Oriental Manuscripts

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 33 ORI
  • Dates of Creation
      15th-20th century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      Amharic ; Arabic ; Armenian ; Hebrew ; Persian ; Turkish ; Chagatay ; Hindi ; Pali ; Sanskrit ; Telugu ; Chinese ; Japanese ; Korean ; Tibetan ; Urdu ; English ; French ; German
  • Physical Description
      16 metres

Scope and Content

The contents are extremely varied, including literary manuscripts, religious, mathematical, astronomical, astrological and medical texts, grammatical and other linguistic material, a Taoist weather manual, and correspondence and diaries. Some ofthe descriptive units contain photographs, and there are also a few printed items. The diaries and correspondence relate to the Far East, and are in English, with the exception of two Japanese diaries from World War II. The photographs relate toChina, Korea and Japan, Egypt, Syria and Iraq, Turkey and Russia, and to Islamic antiquities in Spain.

The spread of material by language is Islamic (material in several languages, including Urdu), Amharic, Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Turkish including Chagatay, Hindi, Pali, Sanskrit, Telugu, Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan, and European. The photographsare chiefly located in the European section.

Administrative / Biographical History

This artificial collection is used to locate miscellaneous small accessions of manuscripts and papers of oriental (Middle and Far East) interest received by the Library, and not preserved as separate collections. It is the equivalent category,for material of oriental interest, to the Library's Additional MSS.


The primary arrangement is by language, Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Hebrew, Persian, Turkish, Hindi, Pali, Sanskrit, Telugu, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Tibetan. Material in, or translated into European languages is grouped in the category MSOR/Eur.

Access Information

Open for consultation.

Acquisition Information

Acquired by gift and purchase at different times from various sources.

Other Finding Aids

Very unevenly detailed catalogue, partly word-processed, partly typescript, partly photocopied manuscript. Quite detailed (although incomplete) draft catalogue entries by E. Birnbaum are provided for most of the Arabic, Persian and Turkishmanuscripts; (as these were done in 1960, they follow different, then current conventions for the transliteration of Arabic script, etc. which means that usage is inconsistent across the list as a whole). In many other cases the list is merely aphotocopy of the extremely sketchy details in the accessions register. In the case of some of the Pali mss and a few of the more recently received Arabic mss, contents have still to be identified. Part of this is available online at online catalogue

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Sub-Librarian, Special Collections (e-mail PG.Library@durham.ac.uk) and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assistwhere possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


The collection receives occasional additions.