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Islamic Manuscripts

Liaison librarian

  • Sean [dot] Swanick [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Email) 514-398-6787

The Islamic manuscripts fall into three groups: Arabic, Persian and Turkish. The Arabic manuscripts, some thirty-three codices, are mostly Qurans and tracts on Sufism and Shi’ite sects. In addition, there is a collection of over two hundred pieces of Arabic calligraphy. There are some thirty-five Persian codices, primarily poetry, and about a hundred separate leaves, many containing miniature paintings. Among the latter is one leaf dated to the thirteenth century and a leaf from the Demotte "Shahnama", c. 1350. There are also four Turkish manuscripts, two Malay manuscripts as well as a small number of Urdu and Hindustani manuscripts.

Articles about Islamic Manuscripts held at McGill University


Gacek, Adam. (1989). Arabic Calligraphy and the 'Herbal' of al-Ghâfiqî: A Survey of Arabic Manuscripts at McGill University. Fontanus vol.II, 37-53.

Gacek, Adam. (1990). Early Qur'anic Fragments. Fontanus vol.III, 45-64.

Gacek, Adam. (1991). A Collection of Qur'anic Codices. Fontanus vol. IV, 35-53.

Gacek, Adam and Ali Yaycioglu (1998). Ottoman-Turkish Manuscripts in the Islamic Studies Library and Other Librarians of McGill University. Fontanus vol. X, 41-63.

Gacek, Adam. (1991). Arabic Manuscripts, Fontanus Monograph Series I: McGill University Libraries Arabic Manuscripts, Fontanus Monograph Series I: McGill University Libraries. (Printed version held at the Islamic Studies Library; Call number: Z6605 A6G28)

Gacek, Adam. (1996). Arabic lithographed books in the Islamic Studies Library, McGill University: descriptive catalogue (Printed version held at the Islamic Studies Library; Call number: Z3013 M465)

Gacek, Adam. (2005). Persian manuscripts in the libraries of McGill University: brief union catalogue. Montreal, McGill University Libraries (Printed version held at the Islamic Studies Library; Call number: Z6605 P4 G28 2005)

Gacek, Adam. (2013). Strokes and hairlines : elegant writing and its place in Muslim book culture : an exhibition in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University.

[Ivanow, Wladimir]. "List of Oriental manuscripts, lithographed, and printed medical books presented in 1927 by Dr. Casey A. Wood." Bibliotheca Osleriana. A catalogue of books illustrating the history of medicine and science collected, arranged and annotated by Sir William Osler, BT. and bequeathed to McGill University. Montreal and London, 1969: 701-703.

Lowry, Glenn. "Persian_Manuscript_Leaves" (Unpublished. 1977)

Swanick, Sean. (2012). Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī (1058-1111) : an exhibition held in the Humanities & Social Sciences Library, McGill University : August 15, 2011-March 31, 2012.

Swanick, Sean. 'Of making books there is no end: Islamic Manuscripts on the Web.' College & Research Libraries News, 72, no. 7 (2011): 416-419.

Treasures of Islam. Art and design in Islamic manuscripts (= Trésors de l'islam = Kunûz al-Islâm). CD-ROM. Montreal, Graduate School of Library and Information Studies. McGill University, 1999.

Watson, William J. "The C.A. Wood collection of Oriental manuscripts." A dictionary catalogue of the Blacker-Wood Library of Zoology and Ornithology. Boston, 1966: 681-684.

-----. "Ibrahim Müteferrika and Turkish incunabula." Journal of the American Oriental Society, 88, no. 3 (1968): 435-441.


McGill Digital Collections

Shahnameh exhibition, held in the Islamic Studies Library in 2011.

Never hence would I die for I am alive/ having sown the seeds of poetry

Islamic Calligraphy exhibition, held in the Islamic Studies Library in 2011

Beautiful calligraphy ensures entrance to Paradise

McGill Catalogue: Persian Manuscripts

The links below reflect only those Persian Manuscripts included in McGill University's catalogue. The Persian Manuscripts are held at the Rare Books and Special Collections department in the McLennan Library, with the exception of the Osler collection which are held at the Osler Library.

