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

Curating Curation: Making Sense of the British Library’s Chagatai Collections

Monday, September 21, 2020

Chagatai Khan at in council with his courtesans. (Nusratnama, Central Asia, 970 AH/1563 CE. Or 3222, f 86r) In March of this year, when the necessity of lockdown became painfully apparently to those in positions of authority, the British Library...

Digital geographical narratives with Knight Lab’s StoryMap

Monday, September 14, 2020

Visualising the journey of a manuscript’s creation Working for the Qatar Digital Library (QDL), I recently catalogued British Library oriental manuscript 2361, a musical compendium copied in Mughal India during the reign of Aurangzeb (1618-1707; ruled from 1658). The QDL...

Hebrew Manuscripts: Journeys of the Written Word

Friday, August 28, 2020

I am thrilled and delighted to inform our readers and followers, that the long awaited exhibition Hebrew Manuscripts: Journeys of the Written Word will be opening to the public on Tuesday 1st September in PACCAR2, the newest gallery of the...

The Tree of Knowledge: magic spells from a Jewish potion book

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

One of the items in our postponed exhibition Hebrew Manuscripts: Journeys of the Written Word is a tiny little codex from sixteenth-century Italy. It is entitled The Tree of Knowledge (Ets ha-Da’at) and contains a collection of some 125 magic...

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