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Islamic Manuscripts

Princeton has the largest collection of Islamic manuscripts in North America and one of the finest such collections in the Western world. The Princeton University Library holds some 11,000 volumes of Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish manuscripts. While the world of Islamic learning is the chief emphasis, there are also illuminated Qur'ans, Persian illustrated manuscripts and miniatures, and other examples of Islamic book arts. Among the most famous examples of Persian painting are the 16th-century Peck Shahnamah and Muin Musavvir's 1673 portrait of the Safavid-era painter Riza 'Abbasi.

The Princeton Digital Library of Islamic Manuscripts provides 200 fully digitized Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish manuscripts. Click here for access to the digitized manuscripts. From this webpage, click on "View the Digital Library" and select any of the 200 manuscripts, which are listed both alphabetically and by subject and genre.

For published descriptions of manuscripts, see (1) Philip K. Hitti, Nabih Amin Faris, and Butrus 'Abd al-Malik, Descriptive Catalog of the Garrett Collection of Arabic Manuscripts in the Princeton University Library, Princeton Oriental Texts, vol. 5 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1938); (2) Mohammed E. Moghadam and Yahya Armajani, under the supervision of Philip K. Hitti, Descriptive Catalog of the Garrett Collection of Persian, Turkish and Indic Manuscripts Including Some Miniatures, Princeton Oriental Texts, vol. 6 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1939); (3) Rudolf Mach, Catalogue of Arabic Manuscripts (Yahuda Section) in the Garrett Collection , Princeton University Library, Princeton Studies on the Near East (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977); and (4) Rudolf Mach and Eric L. Ormsby, Handlist of Arabic Manuscripts (New Series) in the Princeton University Library, Princeton Studies on the Near East (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987). These four printed catalogs and the unpublished checklist supersede earlier printed catalogues or descriptions by Enno Littmann (1904), Nicholas N. Martinovich (1926), and Ernest Cushing Richardson and Nabih Amin Faris (1934).

Thousands of additional Islamic manuscripts (including most of Princeton's approximately 2,000 Persian and 900 Ottoman Turkish manuscripts) are described in the Preliminary Checklist of Uncataloged Islamic Manuscripts in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library (2004). For a checklist of a recently acquired collection on Arabic calligraphy, go to William J. Trezise Collection of Arabic Calligraphy. For descriptions and selected digital images of Arabic papyri at Princeton, go to the Princeton University Library Papyrus Home Page. Early printed Islamica in the Rare Books Division may be searched online in the Princeton University Library Main Catalogue.
For digital images of 277 Persian miniatures in five illustrated Shahnamah manuscripts, dating from 1544 to 1674, in the Manuscripts Division, go to "The Princeton Shahnama Project" at
< http://www.princeton.edu/~shahnama/>The manuscripts include Garrett Islamic MSS. 56G, 57G, 58G, and 59G, which were the gift of Robert Garrett, Class of 1897; and the "Peck Shahnamah" (Islamic Manuscripts, Third Series, no. 310), which was bequeathed to Princeton in 1983 by Clara S. Peck, the sister of Fremont C. Peck, Class of 1920.

Islamic manuscripts at Princeton include various non-Islamic religious texts in Arabic and other languages of the Islamic world. Among the more extensive holdings of such non-Islamic texts are the William McElwee Miller Collection of Bābī Writings and Other Iranian Texts, 1846-1923. This collection is part of Islamic Manuscripts, Third Series, no. 1-47. The collection contains 47 bound volumes of Bābī, Bahai, and other texts in Arabic and Persian, which were purchased by William McElwee Miller (1892-1993), a Presbyterian clergyman and missionary in Iran from 1919 to 1962. This collection has been digitized, largely from microfilm, and is being made available online by the Library as a service to scholarship. File sizes are large (30-590 MB) and may take some time to download. The files are available in the finding aid which lists the individual volumes and texts in this collection. Researchers may also be interested in two other collections within the Manuscripts Division: William McElwee Miller Papers (C0385) and Jalal A. Azal Papers (C0384). Also included with the digitized manuscripts are notes by Sa`id Khan Kurdistani, the former owner of the Bābī collection, concerning about half the volumes (from the Miller Papers).

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