US ambassador observes restoration of Institut d’Egypte books

US Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson visited the National Library and Archives of Egypt (Dar al-Kotob) on Wednesday to see the restoration of the books and documents salvaged after the Institut d'Egypte was set on fire during clashes last month between military forces and protesters.

Patterson met Dar al-Kotob Chairman Zain Abdel Hadi to discuss the progress of the sorting and restoration. During her hour long visit, she also took a look at what remained of the institute’s copy of the book “Description de l'Égypte.”

Patterson viewed the sorting and restoration process, saw all the items that were salvaged, and ended her tour in the digital scanning center.

Abdel Hadi said Egypt has more than 17 copies of “Description de l'Égypte,” the first volume of which was published in 1806. He added that the saturation of the books with water during attempts to extinguish the fire was making the restoration process very difficult.

He explained that the restoration of the remains of the institute’s nearly 20,000 books will take from 10 to 15 years at an estimated cost of LE500,000 million. He said that efforts were underway to replace what was destroyed in the fire, and that 17,000 books were donated by Sharjah ruler Sheikh Sultan al-Qasimi.

He went on to say that “Description de l'Égypte” was not the most important item in the institute, citing its collection of maps dating back to the early 19th century and rare books printed in the same period of which very few copies exist worldwide.

“We will find out which books these are when we finish taking inventory within a two or three month period,” he said.

He stressed the importance of translating “Description de l'Égypte” into Arabic once again, although printing the translated version is very expensive as it contains detailed drawings.

He pointed out that communications were ongoing with the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, which contains microfilm copies of some scientific journals that were lost in the fire.

Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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