Mingana Collection of Oriental Manuscripts

Scope and Content

The manuscripts are mostly on religious subjects, although the Islamic Arabic ones include philology, literature and science. The Islamic manuscripts include fragments of Kufic Qur'ans, Qur'an commentaries, Hadith, law, and mysticism. The Syriac manuscripts include works on church documents, gospels, works on liturgy, lives of saints and homilies. Among the earliest Syriac items are a number of important fragments originating from St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai. The Arabic Christian ones include a fragment of the oldest known text of the Acta Thomae, and a very early copy of works by St. Ephrem.

The Christian manuscripts are important for Christian Theology, Church History in general, and the history of Eastern Christianity in particular. This collection includes the largest collection of Christian Arabic manuscripts in Europe after the Vatican and the Bibliotheque Nationale. The Islamic collection is the third largest Arabic manuscript collection in the UK. It is included in Brockelmann's Geschichte der Arabischen Literatur (GAL).

Administrative / Biographical History

Alphonse Mingana (1878-1937) was born in the region of Mosul in about 1878. He was educated at the Syro-Chaldean seminary in Mosul, and ordained priest in the Chaldean Church. From 1902-1910 he was Professor of Syriac at Mosul. His wide scholarly output included many editions of hitherto unknown Syriac and Arabic texts. Though his interest was mainly in Eastern Christianity, his considerable knowledge of Islam enabled him to lecture on Islamic history and literature as well. In 1913, on the invitation of J. Rendel Harris (the first Principal of Woodbrooke College, Selly Oak, Birmingham), Mingana came to England and spent two years at Woodbrooke where he met and married his wife, a Norwegian student ay ther college. In 1915, he was appointed to the John Rylands Library, Manchester as curator of oriental manuscripts, where he stayed until 1932. During these years he came to know Dr Edward Cadbury at whose expense he travelled to the Middle East to purchase manuscripts. In 1924 and 1925 he travelled through the regions of Iraq, Syria and Palestine and in 1929 went to Sinai and Upper Egypt. Many of the manuscripts were bought from monasteries and private libraries in these regions. In 1932, Mingana returned to Birmingham and was appointed curator of the collection named after him. He began the task of cataloguing the manuscripts and also edited and translated some of the more important ones which appeared in the a series Woodbrooke Studies and in various journals. While at Selly Oak, Alphonse Mingana acted as Lecturer and Instructor in Oriental Languages and in Islam. This work continued after his death when a Lectureship in Islamic Studies was set up. One of the holders of this lectureship was James W. Sweetman. Mingana's name has also been enshrined in the title of the Mingana Symposia which has been held every three years since 1990 on the theme of Arab Christianity and Islam.

Reference: Publicity leaflet about the Mingana Collection: text by L-A Hunt, 1997.


The Collection comprised of Middle Eastern manuscripts is arranged by language and within each language by shelf number.

Access Information

Open. Access to all bona fide researchers. All papers held at the Orchard Learning Resources Centre will be viewed at the Birmingham University Information Services, Special Collections Department. Please contact the University Archivist for further information.

Acquisition Information

Initially housed in the Library of the Selly Oak Colleges, the Collection moved into the Orchard Learning Resources Centre in 1997.

Other Finding Aids

Please see online catalogue for further details.

Alternative Form Available

The Arabic and Syriac manuscripts are on microfiche. These can be purchased from Inter-Documentation Company AGP.O.Box 11205, 2301EE Leiden, The Netherlands Tel. (31) 71 5 142700 Fax. (31) 71 5 131721 Email: info@idc.nl http://www.idc.nl/catalog/index.html - search term: Mingana

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the University Archivist, Special Collections. Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Custodial History

Sponsored by Edward Cadbury, the Collection was founded between the years 1924 and 1929 with manuscripts collected by Alphonse Mingana from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Upper Egypt.

Following the merger of the Selly Oak Colleges and the University of Birmingham in 1999 the custodial ownership of collections belonging to the Selly Oak Colleges and held at the Orchard Learning and Resource Centre (OLRC) was transferred to the University. These collections now form part of the University's Special Collections Department and are available for consultation at the Main Library on the University's Edgbaston Campus.


Further deposits are not expected.

Related Material

The Orchard Learning Resources Centre and the University of Birmingham, Special Collections Department holds a rich collection of archives relating to missions, charities and other religious and ecclesiastical organisations and individuals.