Oriental Manuscript Collection

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 237 Coll-102
  • Dates of Creation
      14th century-19th century
  • Physical Description
      circa 100 bundles palm leaves, 2 large long rolls, 1 box Oxyrynchus papyri, 4 boxes or box files of copper plates, 7 boxes or box files, miscellaneous folders, circa 720 volumes and some in protective cases, (32 linear metres).
  • Location
      Oriental MSS 1-676

Scope and Content

A large part of the Oriental Manuscript Collection consists of Arabic and Persian manuscripts. Arabic manuscripts include commentaries on the Koran; traditions of the Prophet and Imam; prayers; law, general history and biography; medicine, mathematics, philosophy and ethics; and, grammar, rhetoric, poetry, prose, tales, dictionary, and controversy. Persian manuscripts include theology, history, biography, and travel; mathematics and astronomy; ethics, poetry, music, composition and proverbs, tales and romances; grammar and dictionary; and, agriculture and war. The Arabic and Persian manuscripts include the World history of Rashid Al-Din, and the Chronology of ancient nations of Al-Biruni, from the 14th century A.D. Hindustani manuscripts include history; poetry and tales; and, astrology. Turkish manuscripts consist of material acquired in Astrakhan and includes several early Ottoman texts, divans of Neva'i and items of dialectical interest. Included in the Oriental Collection are around 100 bundles or parcels of Buddhist works on palm leaves in Burmese, Pali, Sanskrit, Siamese, Tamil, and Tibetan. There are also Sanskrit charters on copper plates, and Oxyrynchus Papyri.

Administrative / Biographical History

Edinburgh University Library has over 650 manuscripts in oriental languages originating from the countries of the Middle East, South Asia, and South East Asia. Most of the collection consists of Arabic and Persian manuscripts including two of the significant treasures of the Library, namely the World history of the Mongol vizier Rashid Al-Din, which illustrates parts of the life of the Prophet Muhammad, and the Chronology of ancient nations of Al-Biruni, both of which were written in Arabic in Tabriz in Persian circa 1307 A.D. A number of Asian languages are included in the collection of course, and one African (Ethiopic/Amharic). The Asian languages are Armenian, Bengali, Burmese, Cambodian, Hindustani, Javanese, Malay, Mon, Pali, Panjabi, Prakrit, Sanskrit, Siamese, Sinhalese, Syriac, Tamil, Tibetan, Turkish and Urdu. South Asian and South East Asian religious texts are represented in the collection. The oriental collection includes material gathered by Lieutenant-Colonel John Baillie of Leys and presented to the Library in 1876 by his grandson, Mr. John B. Baillie, with the stipulation that a descriptive catalogue was prepared. This task was given to Mr. Mohammed Ashraful Hukk of Hyderabad who was then a student at the University. A greater part of the collection had been catalogued by 1906. Then, by 1914, Professor Hermann Ethe of Aberystwyth had added to the catalogue, and in the 1920s Dr. Edward Robertson carried out some more work. Other donors to the collection were R. M. B. Binning of the Indian Civil Service, George Bell M.D., and the Rev. John Dickson who had been a missionary in Astrakhan.

Access Information

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Acquisition Information

Material gathered by Lieutenant-Colonel John Baillie of Leys was presented to the Library in 1876 by his grandson, Mr. John B. Baillie. The Dickson material - acquired in Astrakhan, 1819-25 - had first come into the possession of the Rev. Thomas B. Dodds, of Lochee, Dundee, who had married one Isabella G. Dickson in 1845. In 1889, the manuscripts were presented to the New College Library by their son, J. Dickson Dodds, of Dundee.

Other Finding Aids

Handlist H8 which is A descriptive catalogue of the Arabic and Persian manuscripts in Edinburgh University Library, Mohammed Ashraful Hukk, et al. (Hertford: Printed for the University of Edinburgh by Stephen Austin & Sons, Ltd., 1925); and, Handlist H8.1 which is The illustrations to the world history of Rashid al-Din, David Talbot Rice and edited by Basil Gray (Edinburgh University Press, 1976); Handlist H8.2 which includes A handlist of the Arabic, Persian and Hindustani MSS of New College, Edinburgh R.B. Serjeant (London: Luzac and Co., 1942); Handlist H9.1-12

Geographical Names