Welcome to the exhibit, Languages of the East: The Non-Western Manuscript Collections in the Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. While the University of Oregon has a substantial Western collection of Medieval, Renaissance, and modern manuscripts, its collection of medieval to modern manuscripts and texts from Africa and Asia is equally as diverse. This exhibition features a selection of non-Western manuscripts, texts, and artifacts, mostly categorized according to language. The languages include: Arabic, Persian, Cuneiform, Japanese, Burmese, Chinese, Ethiopian (Geʽez), Russian, and Farsi. The Japanese, Burmese, and Chinese collection is consolidated under “East Asian” as its numbers are relatively limited. Since our collection spans a wide temporal and geographic range, we found it best to primarily organize this exhibit according to language.
In a field where collections typically prioritize Western manuscripts, it is especially important to encompass the book cultures from various other regions. This collection features texts from Islam, Buddhism, Samaritan Judaism, and three sects of Christianity: Ethiopian, Maronite, and Russian Orthodoxy. The Ethiopian, Russian, and Maronite-religious manuscripts give readers familiar with western Christendom an entirely new perspective into how different cultures merge Christianity with their existing cultural beliefs. The Ethiopian illuminated manuscripts, for example, combine African pictorial traditions with traditional Christian iconography. In addition to these religions are Cuneiform tablets, dating back to the 2000s BCE, provide a window into the building and merchant practices of ancient Mesopotamian civilizations. We hope you enjoy this exhibition and learn something new about the religions and book traditions of non-Western cultures.