Find Hebrew manuscripts

Detail from a Jewish prayer book for the entire year according to the rite of Carpentras (Or 10733, f. 90r)
Detail from a Jewish prayer book for the entire year according to the rite of Carpentras (Or 10733, f. 90r)

Guide to finding Hebrew manuscripts in our online catalogues

Searching our catalogues

You can explore our Hebrew manuscripts in two ways:

On Explore Archives and Manuscripts, you can find catalogue records of almost every item in the collection. If the manuscript has been digitised, you will also find a link to the digital surrogate available on Digitised Manuscripts. Some of the links are currently inactive and will be activated once the item is digitised and available online. A guide to Explore Archives and Manuscripts is available here.

On Digitised Manuscripts you can find descriptions of items’ contents, physical characteristics, history, and bibliographical references, accompanied by their digital surrogate. This database only includes manuscripts that have been digitised. A general guide to Digitised Manuscripts is available here.

If you are looking for a Hebrew/Jewish manuscript or wish to browse our collection, here are some useful tips:

Explore Archives and Manuscripts 

  • simple search: this is our suggested method if you are looking for personal names (authors, owners, scribes). However, such search may currently provide partial results.
  • advanced search: you can use this method if you are looking for a specific shelfmark that you know already, by searching in the ‘Reference Code’ field and using one of the following shelfmark formats:
Add MS 22413
Add Ch 1251
Arundel Or 50
Cotton Ch Nero III C 194
Egerton MS 610
Harley MS 5703
Harley Ch 43 
Or 13
Royal MS 16 A I
Sloane MS 626
Stowe Ch 297

The fields ‘Name’, ‘Place’ and ‘Subject’ are currently under development for Hebrew records. 
  • download our metadata in excel format. This document is constantly updated.

Digitised Manuscripts

Do not use the Browse function, because it does not contain our metadata, but use instead the search function of

Keyword: search for personal names, titles, other keywords here (Due to technical limitations of the system, the keyword search may lead to partial results). 

Manuscripts: search by shelfmark, using the same format as on Explore Archives and Manuscripts.

Advanced Search: search here by Title, Provenance/Acquisition and Bibliography. We don't recommend searching by Author/Scribe for Hebrew manuscripts.

About our digital surrogates

We photograph every leaf of a volume as it appears in the physical item, including blank leaves. As we are creating digital surrogates, we are not removing any debris as it is considered to be part of the object.

Each image is called either a folio or a flyleaf. Occasionally, the naming of certain parts of the manuscript in the digital image viewer does not reflect the reality of the physical items. Please consult the catalogue record for notes on any such differences.

The Hebrew Manuscript Digitisation Project is a project to digitise the British Library’s Hebrew collection. 

Phase 1 (2013-2016) was supported by The Polonsky Foundation, and Phase 2 (2016-2019) is a partnership with the National Library of Israel and the Friedberg Jewish Manuscript Society

Through these two projects, most of the Library’s Hebrew (and Samaritan) manuscripts will be digitised and made available online.

About standards: transliterations and authorities

Personal names are given as they appear in the Library of Congress Authority files, if such authority file exists. 

The Hebrew versions of the author’s names are given as they appear in the Catalogue of the National Library of Israel.

When transliterating Hebrew words we follow the transliteration rules of the Library of Congress. This is why in our records, for example, Haggadah is spelt Hagadah, siddur as sidur.