Find Arabic manuscripts

The traveller and the camel jinn from ‘Ajā’ib al-makhlūqāt
The traveller and the camel jinn from ‘Ajā’ib al-makhlūqāt ‘The Wonders of the Creation’, by al-Qazwīnī, 13th century (Or.14140, f. 101v)

Our Arabic manuscripts collection includes more than 15,000 works in over 14,000 volumes. Details are to be found in a number of catalogues

Newly catalogued Arabic manuscripts are included in the Library’s Explore Archives and Manuscripts. However, details of most of our manuscripts are currently only accessible in printed catalogues and handlists. Some of these are available online and others in our reading room. 

We are gradually transferring the contents of the older catalogues into our online catalogue Explore the British Library. Until the recataloguing is complete, however, readers will need to consult the catalogues below to find detailed descriptions of our Arabic manuscript holdings. These have been arranged by collection in chronological order.

Arabic manuscripts acquired by the British Museum (before 1973) and the British Library (after 1973)

Manuscripts acquired by the British Museum after 1912 which are not in Vassie’s Handlist (being on subjects other than Islamic law, Qur’anic sciences and Hadith) are entered in the general catalogue of Manuscripts in Oriental Languages, available in the Asian & African Studies reading room.

Arabic manuscripts acquired by the India Office Library (before 1982)

Collection guides

India Office Records: Resources for Iran

Archival sources for the study of Iran

The Delhi Collection

The Delhi collection consists of over 3,500 volumes of manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, Urdu and miscellaneous languages

Sloane manuscripts

Manuscripts and artefacts gathered by the physician Sir Hans Sloane (1660–1753)

Hebrew collections

Manuscripts copied over 1,000 years ago to the most recent monographs and serials

India Office Records and Private Papers

Archives of the East India Company and the pre-1947 government of India


The British Library has a small but important collection of Judeo-Persian manuscripts and printed books

Arabic manuscripts

Our Arabic manuscripts date from the early eighth to the nineteenth century AD

Christian Middle East collections

Around 4,000 manuscripts and some 14,700 printed books and periodicals

India Office Records: Middle East resources

A wealth of information relating to British activities in the Middle East from the 17th to 20th centuries

Persian manuscripts

Our Persian manuscripts originate from all over the Persian speaking world


Copies of the Qur’an from many different geographical regions and periods

Persian collections

Over 40,000 volumes of printed books, periodicals and newspapers, more than 11,000 manuscripts, and a range of other materials.

Coptic collections

The British Library holds approximately 1,600 Coptic manuscripts with some early specimens dating from around 300 AD..

Yates Thompson manuscripts

Illuminated manuscripts collected by Henry Yates Thompson

Central Asian Turkic collections

Over 4,500 volumes of printed books, periodicals and newspapers, and more than 200 manuscripts