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

A Rainbow in Stormy Skies: LGBT Writing in the northern Middle East

Monday, June 26, 2017

On May 28, 2013, a small group of environmentalists gathered at Istanbul’s Gezi Park to protest the removal of trees. The police’s brutal response sparked the indignation of the city’s residents, and soon Gezi Park was flooded with ordinary citizens...

The Flotilla Tour of 1933: a Demonstration of British Naval Power in the Gulf

Thursday, June 22, 2017

On 29 August 1933 the acting Political Resident in the Persian Gulf, Percy Gordon Loch, received a letter from the Political Agent at Kuwait, Lieutenant-Colonel Harold Dickson, informing him that there were strong rumours circulating in Kuwait that a Persian...

Milking Oil - the start of the Kuwait Oil Industry

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Kuwait Investment Authority, the world’s fifth largest sovereign wealth fund, began life with the gift of two tins of condensed milk to the Sheikh of Kuwait in 1936. Tin of condensed milk (Wikimedia Commons) Kuwait’s great prosperity rests on...

A 17th century copy of Saʻdi’s collected works (IO Islamic 843)

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Persian writer and poet Musliḥ al-Dīn Saʻdī of Shiraz (ca.1210-1291 or 1292) is without doubt one of the best-known and most skillful writers of classical Persian literature. With an established reputation even during his lifetime, his works have been...

More blog posts

Related events

Shubbak at the British Library

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Two days of inspirational Arab literature

View all events

Over 500 collection items from the British Library and institutions across Europe

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

Ursula Sims-Williams

Lead Curator, Persian 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