Oriental manuscripts of John Selden

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 161 MSS. Arch. Seld. A. 3-48, 50-8, 60-71, 72 (R), 73-4, 77, B. 2, 9; MSS. Selden Superius 1-5, 7-108; MSS. Selden Supra 50, 78, 80, 84, 96-7, 99, 101, 105, 107
  • Dates of Creation
      13th-17th century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Hebrew, Coptic, Syriac, and Samaritan Aramaic.
  • Physical Description
      190 shelfmarks

Scope and Content

Manuscripts in Arabic (117), Persian and Turkish (42), on the subjects of astronomy, history, language, literature, mathematics and Qu'ranic commentary, as well as Hebrew manuscripts, especially the Halakhah.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Selden (1584-1654) was a lawyer, parliamentarian and a scholar. His De Diis Syris (1617) established his credentials as an orientalist, which were consolidated by his later studies in rabbinical law. Further details are given in the Dictionary of National Biography.

Access Information

Entry to read in the Library is permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card (for admissions procedures see http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk).

Acquisition Information

The collection was bequeathed to the Library in John Selden's will of 1654.


Collection level description created by Susan Thomas, Department of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts.

Other Finding Aids

Falconer Madan, et al., A summary catalogue of western manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford which have not hitherto been catalogued in the Quarto series, with references to the oriental and other manuscripts (7 vols. in 8 [vol. II in 2 parts], Oxford, 1895-1953; reprinted, with corrections in vols. I and VII, Munich, 1980), vol. II, nos. 3136, 3138-81, 3183-91, 3193-210.

The manuscripts are also summarily described in the card catalogue, arranged by language, located in the Oriental Reading Room.

A. Neubauer and A.E. Cowley Catalogue of the Hebrew manuscripts in the Bodleian library, and in the College Libraries of Oxford, 2 vols., Catalogi Codd. MSS. Bibliothecae Bodleianae pars xii, (Oxford, 1886-1906), mainly vol. 1. More recently, a 'Supplement of Addenda and Corrigenda', which has to be used in conjunction with Neubauer's Catalogue, was published (Oxford 1994).

J. UriBibliothecae Bodleianae codicum manuscriptorum Orientalium catalogus pars prima (Oxford 1787). See the Arabic Christian and Arabic Mohammedan sections.

A. Nicoll Catalogi codicum manuscriptorum Orientalium Bibliothecae Bodleianae pars secunda, Arabicos complectens (Oxford, 1835). See the Arabic Christian, Arabic Mohammedan and Samaritan Arabic sections.

E. Sachau, H. Eth and A.F.L. Beeston Catalogue of the Persian, Turkish, Hindstn, and Pusht manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, 3 vols. (Oxford, 1889-1953), vols. 1-3.

Robert Payne Smith Catalogi Codicum Manuscriptorum Bibliothecae Bodleianae, pars vi, Codices Syriacos, Carshunicos, Mendaeos, complectens (Oxford, 1864).

Custodial History

A number of the manuscripts contain a note on provenance, written by Selden.

Related Material

John Selden's western manuscripts, and his correspondence and papers, are held by the Department of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts (MSS. Arch. Seld. A. 1-76, B. 1-58, B. 62B; Selden Supra 1-36, 36*, 37-102, 105-7, 110; Selden Superius 1-122; MSS. Selden Supra 108-51).


Colin Wakefield 'Arabic manuscripts in the Bodleian Library: The Seventeenth-Century Collections' in G.A. Russell, ed., The 'Arabick' Interest of the Natural Philosophers in Seventeenth-Century England (Leiden, 1994), pp. 128-46.