Sennari House to temporarily house books rescued from Egyptian Scientific Institute

Nevine El-Aref , Monday 2 Jan 2012

Sennari House in Cairo's Sayeda Zeinab district selected as temporary location for Egyptian Scientific Institute

The Ministry of State for Antiquities has selected Beit Al-Sennari (Sennari House) as the temporary location for the Egyptian Scientific Institute until its restoration is complete. All rescued books from the institute, burned during clashes between protesters and the army last month, have now been transferred for storage at the Sennari House in Cairo’s Sayeda Zeinab district.

Sennari House was the original location of the scientific institute established by Napoleon Bonaparte’s French expedition to Egypt in 1798 as a counterpart to the French Scientific Institute in Paris.

Under the supervision of Comte Gaspard Monge, who led the institute at the time, scientists and historians worked to monitor the country’s ancient Egyptian, Coptic and Islamic history, as well as its contemporary life and geographical, industrial and agricultural aspects. They also wrote and published the famous 24-volume Description de l'Egypte in 1809.

Following the expedition’s departure, some French scientists remained in Egypt to revive the institute, which was relocated in 1859 to Alexandria where it gained its current name. In 1880, the institute returned to Cairo and was housed in the Qasr Al-Aini building, which was placed on Egypt's Islamic heritage list in 1995.

The Egyptian Scientific Institute housed about 40,000 rare books and manuscripts that predated the French expedition, including 1,635 books and maps. It held drawings of bridges, aqueducts and dams; the Déscription published in 24 volumes; and 18th-century periodicals published by organisations that no longer exist. Among the invaluable items are an atlas of ancient Indian arts, a German atlas of Egypt and Ethiopia published in 1842 and Egypt: Mother of the World, written in 1753.

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