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
  • Sūrat al-Fātiḥah at the beginning of Sultan Baybars’ seven-volume Qurʼan

    Qur'ans

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

‘An inexperienced and incompetent chauffeur’: the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

At dawn on 25th August 1941, the people of Iran awoke to a full-scale invasion of their country by the combined forces of Britain and the Soviet Union. Within three weeks the Iranian military had been overwhelmed, Tehran had fallen...

Seeking Wartime Employment: Bertram Thomas and Frank Smythe

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

On 27 August 1939, the explorer Bertram Thomas sent a telegram to John Charles Walton of the India Office, offering his services to the Government of India in the event of war, in the Persian Gulf ‘or wherever my Arab...

Thirty-leaved Qur’ans from India

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Manuscripts of the Qur’an exist in many different sizes and forms: in single volumes and also in multi-volume sets ranging from two to seven, ten, thirty or sixty volumes. However it was not until recently, while working on Qur’ans in...

Destitute Indian Women in 1930s Damascus

Friday, June 8, 2018

In February 1935, the British Consul in Damascus, Gilbert Mackereth, wrote to his superiors at the Foreign Office in London with a dilemma. Since 1926, the Consulate had been responsible for making cash payments to a number of destitute British...

More blog posts

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