This city was a world centre of learning by the end of the 8th century. A library was founded in that city by Harun-al-Raschid. He received manuscripts from various places as tribute. His son Mamun (d. 833) instigated the translation of Oriental and Greek literature into Arabic. Then libraries were built in Damascus and Jerusalem.
Under the Umayyads, Khalid bin Yazid, Abu Amr ibn al-Ala al-Maarri (d. 770), and others built private libraries. These were appropriated by the Abbasids, who also established libraries. Abbasid Jafar ab Mansur (754-775) opened translation bureaus. He collected Greek, Byzantine, Syrian, Egyptian, Persian, and Sanskrit rare works.
One man bequeathed two personal collections to the Nizamiyah College at Baghdad. Gifts of collections were also received from other sources. A fire in 1116 destroyed the library, but the books were saved. Caliph al-Nazir donated thousands of books to the new library. This library survived several invasions and was eventually merged with the Mustansiriyah in 1393. Rare books loaded on 160 camels were transferred from the Imperial Library.
The library had open shelves and could be accessed by the students. Even rare manuscripts were available for use. On opening day, the caliph appointed men to do accession and classification work. At one time, there were 40,000 volumes. It was eventually destroyed by the invading Mongols, but many collections were saved.
The three Banu Musa brothers were the authors of a foundational text of Arabian mathematics. Al-Ma’mun, the son of a former caliph had created a library, a school, and a research centre (House of Wisdom). The House of Wisdom became the centre of translation, compilation, and comparison of peoples under Muslim rule. The art of paper-making was learned from Chinese prisoners. The Muslims learned the form of the codex from Anharic scribes in Ethiopia. The books were beautified by Islamic calligraphers and illustrators.
There was a large collection which The Buwayhids confiscated from the Habashi 15,000 books plus many unbound volumes. This library was open to the public.
The library held a large collection which was open to the public.
(This page was updated in December 2012.)