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Digital Collections

Thousands of partial and fully digitized items from a wide range of materials from the Beinecke collections. Help | Search | Advanced

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Brief records of material not found in Orbis or the Finding Aid Database. Help | Search

Medieval & Renaissance Manuscripts

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Yale Papyrus Collection

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Near Eastern Materials



Koran, 9th century. Fair Kufic hand. Bequest of Julian J. Obermann in January 1957. Beinecke Arabic MSS 470.


Yale was a pioneer in Islamic or Near Eastern studies beginning in the nineteenth century.  The Beinecke’s collection of Arabic and Middle Eastern manuscripts is among the oldest and richest collections in North America.  The collection consists of several large purchases or donations made over a one-hundred year period.  The first substantial donation of manuscripts came from Edward Elbridge Salisbury (1814-1901) who was the first professor of Arabic at Yale and who gave 97 Arabic manuscripts in 1870.  The second large group of manuscripts was purchased for Yale by Morris Ketchum Jessup from Count Landberg (1848-1924), a Swedish Arabic scholar.  In 1900, Jessup gave 835 manuscripts, which now form the Landberg Collection.  The third component is made up of manuscripts originally collected by the American Oriental Society (AOS), which included 45 Arabic, 19 Persian and 21 Turkish manuscripts. In 1972, the Beinecke acquired 538 manuscripts from the Oskar Rescher Collection, around 210 of which are Arabic, over 150 Turkish, and close to 25 Persian.  The last substantial purchase was the Hartford Theological Seminary Collection, which included 1,400 Arabic manuscripts, and 200 Persian and Turkish manuscripts, as well as some important Armenian Christian manuscripts. Hartford Theological Seminary’s collection of Arabic materials was begun by its first professor of Semitic languages, the Scot Duncan Black Macdonald (1863-1943) who encouraged the purchase of a vast variety of Islamic and Christian material from the Middle East throughout his long tenure at Hartford.  The principle collector was Macdonald’s colleague and Armenian scholar Madiros Harootioon Ananikian, whose collection was purchased for Hartford by Robert Garrett.

[Information taken from Stephan Roman, "United States and Canada," in The Development of Islamic Library Collections in Western Europe and North America, (London, 1990), pp. 224-228 and The Illuminated Manuscripts of Hartford Seminary: The Art of Christian-Muslim Relations. Hartford, Conn.: Hartford Seminary, c1994]

Finding Aids

The Salisbury, Landberg, and open Beinecke Collections are cataloged in: Leon Nemoy, Arabic Manuscripts in the Yale University Library, (New Haven, 1956). Salisbury and Landberg Collections are so named. The open Beinecke collection is usually Arabic MSS 1, etc.  Arabic materials acquired after Nemoy’s catalog (1956) are named Arabic MSS Suppl. 1, etc. Other Near Eastern materials are categorized by language, so, for example, Persian manuscripts are Persian MSS 1, etc.

Materials from the American Orientalist Society can also found in the Catalogue of the Library of the American Oriental Society (New Haven, 1930).

Checklist of the Rescher Collection (acquired 1969-72): Leon Nemoy, “The Rescher Collection of Arabic, Persian, and Turkish Manuscripts,” The Yale University Library Gazette 47/2 (October, 1972): 65-99 (JSTOR).  These are usually found in the Arabic MSS Suppl. range.

Hartford Seminary Collection: Chiefly in Arabic; some materials in Armenian, Syriac, Turkish, and unidentified languages. Purchased in 2005. The vast majority of these manuscripts are not cataloged; for those that are, search by local call number: Hartford Seminary.  Summary of collection: 1253 numbered Arabic manuscripts, with unnumbered Arabic fragments and approximately 360 manuscripts in other languages including Armenian, Syriac, and Turkish. Subject matter of the Arabic manuscripts was identified by Hartford Seminary as falling into the following categories: theological (42%), literary (14%), legal (14%), linguistics (13%), the sciences (8%), philosophy (6%), and occultism (1%). Dr. Rudolph Mach produced a shelf list which is the basis for the following list of manuscripts in the collection:  PDF of shelf list.


Elizabeth Strout, Catalogue of the Library of the American Oriental Society, (New Haven, 1930) (Orbis)

Leon Nemoy, “A Thirteenth-Century Arabic Manuscript of the Koran,” The Yale University Library Gazette 28:4 (April, 1954): 175-176 (JSTOR)

Leon Nemoy, “The Rescher Collection of Arabic, Persian, and Turkish Manuscripts,” The Yale University Library Gazette 47/2 (October, 1972): 57-99 (JSTOR)

Stephen Emmel, “Robert Curzon’s ‘Very Large Folio’ Coptic-Arabic Gospel of Matthew and MS Coptic 1 in the Beinecke Library: A Question of Identity,” The Yale University Library Gazette 63:3/4 (April, 1989): 158-163 (JSTOR)

Stephan Roman, “United States and Canada,” in The Development of Islamic Library Collections in Western Europe and North America, (London, 1990), pp. 208-247.

Li Guo, “Yale Arabic MS Landberg 57: A Fourteenth-Century Autograph on the Muslim Friday Prayer,” The Yale University Library Gazette 66:3/4 (April, 1992): 117-125 (JSTOR)

The Illuminated Manuscripts of Hartford Seminary: The Art of Christian-Muslim Relations. Hartford, Conn.: Hartford Seminary, c1994. (Orbis)

Thomas D. Goodrich, “Early Islamic and Ottoman Maps at Yale,” The Yale University Library Gazette 72:1/2 (October, 1997): 27-40 (JSTOR)

Jane Greenfield, “Notable Bindings XVII: Khalīl ibn Ishāq al-jundī [al Mukhtaṣar], Maghreb, late 18th century,” The Yale University Gazette 72:3/4 (April, 1998): 168-170 (JSTOR)



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