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Library Research Guides

Islamic Manuscript Studies

Resources for the study of manuscripts produced in the Islamic world and the manuscript cultures they represent.

Islamic manuscript collections in North America

This list includes only a selection of the largest collections of Islamic manuscripts held in North America having some sort of web presence, here arranged in descending order according to size.

For more complete listings, see:

  • Martin, Thomas J. North American Collections of Islamic Manuscripts. Boston, MA: Hall, 1977 (Hatcher Graduate Z6605.A6 M371)
  • Pearson, James D. Oriental Manuscripts in Europe and North America: A Survey. Zug: Inter Documentation Company, 1971 (Hatcher Graduate Z 6605 .O7 P37)
  • Roman, Stephen. The Development of Islamic Library Collections in Europe and North America. London: Mansell, 1990 ( Hatcher Graduate Z 675 .I84 R651 1990)

as well as the relevant sections in other broader surveys:

  •  Ådahl, Karin and Mikael Ahlund, Eds. Islamic Art Collections: An International Survey. Richmond [England]: Curzon, 2000.
  • Birnbaum, Eleazer. "Turkish Manuscripts: Cataloguing Since 1960 and Manuscripts Still Uncatalogued. Part 4: Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Great Britain, Ireland, The Netherlands, Belgium, France,Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Finland, United States, Canada." Journal of the American Oriental Society 104, no. 2 (Apr.-Jun. 1984): 311-314
  • Dānish'pazhūh, Muḥammad Taqī. Nuskhahʹhā-yi khaṭṭī dar kitābkhānahʹhā-yi Ittiḥād-i Jamāhīr-i Shūravī va Urūpā va Āmrīkā : guzārish va fihrist. Nuskhahʹhā-yi khaṭṭī daftar dahum. Tihrān: Instishārāti-i dānishgāh-i Tihrān, 1358 [1962] (available via Interlibrary Loan)
  • Roper, Geoffrey, Ed. World Survey of Islamic Manuscripts. London: Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, 1992-1994 (Hatcher Graduate Z 6611 .I8 W96 1992 v.1-4), specifically Yusuf Ibish, "Canada" v.1, 147-153 and "United States of America" v.3, 535-604 (1989)

Princeton (roughly 11,000 volumes)

“The Manuscripts Division holds nearly 10,000 volumes of Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, and other manuscripts of the predominantly Islamic world, written in Arabic script. This is the largest such collection in North America and one of the finest in the Western world....Voyager has bibliographical records for nearly all Islamic manuscripts at Princeton. Digitized manuscripts are accessible through the Princeton Digital Library of Islamic Manuscripts" cf. Islamic Manuscripts RBSC Manuscripts Division


UCLA (roughly 7,000 manuscripts)

“The University of California, Los Angeles Library holds one of the two largest collections of Near Eastern manuscripts in the United States. The UCLA collections include approximately 7,000 manuscripts written in Ottoman Turkish, Persian, Arabic, and Armenian, primarily in the fields of medicine, literature, philology, theology, law, and history, and ranging from the 11th through the 19th centuries. These collections rank among the most important in North America, both in extent and scholarly interest. Inquiries about the collections come from around the globe and in a variety of fields, even though the collections are little known and lack adequate bibliographic access.” cf. Caro Minasian Collection site 

“The collections include approximately 15,000 manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish, primarily in the fields of medicine, literature, philology, theology, law, and history, and ranging from the 11th through the 19th centuries. These collections comprise the second largest collection of Near Eastern manuscripts in the United States.” cf. Near Eastern Manuscripts: Caro Minasian Collection Digitization Project 


Yale (roughly 4000 manuscripts)

“The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library holds over 3,500 manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish in various subject areas, including language and literature, theology, biography, philosophy, and natural and social sciences." cf Near East Collection research guide


Library of Congress (ca. 2000+ manuscripts)

cf estimates discussed in Roman 1990 p.215 ff as well as more recent acquisitions

“During the late 1920s, early 1930s, and 1990s the Library of Congress acquired a large collection of Arabic script calligraphy sheets. This presentation exhibits 373 Arabic calligraphy sheets, ranging from the 9th to the 19th centuries. A majority of the calligraphy sheets were written on paper, however, a group of Qur’anic fragments from the 9th and 10th centuries were executed on parchment.” cf Selections of Arabic Persian and Ottoman Calligraphy

