Persian, Sanskrit and Arabic manuscripts collected by James Fraser

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 161 MSS. Fraser 1-16, 18-122, 124-80, 182-98, 200-12, 214-65, 268, 272, 274-5, 277; MSS. Fraser Sansk. 1-41
  • Dates of Creation
      14th-18th century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      Persian, Sanskrit, Arabic, Turkish, Gujarati, and Hindi.
  • Physical Description
      306 shelfmarks

Scope and Content

Persian, Sanskrit and Arabic manuscripts, with a little material in Gujarati, Hindi and Turkish, collected by James Fraser, 14th-18th century. Many of the Persian manuscripts are said to have once belonged to the royal library of Isfahan. Fraser's Sanskrit manuscripts, forty-one in number and all post-Vedic, were the earliest collection in that language which came into the possession of Oxford University.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Fraser (1713-54), of the East India Company, was an author and collector of oriental manuscripts. 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

Acquisition Information

The manuscripts were transferred to the Bodleian Library in 1872.


Collection level description created by Susan Thomas, Department of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts.

Other Finding Aids

A card catalogue, arranged by language, located in the Oriental Reading Room contains brief descriptions of manuscripts.

Many of the Fraser manuscripts are included in 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. 1-2.

The Indic language manuscripts are described in Theodor Aufrecht, Moriz Winternitz, A.B. Keith Codices Sanscriticos complectens, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1864-1909), vol. 1. See also A.B. Keith Catalogue of Sanskrit manuscripts in the Bodleian Library : appendix to vol. 1 (Oxford, 1909).

Custodial History

The manuscripts were amassed while Fraser was in the employ of the East India Company early in the eighteenth century. At the end of his book, History of Nadir Shah (London, 1742), Fraser gives a list of about 200 oriental manuscripts, including Zend and Sanskrit, which he had purchased at Surat, Cambay, and Ahmedabad. He claimed that his 'Sanskerrit' manuscripts formed 'the first collection of that kind ever brought into Europe', though single Sanskrit manuscripts had reached England and France before this. After his death his oriental manuscripts were purchased from his widow by the Radcliffe Library at Oxford.