The Rare Books Collection (now housed in Rare Books and Special Collections, McLennan-Redpath Building, 4th floor) contains many early printed books and lithographs, as well as 226 volumes of manuscripts. Among the early printed books published in Europe there are at least six dating from the 16th century, 36 titles printed in the 17th century and some 144 from the 18th century. Specimens of early Arabic typography include 16 items published in the early 18th century in Constantinople (Istanbul) by the celebrated Turkish printer Ibrahim Müteferrika, and a sizeable number of Bulaq imprints. Furthermore, the ISL has a collection of approximately 700 books printed by lithography in the 19th and early 20th century in Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Iran and India. The first catalogue covering Arabic lithographed books was published in 1996 (see Fontanus Monograph Series and Publications).
Mishkat al-masâbîh (Ms 48, dated 1162/1748).The manuscript collection consists of texts in Arabic (126 vols), Ottoman Turkish (68 vols) and Persian (31 vols). Though small in size, this collection is rich in shi`ite texts. There are 127 individual Arabic texts alone, with Jurisprudence, Philosophy and Theology accounting for over 50% of them. Among the manuscripts there is a beautifully calligraphed collection of prayers (Majmû` ad`iyah), mostly by the famous Sufi master 'Abd al-Qâdir al-Jîlânî (d.561/1167) executed in 1094/1683, an illuminated copy of Man lâ yahduruhu al-faqîh by Ibn Bâbûyah (d.381/991) copied in 993/1585, and a recently acquired early 12/18th century composite codex executed for Sharaf al-Dîn al-Haymî (d.1140/1727).
These and other Arabic and Persian manuscripts held by McGill Library (namely Rare Books and Special Collections, Blacker-Wood and Osler libraries) are described in the journal Fontanus and in two catalogues published in the Fontanus Monograph Series. The most outstanding examples of the arts of the book from McGill collections are also included in Treasures of Islam (published in 2003 on CD-ROM).