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 Acaib ul-mahlukat 'Wonders Of Creation'

    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

An A-Z of Arabic Propaganda

28 April 2016

The British Government’s Arabic-Language Output during WWII Throughout the Second World War, Britain’s Ministry of Information (MOI) produced and disseminated a remarkable assortment of propaganda material in Arabic. The material that it produced was intended to counter pro-Axis sentiment in...

Razmnamah: the Persian Mahabharata

24 April 2016

One of our most important Mughal manuscripts is Or.12076, the Razmnāmah (ʻBook of Warʼ), copied in AH 1007 (1598/99) and containing the concluding part, sections 14-18, of the Persian translation of the Sanskrit epic the Mahābhārata. It is currently on...

The Polonsky Foundation and the Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project at the British Library

18 April 2016

To celebrate Passover 2016 and the launch of our new website 'Hebrew Manuscripts', Ilana Tahan, Lead Curator Hebrew and Christian Orient Studies, writes about the Polonsky Foundation and its role in the Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project. A family celebrating Passover,...

Edward William Charles Noel – political officer and spy

14 April 2016

Born on this day in 1886, Edward William Charles Noel remains one of the lesser known British political officers and spies who served in the Middle East during the First World War. In his book, On Secret Service East of...

More blog posts

Projects

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

External links

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

AMIR

Access to Mideast and Islamic Resources

FIHRIST

A union catalogue for manuscripts in Arabic script in UK collections

Qatar Digital Library

Modern history and culture of the Gulf and wider region

Shop

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

£1

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

£25.00