Seals database

Chester Beatty Library

Chester Beatty Library Seals Project

Welcome to the Chester Beatty Library Seals Project, an online, interactive database of seal impressions found in Islamic manuscripts.

Seal impressions provide valuable information on the history of a manuscript and this database is intended as a convenient means by which to find or share that information. We hope the database will serve as a useful resource for anyone working on Islamic manuscripts.

Overview of the Project

Seals are usually inscribed with the name of an individual, often in conjunction with a pious phrase, and are used in manuscripts to denote ownership. Knowing who the individual named is and when and where that person lived can help one to trace the history of a manuscript, which may in turn shed light on notes and commentaries added or other alterations made to the manuscript since it was first produced. However, the individual or institution named is often unknown to the researcher or the text may not be easily deciphered: the ink may be smudged or otherwise unclear or the script itself might be difficult to read. Therefore, as a visitor to the site, you are invited to participate in deciphering the seals, identifying the individuals or institutions named, and adding information such as other sources of the same seal impression or other seals that name the same individual or institution. 

As there is currently no convenient means by which to find or share information on seal impressions, we hope that this database will be a useful resource for anyone working on Islamic manuscripts.

Scope of the Project

Initially the database will contain mainly images of seal impressions found in the more than 2600 manuscripts that make up the Chester Beatty Library’s Arabic Collection. The number of images will increase steadily until the seals in all of these manuscripts are included as well as all of those found in the Library’s other Islamic manuscripts (those in its Qur’an, Persian, Turkish and Mughal-era Indian Collections). We are happy to include seals from other collections if proper permission to do so and photographs are provided. We may be contacted at islamicseals@cbl.ie.

The initial phase of the project has been generously funded by The Islamic Manuscript Association.