An estimated 54,000 books were rescued from last month’s fire at the Egyptian Scientific Institute, according to Zein Abdel-Hady, Chairman of Egypt’s National Library and Archives. However, 3,000 are completely burnt, 20,000 are being dried at Egypt’s National Library and Archives labs, 10,000 have been fully dried, and 21,000 are fully intact.
Abdel-Hady said that if all necessary materials and funds were available, restoration of such a large number of books would cost about LE450 million over an estimated 10-13 years.
The National Library has repeatedly complained that it lacks necessary restoration materials despite many donations and pledges. “We have 300 restorers working 16 hours a day. We received some material, such as sterilization devices and drying papers, as donations from USAID and other institutions,” Abdel-Hady said.
National Library specialists are extracting the Institute books’ database from a hard disk that was found intact. “The database was printed on 600 pages and it turns out that it contains 23,000 titles of 192,000 volumes, since the Institute used to write down one title of a full set of volumes,” Abdel-Hady explained.
This ends the controversy about the actual number of books contained in the Institute, sparked by Abdel-Hady’s earlier announcement that the number of books was 23,000, contradicting the 192,000 stated by the Institute’s secretary general, Mohammed El-Sharnouby. Doubts about the actual number were reinforced when historian Khaled Fahmy explained that the building of the Institute as he knew it couldn’t contain such a large number of books.
“The database showed 23,000 only because we write down one title on the database for every set of volumes, such as Voltaire Encyclopedia; we wrote it one title while the set contains 85 volumes. In addition, this huge number (192,000) includes various periodicals and magazines that require limited storage space,” El-Sharnouby explained to Ahram Online.
Abdel-Hady confirmed that the restoration process is ongoing in the National Library’s headquarters and taht no books were transferred to the Sinnari House that will eventually be used as the Institute’s temporary residence until the building is fully restored.