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

Dining with style: the East India Company’s communal table at Mocha

Monday, June 27, 2022

In August 1720, the East India Company’s Council in Bombay received a letter from their factors and merchants based in the city of Mocha. They had expected this letter for some time. It was the practice for the factory’s staff...

Dr Sarah Hosmon and the Missionary Hospital in Sharjah

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Kentucky born Sarah Hosmon devoted nearly her entire adult life to missionary and medical work in Arabia. In 1909 Dr Hosmon arrived in Bahrain, and in 1913, under the auspices of the Dutch Reformed Church of America’s Arabian Mission, she...

New online - June 2022

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

We have another 4 new projects online to bring to your attention. This time from Indonesia, Iran, India, and West Africa: Bima Manuscripts [EAP988] Zoroastrian historical documents and Avestan manuscripts [EAP1014] Private records of leading business families of Early Colonial...

Monsieur Roux, the would-be Consul of Baghdad

Thursday, May 26, 2022

By the summer of 1917, the British Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force had been in Mesopotamia for three years. It had fought the armies of the Ottoman Empire and occupied territory stretching from Basra to Baghdad. British officials had every reason to...

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