“Important Arabic, Armenian, Persian, Georgian, and Turkish manuscripts, along with their choicest illuminations from the imposing Greek monastic establishments at Mount Athos, from the Monastery of St. Catherine on Mt. Sinai, and from the Armenian and Greek Patriarchates of Jerusalem, were microfilmed as sets by the Library of Congress in the early 1950s and continue to be heavily used resources in the Microform Reading Room.” cf Near East Collections Introduction 

“The international renown of the section's Arabic manuscript collection has also grown in the time since 1945, when the collection of approximately 1,300 manuscripts and 3,700 books assembled by Shaykh Mahmud al-Imam al- Mansuri, professor of religion at the al-Azhar University in Cairo, was purchased by the Library of Congress. These supplemented the manuscripts and other precious items that had been acquired in the 1920s and 1930s from the New York art dealer and authority on Near Eastern manuscripts, Kirkor Minassian, whose collection was especially rich in Islamic materials, prized among which are a Koran written in Kufi, the earliest of Arabic scripts, from the eleventh century and an extraordinarily executed manuscript cautiously attributed by some scholars to the father of Turkish calligraphy, Shaykh Hamdullah (A.D. 1437- 1520). Nor is the Minassian collection restricted to things religious. Arab intellectuals, inheritors of the ancient received tradition, were responsible for the translation of, commentary on, and cultural transmission of innumerable classics of antiquity, many of which exist thanks only to their efforts. The collection thus consists of valuable historical, scientific, and literary manuscripts as well, some with exquisite illuminations.” cf Near East Collections The Arab World

“By the end of the twentieth century, the Library had acquired approximately one hundred Turkish manuscripts, most of which serve researchers of religion. Among these is the section's earliest Turkish manuscript, Muhammed Haravi's Tezkiretul-Evliya (History of the saints) (1526), one of only three copies known to exist. Yazcioglu Mehmed's Muhammediyye (1583) and Zakariya Qazwini's Ajaib al-Makhluqat (The wonders of creation) also from the sixteenth century, are other notable examples.” cf Near East Collections Turkey

“Islamic Manuscripts from Mali features 32 manuscripts from the Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library and the Library of Cheick Zayni Baye of Boujbeha, both in Timbuktu, Mali. The manuscripts presented online are displayed in their entirety and are an exemplary grouping that showcase the wide variety of subjects covered by the written traditions of Timbuktu, Mali, and West Africa.” cf Islamic Manuscripts From Mali

“The section possesses many Persian manuscripts, comprising all disciplines, but dominated by the historical. Many of these are exquisitely illuminated in the peculiarly beautiful amalgam which is identifiably Iranian, especially copies of the previously mentioned Shahnamah of Firdawsi. The collection also includes numerous anthologies of poets that are remarkable for the beauty of their calligraphy and miniatures as well as for their exquisite Persian bindings. Indeed, a great number of the Islamic book bindings acquired from Kirkor Minassian are Persian. These are both treats for the eyes and important for what they tell us about early book and manuscript production in the Islamic world.” cf Near East Collections The Iranian World


Northwestern University, Herskovitz Library (roughly 3000 manuscripts)

Arabic Manuscripts from West Africa: A Catalog of the Herskovitz Library Collection

“The Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies at Northwestern University houses an important collection of Arabic script materials from West Africa. It contains over 5,000 items collected from Africa and donated to the library by several Northwestern professors. Original, hand-written manuscripts make up more than 60 percent of the content, which also includes ‘market’ editions (photocopies of handwritten works that are often sold in African marketplaces), printed editions, and photocopies. Most are in Arabic, though some are in ajami—African languages such as Hausa, Fulfulde, and Wolof written in the Arabic script.”


Harvard, Houghton Library (roughly 1200 volumes)

"Harvard’s rich holdings of Islamic materials are distributed among several libraries, as well as the Harvard Art Museum/Arthur M. Sackler Museum. Houghton Library alone holds over 1,200 volumes of Islamic manuscripts representing 2,000 works, and Widener Library’s Middle Eastern Collection includes hundreds of thousands of published works."

"The IHP collection now includes over 280 manuscripts, selected from Houghton Library and the Harvard Art Museum/Arthur M. Sackler Museum. Dating from the 10th to the 20th centuries CE, these Islamic manuscripts constitute a record of the diverse artistic traditions, literary cultures, learning traditions, and religious interpretations of the pre-modern Islamic world."