Islamic Manuscripts Catalogues held at the Islamic Studies Library

Islamic Manuscripts: Research resources

Islamic Manuscripts online resources and collections

  • Arabic Papyrus, Parchment and Paper Collection
    University of Utah. The collection includes a significant number of documents from the pre-Ottoman period and thus offers unique source material on the political, economic, religious and intellectual life of Egypt during the first two centuries of Islamic rule and the period up to Ottoman domination.
  • The Book of Curiosities, Oxford University
    The Kitāb Gharāʾib al-funūn wa-mulaḥ al-ʿuyūn, known as the Book of Curiosities is a treatise extraordinarily important for the history of science, especially for astronomy and cartography, and contains an unparalleled series of diagrams of the heavens and maps of the earth.
  • The Chester Beatty Library Islamic collection
    Located in Dublin, Ireland the library maintains an excellent Islamic collection including a notable Ibn al Bawwab Qur'an.
  • Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas: Digital Manuscripta
    A digital collection of Arabic, Hebrew and Aljamiados manuscripts. The website is predominantly in Spanish.
  • A catalog of Arabic manuscripts in the Oriental Institute of Chicago
    This is a listing of the University of Chicago Library Middle East Department's holdings of manuscript copies on microfilm and microfiche.
  • Daiber Collection Database
    The Arabic Manuscripts in the Daiber Collection Institute of Oriental Culture, University of Tokyo.
  • Digitized Arabic Manuscripts at the American University of Beirut
    The Jafet Library at AUB holds a number of valuable Arabic Manuscripts.
  • Dr. Youssef Ziedan for Heritage and Manuscriptshas a website giving facsimiles of over 50 Arabic manuscripts and the ability to search the catalogues of five manuscript collections in northern Egypt.
  • Durham University Library Oriental Manuscripts
    A miscellaneous group of documents originally collected by Durham University Oriental Library.
  • European Cultural Heritage Online (ECHO)
    ECHO is holds a collection of scientific Islamic Manuscripts as well as many other types of manuscripts.
  • Fihrist: Oxford and Cambridge Islamic Manuscripts Catalogue Online
    This is an online catalogue of manuscripts held at Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
  • Filāḥa Texts Project: The Arabic Books of Husbandry
    The purpose of the Filāḥa Texts Project is to publicise and elucidate the written works collectively known as the Kutub al-Filāḥa or ‘Books of Husbandry’ compiled by Arab, especially Andalusi, agronomists mainly between the 10th and 14th centuries
  • Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation
    The al-Furqan Foundation aims to document and preserve the Islamic written heritage. It pursues this aim principally though its work in surveying, imaging, cataloguing, editing and publishing Islamic manuscripts.
  • The Ghafiqi Project, McGill University
    McGill University. The Osler Library of the History of Medicine, McGill University, houses one of the most remarkable medieval Arabic manuscripts on simple drugs, popularly known as the “Herbal of al-Ghafiqi.”
  • Garden of Islamic Manuscripts
    Links to catalogs and digitized Arabic and Persian manuscripts, mostly held in Iran.
  • Illuminated Islamic Manuscripts, Yale University
    This site contains a listing of new acquisitions at Yale University of Islamic Manuscripts. Moreover, the site links to some of the exhibitions held at Yale.
  • Indiana University Collections
    From Pen to Printing Press is a permanent exhibition illustrating Indiana's Islamic Manuscripts collection as well as offering a nice overview of the history of Islamic printing.
  • Islamic Art Collection
    The David Collection in Copenhagen, Denmark spans from the 8th century to the 18th. The Islamic works of art are elucidated from three different perspectives: Islamic art organized chronologically and geographically, Islamic art grouped according to material, and Islamic art presented in its cultural context. .
  • Islamic Heritage Project
    Harvard University has cataloged, conserved, and digitized hundreds of Islamic manuscripts, maps, and published texts. These rare and frequently unique materials are now freely available to Internet users worldwide.
  • Intute Islamic Manuscripts Collection
    Intute has 11 web links to additional resources and online collections of Islamic Manuscripts.
  • Islamic Manuscripts, University of Leiden
    This site's ambition is to provide students and scholars, librarians and collectors, in short everyone who is interested in Islamic manuscripts, with a professional and functional platform of their own.
  • Islamic Manuscripts Collection, University of Michigan Library
    The project involves the creation and exposure of digital surrogates and catalog records for 1,250 manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish dating from the 8th century AD to the 20th. With over half of the contents dating from before 1800, the collection contains historical manuscripts of rich textual significance, many of which are also very beautiful in their decoration and bindings.
  • Islamic Manuscripts Collection
    Princeton University Library: The project includes digitizing 200 of 9,500 Islamic manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish and other languages of the Muslim world written in Arabic script. The manuscripts date from the 9th to the 19th centuries.
  • King Saud University (KSU) Digitized Islamic Manuscripts
    KSU offers a number of digitized Islamic manuscripts, most of which are Hanafi Islamic law texts.
  • München, Staatsbibliothek, arabische Handschriften.
    This site has a wonderful selection of fully digitised Arabic manuscripts all of which one is able to download into a pdf.
  • National Library of Medicine, Islamic Manuscripts. A copious amount of manuscripts on and about medicine. The site also includes a detailed glossary.
  • Rational Sciences in Islam: An Initiative for the Study of Philosophy and the Mathematical Sciences in Islam
    McGill University. The project studies the rational sciences in Islam investigating the philosophical, scientific, and theological traditions of Islam in a holistic manner. The primary goal is to increase our understanding of how Muslim scholars and the various publics making up Islamic societies explored the world through rational means, and the products and consequences of those explorations.
  • Sabancı University Sakıp Sabancı Museum Arts of Book and Calligraphy Collection includes copies of the Koran, prayer books, calligraphic compositions in the kıt'a form, calligraphic albums, calligraphic panels, hilyes, imperial firmans and berats bearing the royal tuğra (imperial cipher) by renowned calligraphers dating from the late 14th to 20th centuries, and calligraphy tools and equipment.
  • The Sana'a manuscripts
    Samples of Sana’a Qur’an manuscripts, UNESCO: The site illustrates the evolution of Arabic calligraphy as evident in a set of rare manuscripts that belong to the Yemenite antiquities and manuscripts organization.
  • Sanskrit and Persian Literary Cultures Online (compiled by Audrey Truschke) Contains a plethora of links to manuscript digital surrogates around the world.

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