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Christian Middle East language collections: Catalogues and guides

This page gives information on how to access the British Library's collections in Christian Middle East languages: Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopic, Georgian and Syriac.

Manuscript catalogues

Use the printed catalogues listed below for each language. Any additions to the holdings not found in the catalogues are recorded in the Classed Inventory Lists. 

These resources are available in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room.

Armenian

Conybeare, F.C. A catalogue of Armenian manuscripts in the British Museum...to which is appended A catalogue of Georgian manuscripts in the British Museum by J. Oliver Wardrop. London: The British Museum, 1913. ORC CAU 1

  • Describes 149 items.
Nersessian, Vrej. Armenian illuminated gospel books. London: British Library, 1987. ORC.CAU.2

Coptic

Crum, W.E. Catalogue of the Coptic manuscripts in the British Museum. London: The British Museum, 1905. ORC.COP.1
1,252 entries.

Layton, Bentley. Catalogue of Coptic literary manuscripts in the British Library acquired since the year 1906. London: The British Library, 1987.ORC.COP.3

  • Lists 297 manuscripts and fragments added between 1907-1982.

Bell, H.I., ed. Papyri in the British Museum. Vol. IV...With an appendix of Coptic papyri edited by W. E. Crum. London: The British Museum, 1910. ORC.COP.2

  • See pp. 433-525. Lists 152 items.

Ethiopic

Dillman. A. Catalogus codicum manuscriptorum qui in Museo Britannico asservantur. Pars tertia, codices aethiopicos amplectus. London: The British Museum, 1847. ORC.ETH.1

  • Describes 78 items, including 4 wholly and 11 partly in Amharic.

Wright, W. Catalogue of the Ethiopic manuscripts in the British Museum acquired since the year 1847. London: The British Museum, 1877. ORC.ETH.2

  • Describes 388 items, including 10 wholly or partly in Amharic.
  • Available online in the Internet Archive.

Strelcyn, S. Catalogue of Ethiopian manuscripts in the British Library acquired since the year 1877. London: The British Library, 1978. ORC.ETH.3

  • Describes 108 items, including 25 in Amharic.

Georgian

Conybeare, F.C. A catalogue of Armenian manuscripts in the British Museum...to which is appended A catalogue of Georgian manuscripts in the British Museum by J. Oliver Wardrop. London: The British Museum, 1913. ORC CAU 1

  • Fully describes 6 of the 8 Georgian manuscripts held by the British Library.

Syriac

Rosen, F.A., and J. Forshall. Catalogus codicum manuscriptorum orientalium qui in Museo Britannico asservantur. Pars prima, codices Syriacos et Carshunicos amplectens. London: The British Museum, 1838. ORC.SYR.1

  • Lists 90 works.

Wright, W. Catalogue of Syriac manuscripts in the British Museum, acquired since the year 1838. London: The British Museum, 1870-72. ORC.SYR.2-4

G. Margoliouth. Descriptive list of Syriac and Karshuni manuscripts in the British Museum acquired since 1873. London: The British Museum, 1899.

  • Lists 250 works.

Available online in the Internet Archive.

Printed book catalogues

Main catalogues

For older works in Christian Middle East languages, see the card catalogue in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room. This is arranged under languages by author and title. More recent holdings (particularly western printed editions and studies of language, literature and culture) are added to Explore the British Library.

Catalogue transliteration schemes:

  • Armenian: Hubschmann-Millet or REA scheme
  • Coptic, Ethiopic and Syriac: inhouse (British Museum Library) scheme

Publications in western languages in all branches of the humanities can be found in Explore the British Library.

Hard copy catalogues, by language

If you do not find what you are looking for in the catalogues above, try the following:

Armenian

Nersessian, Vrej. Catalogue of early Armenian books, 1512-1850. London: The British Library, 1980. ORC.CAU.3

  • Also includes entries for the early Armenian books held in the Bodleian Library, and a brief title-list of early Armenian books in the Library of Wadham College, Oxford.

India Office Library and Records. Catalogue of Aramaic, Armenian, Georgian, Hebrew and Turkish printed books. London: India Office Library and Records, 1979.

Ethiopic

India Office Library and Records. Catalogue of books in 'minor' languages, A-L. London: India Office Library and Records, 1982.

Georgian

D.M. Lang. Catalogue of Georgian and other Caucasian printed books in the British Museum. London: British Museum, 1962. ORC.CAU.4

  • Lists over 1,500 items acquired up to 1960.

India Office Library and Records. Catalogue of Aramaic, Armenian, Georgian, Hebrew and Turkish printed books. London: India Office Library and Records, 1979.

Syriac

C. Moss. Catalogue of Syriac printed books and related literature in the British Museum. London: The British Museum, 1962. OP-BM/511

Albertine Gaur. Catalogue of Malayalam books in the British Museum. London: The British Museum, 1971. ORC MAL 3-5

  • Includes Syriac items published by the St Thomas Christians of Kerala in south-western India.

India Office Library and Records. Catalogue of books in 'minor' languages, P-W. London: India Office Library and Records, 1982.

  • Not published. Bound-up copy of xeroxes of catalogue cards. Lists ca. 25 printed Syriac items.

Illustrations and illuminations

The Christian Middle East language collections, particularly the manuscript holdings, are very strong in fine artwork. The relevant catalogues, guides and other material can be found in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room.

Catalogues

British Library. The Christian Orient. London: British Museum Publications, 1978. OID 275.6

Nersessian, Vrej. Treasures from the Ark: 1700 years of Armenian Christian art. London: British Library, 2001. OID 709.566

  • Some images are available online.

Reeve, J., ed. Sacred: books of the three faiths. Judaism, Christianity, Islam. London: British Library, 2007. OIB 291.82

  • Some images are available online.

Photographic reproductions

The slide collection in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room makes available a good selection of miniatures belonging to the artistic heritage of the Christian Middle East. Readers can also consult a wide selection of black and white photographs from the manuscripts, held in albums.

Microfilm

For the choice of material (serials, newspapers, manuscripts) on microfilm see the available Armenian, Coptic and Georgian general guides.

Reference material

The British Library holds a strong collection of the reference literature for these areas, including

  • dictionaries
  • bibliographies
  • press directories
  • catalogues of manuscript collections in other libraries and institutions
  • Armenian and Georgian encyclopaedias

The reference material is arranged in the OID section of the Asian and African Studies Reading Room, in the following language sequence: Armenian, Georgian, Syriac, Ethiopic and Coptic.

Contact 

Ilana Tahan, M.Phil., Lead Curator, Hebrew and Christian Orient Studies
Asian and African Studies
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London
NW1 2DB
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7646
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7641

E-mail: ilana.tahan@bl.uk