Princeton Digital Library of Islamic Manuscripts
Princeton Digital Library of Islamic Manuscripts









The Princeton University Library has some 9,500 Islamic manuscripts, chiefly bound paper codices, containing a total of more than 20,000 texts. The manuscripts are located in the Manuscripts Division of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, at the Harvey S. Firestone Memorial Library. Robert Garrett (Princeton Class of 1897) collected approximately two-thirds of these manuscripts and donated them to the Library in 1942. Since then, the Library has continued to acquire manuscripts by gift and purchase. The manuscripts are chiefly in Arabic but also include Persian, Ottoman Turkish, and other languages of the Islamic world. They date from the early centuries of Islam through the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Most of the manuscripts originated in Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and other main centers of Islamic civilization. But there are examples from Moorish Spain and the Maghreb in the West, to the Indian sub-continent and the Indonesian archipelago in the East, and even sub-Sahara Africa.

Snippet from a ManuscriptSubject coverage is broad and comprehensive, including theology based both on Qur’ān and tradition (hadīth); Islamic law (fiqh); history and biography (especially of the Prophet and other religious leaders); book arts and illustration; language and literature; science; magic, and the occult; and other aspects of the intellectual and spiritual life of the Islamic world and its diverse peoples. Representative works of virtually every important Muslim thinker are present. Although textual manuscripts are predominant, there are also illuminated Qur’āns and Persian literary works, including five Safavid and Qajar manuscripts of Firdawsī's Shāhnāmah, the Persian national epic, as well as Persian and Mughal miniatures. In addition to these collections of Islamic manuscripts, the Manuscripts Division also holds Arabic papyri and documents, calligraphy collections, and modern personal papers relating to the Near East. Supporting research in this area are some 300,000 printed volumes in the Library's Near Eastern Studies circulating collections.

The Library has long been committed to making these collections available to researchers worldwide, with access provided by published catalogs, principally those compiled by Philip K. Hitti (1938), Mohammed E. Moghadam and Yahya Armajani (1939), Rudolf Mach (1977), and Rudolf Mach and Eric L. Ormsby (1987). Thousands of additional manuscripts, including most of the Persian and Ottoman Turkish holdings, are briefly inventoried in a "Preliminary Checklist of Uncataloged Manuscripts in the Princeton University Library" (2004). For scanned versions of the printed catalogs of Arabic manuscripts, as well as the checklist and lists of recent accessions, visit the Islamic Manuscripts page.

The Princeton Digital Library of Islamic Manuscripts is a major component of the Islamic Manuscripts Cataloging and Digitization Project, a four-year project under the overall direction of Don C. Skemer, the Library's Curator of Manuscripts, and made possible by generous support from the David A. Gardner '69 Magic Project.

Snippet from Manuscript ArtworkProject staff are creating online bibliographic records, including both original MARC-format cataloging and brief bibliographic records based on existing printed catalogs. More than two-thousand bibliographic records for Islamic manuscripts cataloged in are now searchable in the Princeton University Library's online catalog.

  • For reference assistance, photoduplication, and permission to publish/broadcast, contact
  • Fee schedules for photoduplication and permissions are posted online
  • For further information about the Islamic Manuscripts Cataloging and Digitization Project, contact Don C. Skemer, at