Houghton Arabic MS (ca. 450 volumes)

“Holdings include religious material, such as manuscripts (some fragments) of the Bible and Koran with commentaries, prayers and prayer books, poems, sermons, works on mysticism, and writings on the life and teachings of Muhammed. Some of the items date from the 9th century but most of the material in this grouping is from the 15th to the 19th century. Also historical accounts about Egypt, Syria, Jerusalem, and related topics; legal works and commentaries on canon law; love poems and literary anthologies; and treatises on grammar, philosophy, astronomy, mathematics, medicine, and calligraphy. Other items include dictionaries, grammars, and collections of proverbs.”


Michigan, University Library, Special Collections Research Center (roughly 1800 texts in 1,103 volumes)

"The Islamic Manuscripts Collection at the University of Michigan consists of 1,103 volumes (codices and rolls) and a small number of single leaves, dating from the 8th to the 20th century CE and carrying roughly 1,800 titles chiefly in Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish." cf Islamic Manuscripts Collection research guide


Freer and Sackler Galleries (roughly 1200 manuscripts and folios)

“Together, the Freer and Sackler have the finest collections of illustrated manuscripts from the Islamic world in the U. S. The collections contain extremely rare illustrated texts, tremendous depth in certain formative periods, such as fourteenth-century and sixteenth century Iran, and thematic depth in illustrated copies of the Shanama. These rare texts have no searchable or comprehensive catalogue, yet they could offer an incomparable resource for inter-disciplinary research. The challenge is to produce catalogue records for a museum collection compatible with description standards used by libraries. Comprising 1,200 manuscripts and folios of paintings and calligraphy, the collections include Korans from the late eighth to the late nineteenth centuries, but are especially celebrated for illustrated literary works from Iran. These works include Balami’s Tarikhnama (ca. 1300), probably the earliest extant illustrated world history from the Islamic world, and one of two extant copies in the world of the Divan (collected works) of Sultan Husayn Jalayir (1402), containing the earliest examples of ink drawings from West Asia. The Freer and Sackler also hold the largest repositories in the United States of illustrated texts and individual paintings of the Shahnama (Book of kings) by Firdawsi (d. 1020), the Khamsa (Quintet) by Nizami (d.1209) and the Haft Awrang (Seven thrones) by the fifteenth century poet Jami (d. 1492)." cf Collections: Arts of the Islamic World


Metropolitan Museum of Art (ca. 1100 leaves, fragments, bindings, etc.)

Browse Islamic Art (Department) and filter by object type / material


Columbia University (ca. 600 codices)

cf More on Codex Manuscripts | Non-Latin languages 

See also Dagmar Riedel's "Finding Aids for Manuscripts in Arabic Script in the Columbia Libraries"


McGill University (ca. 380 codices and leaves)

"The Islamic manuscripts fall into three groups: Arabic, Persian and Turkish. The Arabic manuscripts, some thirty-three codices, are mostly Qurans and tracts on Sufism and Shi’ite sects. In addition, there is a collection of over two hundred pieces of Arabic calligraphy. There are some thirty-five Persian codices, primarily poetry, and about a hundred separate leaves, many containing miniature paintings. Among the latter is one leaf dated to the thirteenth century and a leaf from the Demotte "Shahnama", c. 1350. There are also four Turkish manuscripts, two Malay manuscripts as well as a small number of Urdu and Hindustani manuscripts." cf Islamic manuscripts guide


National Library of Medicine (ca. 300 manuscripts)

"For advanced scholars, the site provides a catalogue raisonné (including images) from the 300 or so Persian and Arabic manuscripts in the National Library of Medicine. Most of these manuscripts deal with medieval medicine and science and were written for learned physicians and scientists. Some of the manuscripts are richly illuminated and illustrated." cf Islamic Manuscripts at the National Library of Medicine


Brown University (ca. 40 Qur'anic codices and 168 illustrated leaves +)

