Our Christian Middle East collection comprises important manuscripts and printed items in the following languages: Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopic, Georgian and Syriac. It includes around 4,000 manuscripts and some 14,700 printed books and periodicals.
About the collectionThe Christian Middle East or Christian Orient is a widely accepted term referring to the ancient Churches of the Near and Middle East which have preserved their traditions of worship, literature, architecture and art from the earliest times to the present day, even where the lands in which they dwell have been dominated by other civilisations in the course of the centuries.
Assembled over the past 185 years, first by the British Museum and since 1973 by the British Library, the Christian Middle East collections include the following language collections:
- Armenian and Georgian (including Kartvelian languages, Svanian and Mingrelo-Laz, Daghestanian languages, Circassian, Abkhazian)
- Ethiopic (including Amharic, Tigrinya, Tigre and other Ethiopian languages)
- Syriac (including Christian Aramaic, Karshuni, Mandaic and Neo-Syriac).
Material relating to the Christian Middle East is also to be found in Western language collections in the Department of Manuscripts and in the India Office Records.
What is available online?Details of the Christian Middle East printed holdings are mostly available in the Library’s online catalogue Explore the British Library. Some of the older manuscript catalogues are available online in the Internet Archive. Full details are given on the individual collection pages.
At present only a very small number of manuscripts have been digitised and are available on the Library’s Digitised Manuscripts site. We are, however, planning to digitise further manuscripts from these collections to make them available online to wider audiences.
Other resourcesThe British library also hosts the Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) which includes some digitised collections
- Endangered Armenian rare books
- Preservation of the historical literary heritage of Tigray, Ethiopia: the library of Romanat Qeddus Mika'el)
What is available in our Reading Rooms?You can view printed materials, manuscripts and archives in the Asian & African Studies Reading Room. Some especially valuable or fragile material is restricted, available only in exceptional circumstances. Self-service photography is allowed for certain categories of material, provided that its condition allows this.
All our catalogues are available in the Reading Room.
What is available in other organisations?Other important Christian Orient/Christian Middle East collections include:
UK and Ireland
- The Bodleian Library, Oxford
- Cambridge University Library
- Chester Beatty Library: Syriac; Armenian; Coptic
- Bibliotheque Nationale de France
- The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
- The Library of Congress
- The Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, St John University, Collegeville, MN, USA, is a major depository of digitized manuscripts and printed books including many originating in the Christian Middle East.
- Haybook - for Armenian digitised material including collections in BNF and Matenadaran, Yerevan
- The Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library, USA
- eBethArké: The Syriac Digital Library, Rutgers University Library, New Jersey, USA
- Canadian Centre for epigraphic documents