Our Middle East collections comprise manuscripts, printed books, newspapers and journals from countries in today's Middle East as well as from Iran and Central Asia from the 5th century AD to the present day.

Collection guides

  • Early 14th century botanical illustration

    Arabic collections

    Over 100,000 volumes of printed books, periodicals and newspapers; more than 15,000 manuscript works in about 14,000 volumes; and a range of other materials
  • An Armenian couple with an Armenian church in the background

    Christian Middle East collections

    Around 4,000 manuscripts and some 14,700 printed books and periodicals
  • A prince or dignitary presenting poets with turbans of honour

    Persian collections

    Over 40,000 volumes of printed books, periodicals and newspapers, more than 11,000 manuscripts, and a range of other materials.
  • Illuminated word panel featuring two birds

    Hebrew collections

    Manuscripts copied over 1,000 years ago to the most recent monographs and serials
  • Angels standing, from a 16th century manuscript of <i>Acaib ul-mahlukat</i> 'Wonders Of Creation', translated by Sururi from Arabic (Add.7894, f.59v)

    Turkish and Turkic collections

    Over 25,000 volumes of printed books, periodicals and newspapers, more than 4,000 manuscript texts, and other materials
  • View of Aden

    India Office Records: Middle East resources

    A wealth of information relating to British activities in the Middle East from the 17th to 20th centuries
Asian and African Studies Reading Room

Asian and African Studies Reading Room

  • Find information on the shelves
  • Access online databases and electronic journals
  • Order collection items to the Reading Room via our catalogues
If you need help, just ask our Information Specialists at the Reference Enquiry desk.

We offer workshops to help you make the best use of the Library's collections.

You’ll need a Reader Pass

Mon: 10.00 – 17.00
Tue – Sat: 09.30 – 17.00
Sun & English Public Holidays: closed

Opening hours for all Reading Rooms

For enquiries, please contact the Reference Service

Blog posts

Digitised Hebrew Manuscripts: conference at the British Library, 21 November 2016

Monday, October 24, 2016

You are welcome to join us in a conference celebrating the end of Phase 1 of the Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project (HMDP) and the beginning of Phase 2! This conference will take place on Monday, 21 November 2016, at the...

Tagore Meets an Old Friend in Iran

Monday, October 24, 2016

After ousting the young Ahmad Shah from the imperial throne in 1925, Reza Shah Pahlavi determined to once again assert Iran as a world power on the global stage. Gone were the Qajars, who had reduced Iran to a mere...

Pageantry and Parade in Persia

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

In February 1809, the Napoleonic Wars were raging in Europe. The Ottoman Empire and Britain had just concluded the Treaty of the Dardanelles, while in Spain a British army was forced from the shores of Northern Spain at the Battle...

A case of mistaken identity

Friday, October 14, 2016

On 17 August 1932, the Italian Fascist newspaper, Il Lavoro Fascista, reported that a special envoy to ‘Abd al-‘Azīz bin ‘Abd al-Raḥmān bin Fayṣal Āl Sa‘ūd, King of the Hejaz (and soon to be proclaimed King of Saudi Arabia), had...

More blog posts


Digital access to Persian Manuscripts

Our collection of Persian Manuscripts is one of the most important in the world

Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project

Aims to provide free online access to Hebrew manuscripts from the Library’s collection

All projects

Library experts

Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert

Digital Curator (Polonsky Fellow)

Ursula Sims-Williams

Lead Curator, Persian and Turkic collections

Ilana Tahan

Lead Curator Hebrew and Christian Orient Studies

More staff members

External links

The British Library is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.


Access to Mideast and Islamic Resources


A union catalogue for manuscripts in Arabic script in UK collections

Qatar Digital Library

Modern history and culture of the Gulf and wider region


Treasures in Focus The Golden Haggadah

The Golden Haggadah is one of the finest surviving Haggadah manuscripts from medieval Spain, and the British Library's most famous Hebraic treasure


West Africa exhibition book

West Africa exhibition book

In this richly illustrated book, leading international scholars offer a unique insight into the stories of West African societies past and present