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

    Printed books, periodicals and newspapers, manuscripts 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
  • Opening to the Gospel of St. Mark

    Ethiopian collections

    The Ethiopian collections include over 600 manuscripts in addition to recent monographs and serials
  • The death of the King of Makkedah (Or 13704, f. 85r)

    Judeo-Persian

    The British Library has a small but important collection of Judeo-Persian manuscripts and printed books
  • Early British envoys to the Qajar Court from a contemporary copy of a fresco originally in the Negarestan Palace, Tehran (Add.Or.1241)

    India Office Records: Resources for Iran

    Archival sources for the study of Iran
Readers at desks in the Asian and African Reading Room

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 a range of free Reader sessions and 1-2-1 consultations 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

A Tale of Two Enigmas: A Magtymguly Pyragy Manuscript in the British Library Collections

Monday, November 22, 2021

The opening of the Divan-i Makhtumquli, a late 18th-early 19th-century Turkmen manuscript. (Divan-i Makhtumquli, Central Asia?, late 18th century or early 19th century CE. Or 11414 f 3v) Of all the languages of state included within my curatorial bailiwick, Turkmen...

Sailing Away To A Distant Land - Mahendra Mahey, Manager of BL Labs - final post

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Posted by Mahendra Mahey, former Manager of British Library Labs or "BL Labs" for short [estimated reading time of around 15 minutes] This is is my last day working as manager of BL Labs, and also my final posting on...

Memorabilia of Captain James Cecil Thornton

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

One of the most pleasing aspects of private paper collections is the small items of ephemera they often contain. One example of this in the India Office Private Papers is a folder of memorabilia of Captain James Cecil Thornton (1888-1932),...

Epic Iran: Manuscripts from the Islamic era

Monday, September 13, 2021

In a recent blog I wrote about three of our Zoroastrian treasures which were part of the Epic Iran exhibition organised by the V&A with the Iran Heritage Foundation in association with The Sarikhani Collection. Sadly the exhibition is now...

More blog posts

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

Dr 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

In this richly illustrated book, leading international scholars offer a unique insight into the stories of West African societies past and present

£25.00