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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • St Michael the Archangel

    Coptic collections

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

Asian & African Studies Reading Room

  • Find information on the shelves
  • Access online databases and electronic books and 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 or contact the Asian & African Studies Reference Team.


We offer free Discovery and 1-2-1 Sessions 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

Blog posts

BL Labs 2017 Symposium: Samtla, Research Award Runner Up

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Samtla (Search And Mining Tools for Labelling Archives) was developed to address a need in the humanities for research tools that help to search, browse, compare, and annotate documents stored in digital archives. The system was designed in collaboration with...

World Radio Day: Recordings from the Endangered Archives Programme

Monday, February 12, 2018

World Radio Day has been held annually on 13th February since 2012 following its proclamation by the UNESCO Conference. The following year the United Nations General Assembly formally endorsed this proclamation and adopted it as an official ‘International Day’ to...

Introducing Doctoral Students to the Asian and African Collections at the British Library

Friday, February 9, 2018

Curators of the Asian and African Collections recently welcomed 45 eager doctoral students to a training day at the British Library. The session, for students in the first year of their PhDs, provided an introduction to the research materials on...

It has to be Perfect!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

In May 1945 the Bahrain Petroleum Company Limited (BAPCO) wished to appoint a medical practitioner, and it believed that it had found the perfect candidate in a young Englishman. His name, appropriately enough, was Dr Perfect (full name: Arthur John...

More blog posts

Related events

Talk

The Maestro: Khushhal Khan in 18th-Century Delhi

Meet Khushhal Khan, great-grandson of the famous Mughal musician Tansen, and discover the part played by music in the Mughal court

Exhibition FREE

African Scribes: Manuscript Culture of Ethiopia

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6 February – 29 April 2018

View all events

Selected items from our collections

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

Daniel Lowe

Curator, Arabic Collections

Michael Erdman

Curator, Turkish and Turkic Collections

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