatives and a host of other similar ones are radically changing the nature of Syriac studies and doing so in an exponential manner. George Kiraz and Gorgias Press have, at great effort, scanned and put back into print a high percentage of the important books from the golden era of Syriac studies in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
More information, better resources, and a richer breadth of literature are now readily available to more people, everywhere. One of the happiest results of these developments is that people living in the Middle East and India, the homes of the Syriac Christian tradition, are now able to access texts and study aids which have previously only been found in libraries outside the two regions. The internet has made it possible for these texts to, as it were, return home.
Our goal for these pages is to collect, organize, and annotate as many of the fundamental works of Syriac scholarship that are to be found freely available online. We believe firmly that the free and open access of scholarly materials should be encouraged and will be a fundamental, non-negotiable cornerstone of future scholarship. All of the books linked herein are (to our best knowledge) out of copyright and hosted by digital storehouses like Google, Archive.org, and Hathi Trust. We hope to expand the number of items we link to as more resources become freely available.
Our ultimate aim is to make as much information and as many resources pertaining to Syriac studies freely and easily available to as many people as possible. We would be thrilled if this site would also serve to promote the grander cause of open access scholarship. Please feel free to get in touch with us if you have suggestions, comments, or questions about the site.
Jack Tannous (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Scott Johnson (email@example.com)
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection