Turkish and Turkic collections

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)
Angels standing, from a 16th century manuscript of Acaib ul-mahlukat 'Wonders Of Creation', translated by Sururi from Arabic (Add.7894, f.59v)

Our collections in the Turkic languages (including Modern and Ottoman Turkish, Chaghatay and other mediaeval Turkic languages, Uighur, Azeri, and the national languages of the Central Asian republics) comprise over 25,000 volumes of printed books, periodicals and newspapers, more than 4,000 manuscript texts, and other materials.

About the collection

The geographical regions where Turkic languages are or once were in use extend from Turkey to China and from Bosnia to Iraq. Our collections include material held by the British Museum prior to 1973, acquisitions made since then, together with the collections of the India Office Library which were transferred to the British Library in 1982. They range in time from handwritten documents of the 10th century to the latest publications. They comprise books and manuscripts in Ottoman and modern Turkish, material in the Central Asian Turkic languages in addition to manuscripts in Old Turkish collected by Aurel Stein during his Central Asian expeditions 1900-1916. They include early periodicals and printed books, rare and illustrated manuscripts, and examples of, calligraphy illumination, and binding. In addition to material available in the Asian and African Studies collections, prints, drawings and photographs are to be found in the Visual arts collection.

What is available online?


Details of most of the Turkish and Turkic printed material acquired since 1980 are available in our online catalogue Explore the British Library.

The published catalogue of Ottoman Turkish manuscripts covers acquisitions down to 1887

Details of manuscripts in Old Turkish are available on the website of the International Dunhuang Project (IDP).

Other online resources

You can find a small selection of images of Turkish and Turkic items in our collection at the British Library Online Gallery. The Asia, Pacific & Africa Collections page includes altogether more than 15,000 images. The International Dunhuang Database (IDP) includes extensive photographic collections.

British Library collection items are described in our Asian and African studies blog, to which you can subscribe if you wish to receive regular updates. We also tweet information on news, discoveries, bibliographical resources and collection items on Twitter.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

The Asian & African Studies Reading Room is where you can consult printed materials, manuscripts and archives. Some especially valuable or fragile material is restricted and 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.