Azerbaijani libraries: history and capacity

Azerbaijani libraries: history and capacity

The history of books had started since the V century. The first libraries in Azerbaijan appeared in the V century during the Caucasian Albania period.  An ABC with 52 letters was compiled and many books were translated into Albanian. In Christian Albania small libraries were established at churches. In the IX-X centuries as soon as Islam strengthened as a unique belief system, the number of libraries increased.

In the middle ages, the library system in Azerbaijan developed in three directions: palace libraries; mosque libraries; and poets', scientists' and philosophers' personal libraries.

The Muslim Renaissance was formed in the XI century, and the libraries situated in three cities of Azerbaijan- in Ganja, Barda and Baku - were known in the whole East. In his "Khosrov and Shirin", the great Nizami  wrote about how he had benefited from the ancient manuscripts in Barda. The Baku library belonged to the Shirvanshahs' Palace.

In the Middle Ages, libraries with religious works were mainly established at mosques.

This tradition partly faded in importance during the reign of Aghgoyunlu and Garagoyunlu states that showed interest in poetry and art. Shah Ismail founded the Safavid state in 1501. As he was a poet and a philosopher, he paid closer attention to libraries. He designed the best rooms for the libraries and provided them with all facilities at early stages of his ruling.   

There existed personal libraries in Azerbaijan in the Middle Ages. According to written sources the library of Maragha observatory with 400 000 books belonged to its founder Nasraddin Tusi. The books had been mostly brought from Bagdad, Sham, Algeria, Mosul and other cities. The library was built in 1258-1261, and in spite of the fact that Tusi's all works - 100 books reached us, not a single book from the library of Maragha observatory was saved.

Bahmanyar's, the Azerbaijani philosopher, Khatib Tabriz's, calligraph, linguist and literary theorist, and Rashidaddin's, Grand Vizier of Elkhani State libraries were also popular then.   

A library founded during Shah Ismail ruling years was the library of Sheikh Safi mausoleum. As soon as Shah Ismail came to power, he built a mausoleum for his great grandfather Sheikh Safi in Erdebil and established a library there. He sent valuable books to the library from the cities he had occupied. Sheikh Safi's library was the most popular library in the East, and it was functioned from early XVI century until the twenties of XIX century, so it had functioned for three centuries. Then that library was moved to Tiflis by the political guile of the Russians, and from there to the Emperor's Library at Petersburg.

"Dar-əl-kütub" library was established in Ganja in the XII century. Libraries in Ganja and Barda had a rich and rare book collection.  During the state of Atabeys, art was flourishing, and they took special care to develop and enrich libraries. The Ganja Library almost received the most valuable manuscripts from Eastern countries. The books were rewritten and duplicated just in the library. The great Azerbaijani thinker Nizami Ganjavi's uncle Khaje Omar led the palace library, and its doors were always open for him.  

The great poet of the East Nizami Ganjavi's works were matchless treasury for those scientific centres.


Elmin Nuri