"THE MINASSIAN COLLECTION AND ITS HOLDINGS OF EARLY QUR’AN FOLIOS This database catalogues the holdings of over 200 Qur’anic manuscript folios dating from the 9th to the 16th centuries housed within the special collections of the Brown University libraries. These items were acquired as part of a treasury of rich artistic and textual items donated in 1998 to Brown by Adrienne Minassian, the daughter of Kirkor Minassian (1874–1944), who was an active art collector and dealer based in New York and Paris in the early 20th century. In addition to the forty distinct manuscripts of the Qur’an represented here, the collection includes numerous Persian manuscripts, calligraphic panels, Persian and Central Asian ceramics and other art objects, as well as an impressive selection of miniature paintings from the Persian, Mughul and Indian traditions. [cf Minassian Collection Persian, Mughal, and Indian Miniature Paintings]


University of Pennsylvania (ca. 70 codices)

Roughly 54 volumes carrying Arabic texts and 15 volumes carrying Persian texts, part of the Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection available through "Penn in Hand" 

"The site offers bibliographic information and digital facsimiles for selected collections of manuscript codices, texts, documents, papers, and leaves held by Penn's Rare Book & Manuscript Library as well as those privately owned by Lawrence J. Schoenberg (C'53, WG'56). Penn holds over 2,000 Western manuscripts produced before the 19th century; medieval and Renaissance manuscripts comprise approximately 900 items, the earliest dating from 1000 A.D. Its holdings of Indic manuscripts is the largest in the Western hemisphere with more than 3,000 items. The Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection emphasizes secular topics, especially science and mathematics, and includes tablets from the 21st to 18th centuries B.C."


Walters Art Museum (ca. 168 manuscripts, both codices and individual leaves)

"The Walters’ collection of Islamic Manuscripts showcases masterpieces of illuminated and illustrated manuscripts. The sacred, devotional and non-religious manuscripts presented here were created across the breadth of the Islamic world and date from the 9th through the 19th century. In the Islamic book, the primary vehicle for literary and artistic expression, the powers of poetry, prayer and visual form collide. They bear witness to remarkable achievements in literature and the book arts. Examples include a 15th-century Koran from northern India, executed at the height of the Timurid empire; a luxurious 16th-century copy of the Khamsa by Amir Khusraw, illustrated by a number of famous artists for the emperor Akbar; and a Turkish calligraphy album by Sheik Handullah al Amasi, one of the greatest calligraphers. All images of Islamic manuscripts were created and are provided through a Preservation and Access grant awarded to The Walters Art Museum by the National Endowment for the Humanities, 2008-2010."

(Browse select images from the Islamic Manuscripts in Walters Art Museum Illuminated Manuscripts on flickr)


Los Angeles County Museum of Art (ca. 250 leaves, codices, etc.)

Browse manuscripts in the curatorial area Islamic Art 


Cleveland Museum of Art (ca. 86 objects)

Browse the Islamic Art collection (filter by object type = manuscript to refine results)


Indiana University, Lilly Library (ca. 53 manuscripts)

See Krek, Miroslav. "Union List of Arabic Script Manuscripts in American Institutions Part 12:3. The Lilly Library, Indiana University Libraries." MELA Notes no.69/70 (Fall 1999-Spring 2000): 43-59

Some of the manuscripts appeared in the exhibition "From Pen to Printing Press"


University of Victoria, McPherson Library (ca. 6 items)

"The collection consists of six items: 1) En'am-i Serif [Turkish calligraphic manuscript].- consists of several chapters of the Qur'an, Arabic and Ottoman and Turkish prayers, calligraphic rondels and seals, hilyes, and miniature paintings of the Kaba, the Prophet's Mosque at Medina, his personal belongings such as his cloak, prayer beads etc., his hand and foot print and similar images. Special Collections had slides made of this manuscript. A second set of these slides is available in the Slide Library (History in Art Dept.). 2) al-Jazri, Mohammed. - consists of a single leaf from an 18th century religious manuscript, "Hassi Hasin" (Prayer and Contemplation). It is written in Arabic (probably in Turkey) in the Nashki hand. It may be an Ishmaeli text. It is illuminated, gilded and decorated with a floral motif. 3) Firdawsi. Shah Nameh. consists of a single leaf from an 18th century copy. 4) Koran. India. 17th -18th century? 5) Koran. China. 17th -18th century? 6) Maghribi Qur'an (Koran) Bifolium. Late 10th or 11th century. Kufic script."

(see Witkam, Jan Just. "The Islamic Manuscripts in the McPherson Library, University of Victoria, Victoria, B.C." Journal of Islamic Manuscripts 1, 1 (2010): 101-142)