Oriental manuscripts of Sir Kenelm Digby

Scope and Content

Sir Kenelm Digby's oriental manuscripts, 14th-17th century, including 31 Arabic and 5 Hebrew manuscripts. The Arabic material covers a number of subjects, including astrology, history, literature, magic, medicine and religion; the Hebrew manuscripts are all 14th century.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Kenelm Digby (1603-65) was the younger son of Sir Everard Digby, who was executed in 1605 for complicity in the Gunpowder Plot. He entered Gloucester Hall at Oxford in 1618, but left in 1620 and never took a degree. Until 1629 he was chiefly engaged in foreign travel, or as a naval commander. He lived a wandering life till he died on 11 June 1665. 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

Given to the Library by Sir Kenelm Digby in 1639.


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. 323, 380, 393-4, 399-402, 404-9, 412-4, 416, 427, 436, 443-4, 449, 452, 457, 461, 469-71, 479, 538, 560, 610, 626, 628-9.

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 Mohammedan section.

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

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).

Custodial History

In 1639 Digby sent Laud 36 oriental manuscripts for the Bodleian, but they became mixed with the Laudian gift of 1640, and were registered by accident as Laud's gift. They were not recognised as Digby's until 1656, and not separated from the Laudian manuscripts until about 1885.

Related Material

Digby's manuscripts in western languages are held by the Department of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts (MSS. Digby 1-233, 234a-c, 235-7; Digby Rolls 1-5).


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.