Exquisite illustrations of the Georgian alphabet kept in the National Library of Ireland
05 September, 2015
Exquisite illustrations of the Georgian alphabet kept in the National Library of Ireland
Georgian alphabet is one of the world’s 14 alphabets. Distinguished by its beautiful rounded script, it consists of 33 letters. Here we present you illustrations of four Georgian letters that are kept in the National Library of Ireland. They were discovered by Giorgi Kalandia, head of Georgia’s Arts Palace, who has provided us with additional insight into his find:

“In Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani’s dictionary, lists of words and their definitions begin with an illustrated letter. For example, you have a lavishly decorated
“T” followed by a list of words starting with this letter. At the moment, we have only found four such masterful illustrations, but I am sure that if we find the original manuscript, it will contain the whole alphabet. “


– National Library of Ireland has provided us with photocopies of unique illustrations of several letters of Georgian alphabet. These letters are T (T), m (M), c (TS) and J (ZH). The attached explanatory note states that they were copied in 1724 from a dictionary not dissimilar to the one written by Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani, a notable Georgian scholar, public figure and diplomat. It is noteworthy that in 1970, W. Allen published both copies of the illustrations and the dictionary from which they were taken in Cambridge. This begs a question – where are the originals?
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I worked at the Georgian Manuscripts Institute for a long time as a vice director and yet I have never seen these illustrations anywhere before. I showed them to the institute staff and they also claimed to be unfamiliar with them. Our inquiry to Oxford Library has also yielded nothing – these manuscripts are not part of Oliver and Marjory Wardrop Collection; the British Museum possesses no information on them, either. Therefore, we have no idea where the original manuscripts might be. The only clue that they still exist is the aforementioned 1970 publication.

In Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani’s dictionary, lists of words and their definitions begin with an illustrated letter. For example, you have a lavishly decorated “T” followed by a list of words starting with this letter. At the moment, we have only found four such masterful illustrations, but I am sure that if we find the original manuscript, it will contain the whole alphabet.

Long story short, this issue demands further investigation; until then, the Art Palace will display copies of the letters for all visitors to see.

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Exquisite Georgian alphabet illustrations kept in the National Library of Ireland
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