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

Pageantry, Parade and Presents in Persia

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

In February 1809, a delegation from the British Government and the East India Company presented the Shah of Persia with a letter proposing an alliance between the two powers. This alliance was intended to thwart French attempts to use Persia...

Pushing the Boundaries

Monday, November 21, 2016

The British Library’s new exhibition Maps & the 20th century: Drawing the Line will look at the tumultuous 20th century through the eyes of maps. It is a period which we recognise as one of incredible highs and unimaginable lows,...

The Ottoman Turkish Zenanname (ʻBook of Womenʼ)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Today's post is from guest contributor and regular visitor to Asian and African Collections, Sunil Sharma, Professor of Persianate and Comparative Literature at Boston University British Library Or.7094 is an illustrated copy of the late Ottoman Turkish poetic work, Fazıl...

A little embarrassing: Britain fails to prevent Barclay Raunkiær from exploring Arabia

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The British did everything in their power to thwart the journey of a young Danish explorer into the heart of Arabia in 1912 – but ended up helping him by mistake. The Danes had a history of exploration in the...

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

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.

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