Oriental manuscripts of Narcissus Marsh

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 161 MSS. Marsh
  • Dates of Creation
      11th-17th century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Coptic, Modern Greek (1453-), Hebrew, Persian, Russian, Sanskrit, Syriac, and Turkish.
  • Physical Description
      724 shelfmarks

Scope and Content

Over 500 of the manuscripts are in Arabic, but the collection also includes some Armenian, Chinese, Coptic, Greek, Hebrew, Persian, Russian, Sanskrit, Syriac and Turkish material. There are astronomical and mathematical works, including an Arabic version of the Conics of Greek geometer Apollonius of Perga (MS. Marsh 667) dated 1070, and Al Sufi's Book of Fixed Stars containing illustrations of the constellations, as well as historical, literary, medical and philologiocal manuscripts.

The full shelfmarks of the collection are: MSS. Marsh 1-3, 5, 8-11, 13-21, 25-93, 95-194, 196 (R), 198-206, 209-351, 353-422, 424-578, 580-694, 696-712, 714, 715 (R), 716-18, 719 (P), 720-7; MSS. Auct. D. inf. 2. 14-15, 17-18, 20; MS. Auct. E. 5.18; MS. Auct. T. vi. 2; MSS. Bodl. 945, 982.

Administrative / Biographical History

Narcissus Marsh (1638-1713) was Archbishop of Armagh and Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. 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

Marsh's oriental manuscripts, with a few Greek and other volumes, were bequeathed to the Library. They arrived in 1714.


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. III, nos. 8969-9710.

There is also a separate card catalogue, located in the Oriental Reading Room, which provides summary descriptions of all Arabic manuscripts in the Library.

J. UriBibliothecae Bodleianae codicum manuscriptorum Orientalium catalogus pars prima (Oxford 1787). See Arabic Mohammedan, Arabic Christian and Coptic sections.

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

Sukias Baronian and F.C. Conybeare Catalogue of the Armenian manuscripts in the Bodleian Library (Oxford, 1918).

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 Pushtu manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, 3 vols. (Oxford, 1889-1953), vols. 1-3.

Theodor Aufrecht, Moriz Winternitz, A.B. Keith Codices Sanscriticos complectens, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1864-1909).

Richard Greentree and Edward Williams Byron Nicholson Catalogue of Malay manuscripts and manuscripts relating to the Malay language in the Bodleian library (Oxford, 1910).

Custodial History

Marsh purchased, through Edward Bernard, 270 of 407 manuscripts formerly belonging to Dutch orientalist Jacob Golius from a sale in Leiden on 16 Oct. 1696. Fourteen manuscripts were puchased from the brothers Cunus, also through Bernard, in 1699; about ten were purchased at around the same time through Dr. Hallifax, and a few others were purchased from the collection left by Dudley Loftus.


A.F.L. Beeston 'The Marsh manuscript of Apollonius's Conica', The Bodleian Library Record, 4 (1965), pp. 76-7.

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.