Oriental manuscripts collected by Robert Huntington

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 161 MSS Huntington; MSS. Huntington Add.; MSS. Auct. E. 5.; MSS. Huntington donat.
  • Dates of Creation
      10th-17th century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      Arabic, Hebrew, Coptic, Syriac, Other Semitic, Persian, Turkish, and Uighur.
  • Physical Description
      665 shelfmarks

Scope and Content

Huntington's manuscript collection contains many rare and early items. There are over 300 Arabic manuscripts, whose subjects include astronomy, geography, history, language, law, mathematics and medicine. One extraordinary item is an illustrated manuscript on weaponry commissioned by Saladin (fl 12th century) for his own library (MS. Huntington 264). Among the 212 Hebrew manuscripts is the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides (1135-1204), with the author's signature (MS. Huntington 80), bought by Huntington while acting as chaplain to the English merchants in Aleppo.

In addition to the Arabic and Hebrew material, the collection includes 31 Syriac and 29 Coptic manuscripts, as well as manuscripts in Mandaean, Persian, Turkish, and Uighur. A number of Christian works in Arabic, Coptic and Syriac also feature, reflecting Huntington's interest in the Eastern churches.

The full shelfmarks of the collection are as follows: MSS. Huntington 1-13, 15-113, 115-23, 125-30, 132-229, 231-64, 266-71, 273-310, 312-456, 458-525, 527-67, 569-92, 594-604, 606-16, 617-20 (R), 621, 622 (R), 623, 630-3; MSS. Auct. E. 5. 2, E. 5. 6, E. 5. 8-12, E. 5. 15, E. 5. 17; MSS. Huntington Add. B (R), D (R), E-G (R); MSS Huntington donat. 1-35.

Administrative / Biographical History

Robert Huntington (1637-1701) was educated at Merton College, Oxford, where he took his degree in 1658, and of which he was elected a fellow in 1663. He became a chaplain to the Levant company at Aleppo in 1670, and remained in the East for over ten years. He acquired many manuscripts for Narcissus Marsh, Thomas Marshall, and for Bishop Fell, whilst also building up a great oriental collection of his own. See the Dictionary of National Biography for details.

Access Information

Entry to read in the Library is permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card (for admissions procedures see http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk).

Acquisition Information

Huntington gave MSS. Huntington donat. 1-35 to the Library in 1678, 1680 and 1683. The Library purchased the remaining manuscripts in 1693.


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. 3738-72, 5748-6374, vol. V, nos. 30877-80.

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, Arabic Mohammedan, and Coptic sections.

A. Nicoll Catalogi codicum manuscriptorum Orientalium Bibliothecae Bodleianae pars secunda, Arabicos complectens (Oxford, 1835). See the Arabic Christian, Arabic Mohammedan, and Samaritan Arabic sections.

A. Neubauer and A.E. Cowley Catalogue of the Hebrew manuscripts in the Bodleian library, and in the College Libraries of Oxford, 2 vols., Catalogi Codd. MSS. Bibliothecae Bodleianae pars xii, (Oxford, 1886-1906), vol. 1. More recently, a 'Supplement of Addenda and Corrigenda', which has to be used in conjunction with Neubauer's Catalogue, was published (Oxford 1994).

Robert Payne Smith Catalogi codicum manuscriptorum Bibliothecae Bodleianae, pars vi: codices Syriacos, Carshunicos, Mendaeos, complectens (Oxford, 1864).

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. 1-3.

Alternative Form Available

The Hebrew manuscripts have been microfilmed by the Institute for Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts in Jerusalem. They are also available at the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York.


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.