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[Published: Monday May 14 2007]

British Library to display rare sacred manuscripts of three monolithic religions

London , (APA)-
The British library in London is to stage an important and unique exhibition of the rarest and most elaborate collection of religious manuscripts in the world including one of the earliest Korans, A 6th-century Christian text and a Torah from a lost community of Chinese Jews.

Sacred texts from Christianity, Judaism and Islam are to be displayed side by side in an exhibition showing what the three great faiths have in common.

Manuscripts from exquisite and rare collections around the world, including the Royal Library in Rabat and Marrakech , Morocco , will be exhibited alongside texts in the British Library's own collection, such as the Lindisfarne Gospels, considered the masterpiece of early Anglo-Saxon book production.

The groundbreaking exhibition will be showcasing rare examples from one of the worlds greatest collections of Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy books, alongside treasures on loan from other institutions.

Many of the 234 exhibits have never before, or seldom, been on public display. The sacred texts from these three faiths will be mounted side by side for the first time ever, throughout the exhibition, in a presentation and context that the Library believes to be both unique and thought-provoking.

Exhibits include lavishly illustrated and decorated manuscripts and books.
The exhibition includes one of the earliest surviving Korans, completed in the Arabian Peninsula 160 years after the death of the Prophet Mohamed, and an elaborate and extremely rare 16th-century book of psalms in Arabic.

The exhibition titled Sacred - World faiths brought to book will be running from 27 April to 23 September 2007 .

The New exhibition unites world faiths in a manner that has never been experienced before and provides an opportunity for all to understand the different facets of the three monolithic religions descendant of the prophet Abraham and what they have in common.

Many of the lavishly illustrated or decorated books and manuscripts have never, or seldom, been on public display while others will be on show for the first time in the UK . This exhibition marks the first time that sacred texts from these three faiths will have been displayed and explored together, side by side, in a major UK exhibition. It will also be the first time that so many of the Librarys sacred texts are being showcased at the same time.

Priceless examples of the Torah, the New Testament and the Koran will be mounted alongside each other  not individually in separate zones. They will be treated together thematically, exploring points in common and differences between and within these religions, looking at the ways in which they have been produced, interpreted and used.
Rare examples of sacred books include:

- Codex Sinaiticus: This copy of the New Testament in Greek is absolutely key in the history of Christian textual scholarship. It is the earliest complete manuscript of the New Testament and the earliest and best witness for some books of the Old Testament as well. It was produced around 350 AD, possibly in Palestine , but its name derives from the still active Monastery of St Catherine near the foot of Mount Sinai in Egypt where it was preserved for many centuries.

- Ma'il Koran: One of the earliest Korans in the world to have survived and it dates from the beginning of the 8th century AD. That equates to the 1st century in the Muslim Hegira calendar, which means that this manuscript was penned within 100 years of a key event in the founding of Islam i.e. the H ejira or flight of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD to escape his enemies. It was produced on the Arabian Peninsula , probably in or near the holy cities of Islam.

- Codex London : One of the oldest surviving manuscripts of the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, which are central to Jewish worship. The traditional Jewish view is that these five books were written by the Prophet Moses at divine dictation. This rare early copy was made in the Middle East , perhaps Palestine , in the 10th century.

The exhibition, funded by donors from all three faiths, will not seek to be deliberately provocative or controversial, but at the same time will not avoid dealing with conflict in the contexts in which it arises. The thought-provoking themes will highlight how religion is intertwined with politics, international relations, ethics and human rights, science and social cohesion or strife.

Blasphemous and esoteric documents will also be on show. A 6th-century Christian text, suppressed by the church because it omits the genealogy of Christ, will be displayed, along with a Jewish manuscript containing an illustration of God's face - forbidden in Jewish tradition.

This free exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue; a programme of talks, lectures, debates, concerts, and performances at the British Library for the duration of the exhibition; a programme for schools which will run nationwide; and activities which will engage people in the UK regions through public libraries and regional galleries. It will also be complemented by extensive online materials both about the exhibition itself and for further reading and research purposes. (

AB/APA/ 25 April 2007---

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