The Oriental manuscripts of Archbishop Laud

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 161 MSS. Laud Or.
  • Dates of Creation
      13th-17th century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      Arabic, Persian, Coptic, Hebrew, Turkish, Telugu, Armenian, Syriac, and Chinese.
  • Physical Description
      286 shelfmarks

Scope and Content

Several languages are represented in Laud's oriental manuscripts. The majority (147) are in Arabic; they include Qu'rans, Qu'ranic commentaries, works on astronomy, language, law, medicine, poetry, proverbs, the occult, a copy of pseudo-Aristotle Secretum secretorum, and several historical texts. There are a further 74 manuscripts in Persian and Turkish, over 40 in Hebrew, as well as a smaller number in Armenian, Balinese, Chinese, Ethiopic, Malay, Syriac and Telugu. Significant items from the minor languages of the collection include a Telugu almanac for the year 1632 (MS. Laud Or. Rolls e. 1), and a Chinese manual of compass directions (MS. Laud Or. 145), c. 14th-15th century. The collection also contains a volume of 18 Ragamala paintings, c. 1615 (MS. Laud Or. 149).

The full shelfmarks of the collection are as follows: MSS. Laud Or. 2-5, 15-30, 32-8, 40-56, 58-67, 69-94, 96-115, 117-29, 131-9, 141-9, 151-2, 156-67, 169-85, 187-225, 227-9, 231-5, 238-41, 243-6, 248-9, 251-3, 255, 258-61, 263, 265, 269-73, 276-301, 303-11, 313-17, 319, 321-7; MSS. Laud Or. Rolls a. 1, b. 1, d. 1, e. 1-2, f. 1, g. 1-2.

Administrative / Biographical History

Archbishop William Laud (1573-1645) was the son of a clothier at Reading. He matriculated at St. John's college, Oxford, in 1589, four years after became Fellow, and was President from 1611 to 1621, when he became bishop of St. Davids. His greater promotions came from Charles I: the bishopric of London in 1628, and the archbishopric of Canterbury in 1633. As Chancellor of the University from 1629 to 1641, he took an active part in its reform and regulation, especially in the preparation of the Laudian Code of Statutes (1636), under which the University lived until 1854. In December 1640 the House of Commons impeached him for treason, but his actual trial did not begin till 12 March 1644; he was beheaded at Tower Hill, London, on the 10th of January 1645. Further details are given in the Dictionary of National Biography.

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 bulk of the manuscripts were given to the Library by Laud, 1633-41.


In 1639 Sir Kenelm 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. These manuscripts were referenced MSS. Laud Or. 1, 6-14, 39, 68, 95, 130, 140, 150, 154, 168, 226, 230, 236-7, 242, 247, 250, 254, 256-7, 262, 264, 267-8, 275, 312, 318, 320; they are now MSS. Digby Or. 1-36.

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. 300-22, 324-31, 333-8, 340, 342, 345-66, 368-79, 381-92, 395-8, 403, 410-11, 415, 417-26, 418-26, 428-42, 445-8, 450-1, 453-6, 457-60, 462-8, 472-8, 480-1, 484, 486, 517-28, 530, 532-7, 539-40, 544, 547, 554-9, 561-87, 589-625, 630-1, 633-4, 681, 685-7, 689, 776, 785, 788-92, 908, 913, 916, 917-9, 922-3, 927, 1017, 1037, 1152, 1226, 1262, 1497, 1527-35, 1537-46, 1599-600.

The manuscripts are also summarily described in the card catalogue, arranged by language, located in the Oriental Reading Room.

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.

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

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

A. Dillmann Catalogus codicum manuscriptorum Bibliothecae Bodleianae, pars vii. Codices Aethiopici (Oxford, 1848).

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

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

There is an unpublished catalogue of Dravidian language manuscripts by Rev. Dr. George Uglow Pope available in the Oriental Reading Room which includes Laud's Telugu manuscript.

Custodial History

The oriental manuscripts in Laud's collection were probably separated from the western material between 1810 and 1812.

Related Material

The Department of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts holds Laud's Greek, Latin and miscellaneous western manuscripts.


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.