Arabic and Persian manuscripts belonging to brothers Thomas and John Greaves

Scope and Content

The collection contains twenty-one Arabic, and seventeen Persian and Turkish manuscripts; it is particularly strong in astronomical and medical works. Highlights include the star tables of Islamic astronomer, poet and scholar, Ulugh Beg (1394-1449) (MS. Greaves 6); and an illustrated copy of the poetical romance Yusuf u Zulaykha by the poet Jami (1414-92) (MS. Greaves 1).

Administrative / Biographical History

Thomas Greaves (1612-76), orientalist, and John Greaves (1602-52), Savilian Professor of Astronomy at Oxford, were brothers. Though the manuscripts described here were acquired on the death of John Greaves it is almost certain that the oriental material was that of his brother Thomas, who was appointed deputy Professor of Arabic at Oxford, between 1637 and 1641, while Edward Pococke was in the Near East. See the Dictionary of National Biography for further details.

Access Information

Entry to read in the Library is permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card (for admissions procedures see

Acquisition Information

The Library purchased Thomas Greaves' collection of 65 manuscripts and printed books, chiefly oriental, in 1678. The 1697 catalogue states that some of these were not sent, and there is no evidence that the missing volumes ever came into the Library. The missing manuscripts are MSS. Greaves 45-50, and 61.


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

Other Finding Aids

Brief descriptions are in 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. 3773-814.

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

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 and Arabic Mohammedan 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. 1-2.

Related Material

The Department of Oriental Collections also holds the printed books from the Greaves collection.

The following material is held by the Department of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts:

  • Western manuscripts, in Middle English, French, Latin and Greek, which came to the Library with the above oriental manuscripts (MSS. Greaves 43, 51-60, 62-4).
  • Notes of Richard James (MSS. James 1-44), friend of John Greaves, were acquired through Greaves and from a separate deposit. Two of the oriental manuscripts described above were written by James
  • Some of John Greaves' correspondence is at MS. Smith 93.


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.