Orientalia Collection

Scope and Content

Small collection of orientalia acquired by, or bequeathed to, the Library at Queen's University Belfast, presumably, before 1900. Comprising some 53 items of Perisan origin, 56 Sanskrit Manuscripts and 2 miscellaneous items, the collection includes examples of decorative bindings, illustration and gilded text and relates to a range of classical subjects. The Sanskrit manuscripts are primarily medieaval in date and deal mainly with astrology and kindred arts, although a number of older works of literary value can be found, most notably, the whole of the Vedantasara, a fragment of Magha's poem and part of Mallinatha's commentary on Raghuvamsa (c. 1621). Nearly all of these MSS are inaccurate and some are hardly legible. They are all in the Devanagari character and were written in Western India at various dates between the 16th and 18th centuries. Of the Persian items to be found, the manuscripts are classified into the following areas: poetry and stories, history and geography, ethics, epistolary guides and grammars, and medicine and cookery. Again many of the items date mainly from between the 16th and 18th centuries, the earliest allegedly copied in 1217 by Muhammad Burhan (called Rahna) and being an incomplete transcription of the second part of Sikandar-Nama (The Book of Alexander the Great) by the poet and story teller, Nizami (1141-1209). These manuscripts also feature the work of other Persian scholars and poets such as Khaqani (1107-1199), Farid as-Din Attar (1142?-1220?), Firdausi (c. 934-1020), Jalal Al-din Rumi (1207-73) and Amin Ahmad Razi (d. 1594).

Administrative / Biographical History

The Library at Queen's was established in 1849 following the foundation of the original college in 1845. Based initially in the Great Hall, and, from 1869, in its own separate accomodation, the Library catered to the needs of all students enrolled in the college before future growth and expansion dictated otherwise. Today the Library is dispersed across a number of departmental libraries throughout Northern Ireland each providing access to what has become one of the largest collections of books, periodicals and pamphlets in the province with over one million items noted in the official library catalogue. Principal centres include the Main Library (with additional 1960s tower block) situated on the main campus site, the Medical Library at RVH, the Science Library in Chlorine Gardens (opened 1969), the Agriculture and Food Science Library at Newforge Lane (1970s), the Biomedical libraries in the City Hospital and in the Medical Biology Centre (Lisburn Rd), the Veterinary Research Library, the Seamus Heaney Library (1997) and the Campus Libraries at Armagh and Altnagelvin. Although largely adminstered as a separate unit for most of its history, the Library was recently amalgamated with the University's Computer Services and Audio-Visual departments to form a new Information Services department in the year 2000.

Access Information

Open to consultation. Includes material in the following languages - Sanskrit, Persian, Aramaic


Description compiled by Clare McVeigh (RASCAL Project), entered by Deirdre Wildy, Special Collections

Other Finding Aids

Manual handlist available. See 'Calendar of Manuscripts Western and Oriental' for details. This calendar is available for consultation in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Conditions Governing Use

Subject to condition and copyright restrictions

Appraisal Information

Although not of outstanding importance in the field of Orientalia, the existence of the collection at Queen's University may be of some interest to students in this area as an alternative source of research materials.

Custodial History

Few details survive to document the accummulation of this particular collection. It is assumed, however, that all of the manuscripts were acquired before 1900 and were presented to the then Queen's College Belfast, by various donors, most probably former students who had lived in the East as missionaries or civil servants. It is also presumed that some arrived as part of a bequest made by Professor Charles MacDouall (1813-83), a former Professor of Greek at the College with many possibly deposited c. 1880 under his influence. Professor R.M. Henry (1873-1950), also of Queen's, is also noted as an additional benefactor.



Related Material

MacDouall Papers (QUB)MacDouall Papers (QUB)MacDouall Collection (QUB)MacDouall Collection (QUB)Henry Papers (QUB)