Current and future work

Since the Library's discovery, scholars have focussed on translating particular texts or groups of texts. So we now know a lot about individual compositions and about legal texts, prayers or omens, for example. But our understanding of the nature of the Library is still far from complete: no-one has yet achieved a substantial survey and synthesis of the Library as a whole. Until now its sheer scale has been too great. A summary account of the material was offered by by Carl Bezold, starting with his 1889 Catalogue of the ... Kouyunjik Collection (with later supplements). A more detailed survey and breakdown of numbers was provided by Fincke. This supported empirical observations that the majority of Nineveh texts are omens, for example, while the large corpus of letters and administrative texts show enigmatic patterns in archive distribution over successive reigns.

Reconstruction of the Library's contents is made possible only by the efforts of many scholars from across the world. Few tablets from the library are complete. Fragments continue to be identified and rejoined, and duplicate manuscripts identified so that compositions can be restored, edited and translated. This ongoing programme of work produces a steady stream of publications. We aim to maintain an up-to-date bibliography of research on the Library.

We are continuing to update and improve the catalogue, now also adding materials shared by colleagues. We are working towards assembling electronic transliterations and translations of all the texts, further widening access to one of the most remarkable repositories of knowledge the world has ever known. We will also investigate the tablets to reveal how the Library functioned. This includes a detailed study of palaeography, orthography and materiality. We are also studying the colophons, notes written on the tablets by the librarian scribes.

New projects!

In 2020 two new projects focused on the Library started at the British Museum. Reading the Library of Ashurbanipal is a collaboration with the Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, with funding from the AHRC and DFG. It studies the colophons and seeks to understand what they tell us about how the the Library was assembled. You can follow our work at the RLAsb sub-project []. Medicine Fit for a King is reconstructing and translating the medical texts. It is funded by the Wellcome. You can follow progress at the NinMed sub-project [].

Jonathan Taylor

Jonathan Taylor, 'Current and future work', Ashurbanipal Library Project, The Ashurbanipal Library Project, Department of the Middle East, The British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG, 2021 []

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