About the Middle East & Central Asia Collection

  • Print Collection

    The print collections include material on:
    The Middle East (including Egypt)

    • The Arab World
    • Iran (ancient and modern)
    • Turkey and the Ottoman Empire
    • The Caucasus
    • Afghanistan and Central Asia
    • Material in and about Arabic, Persian, Turkic and Caucasian languages and dialects
    • Islam (general and within the region)
    • Zoroastrian, Bahaist, Christian and Jewish communities within the region

    The following sections contain material that may also be of interest:

    We welcome suggestions for new purchases from Library members. Please complete the recommendation forms .

  • Print Collection classmarks and location

    In SOAS, classmarks are composed of a:

    LETTER CODE (for language, country or topics) +
    SUBJECT (Dewey Decimal Number) +
    3 first letters of authors (optional) +
    ITEM NUMBER (unique to each item)

    Eg: P892.736HAQ/913826 = Fiction in Arabic (or translated from the Arabic) from the 20th century by Yaḥyá Ḥaqqī.

    P = Arabic material
    892.7 = Arabic literature
    3 = fiction
    6 = 20th century
    HAQ = first 3 letters of author’s surname
    / 913826 = Item number

    Selected list of letter codes in use in the Middle East and Central Asia collections

    NB. Books prefixed L or Ref are separately located


    Class Mark

    Middle East NB
    Central Asia O-OX
    Islamica N
    Abkhazia OCA
    Arabs NR
    Arabian Peninsula NC
    Arabian Gulf Region NK
    Armenia OC
    Azerbaijan OD
    Caucasia O
    Caucasian peoples OH
    Crimea OJ
    Daghestan OAC
    Egypt NE
    Ex-Ottoman colonies NSA-NSF
    Georgia OG
    Iran NT
    Iranian Peoples NV
    Iraq NQ
    Jordan NN
    Kurdistan NU
    Lebanon NO
    Mediterranean Islands QU
    Oman NJA
    Palestine QJA
    Saudi Arabia NL
    Southern Yemen NH
    Spain (Andalus) NX
    Syria NP
    Tatarstan OUB
    Turkey NS
    Turkic peoples OX
    United Arab Emirates NJ
    Yemen NG


    Class Mark

    Arabic P
    Arabic dialects PA
    Armenian PE
    Azerbaijani PRB
    Caucasian languages PG
    Epigraphic Arabian PB
    Georgian PJA
    Iranian languages PL
    Maltese PC
    Modern Persian (Farsi) PM
    North Caucasian languages PH
    Other Iranian languages PN
    Persian dialects PMA-PMF
    South Caucasian languages PJ
    Turkic languages PP-PU
    Turkish PRA
    Uralo-Altaic languages PV-PWF

    Full list of letter codes for the Middle East & Central Asia

    For a full listing of classmarks and their location, please see the Location List

    Offsite Collections

    Part of the collection is held in offsite storage. See the Location List for details of classmarks.

    For further information regarding off site material please click here.

  • Reference Collection

    The print reference collections are shelved in separate sequences and their classmark bear the prefix REF . Check the location list for details.
    They include:
    • Atlases & Gazetters
    • Biographies & Directories
    • Catalogues of Manuscripts
    • Encyclopaedias & Dictionaries

  • Notable Collentions

    The SOAS collections relating to the Middle East and Central Asia are unique in that while the British Library and the Bodleian Library at Oxford University have similar coverage, only SOAS Library keeps the bulk of its materials on open access and thus available to browse or borrow.

    The Islamic Middle East covers a very wide area both geographically, stretching over three continents, and linguistically, with languages that are spoken from the western tip of North Africa to the farthest reaches of Siberia.

    For more information see SOAS Library: Why is it special?

    Yale-SOAS Islamic Manuscript Gallery (YS-IMG) Digitization Project
    This project was a pilot to create an archive of and a gateway to Islamic manuscripts.  The materials selected comprise important manuscripts, related manuscript catalogues and language dictionaries held separately in their two library collections.  The digital collection is now available via the SOAS Digital Archives and Special Collections website

  • Special Collections
    Manuscripts and rare books

    The Library possesses over 400 Arabic manuscripts, some 400 Persian and 45 Turkish, and a few in Coptic and Ethiopic.  Some of these are especially rare and beautiful, the finest example being perhaps Husayn Va’iz Kashifi’s Anvar-i Suhayli which contains 27 exquisite Persian miniatures.  Other manuscripts are interesting for their illustrations and calligraphy, particularly some of the Qur’an, and for their history, such as the Persian Guide of Kings composed by Jeronimo Xavier, S.J., and addressed to the Mughal Emperor, Jahangir, in 1609 A.D.

    In addition, the Library was able to acquire microfilm copies of the remaining five books needed to complete its holdings of the limited editions from the press of that most fascinating printer, Ibrahim Muteferrika, a Hungarian by birth who fell into slavery but later became the founder of the very first Turkish press in Istanbul in 1729.

    The personal bookplate of Ras Tafari (afterwards Emperor Haile Selassie I) is to be found on several early printed Ethiopian works.

    Rare Persian map collection
    A significant collection of specialist maps of Persia has been donated to the Centre for Iranian Studies at SOAS by Dr Cyrus Ala'I in early 2013.

    Personal papers

    In recent years the Library has been building up its collections of unpublished documents and records, in addition to individual manuscripts and such papers as came with original collections like those of William Marsden.  The extensive missionary records which have been received are concerned with areas other than the Middle East, but some personal archives should certainly be noted.

    • The Paget Collection comprises papers of William Paget, sixth Lord Paget, Ambassador Extraordinary to Turkey, 1693-1702 and 1705-06, and were deposited on permanent loan by the Marquess of Anglesey in 1964.
    • The papers of Lt.-Col. D.L.R. Lorimer (1876-1962) cover historical, geographical and particularly linguistic topics arising out of his career in India and southern Persia.
    • The archives of General Fereydoun Djam (1914-2008) were donated to the Library Special Collections in 2012. They are composed of publications, manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, audio cassette tapes, artwork, artefacts, and span over five decades (ca.1950-2002), hence bringing great support to Iran historiographical studies.
  • Journals

    Check the Library Catalogue and eJournal and eBook finder for more information.

    See the Access to Midleast and Islamic Resources (AMIR) blog for an Alphabetical List of Open Access Journals in Middle Eastern Studies and  for an Alphabetical List of Open Access Historical Newspapers .

    Here is an indicative list of well-established publications on Middle Eastern and Central Asian studies:

    Arab studies quarterly
    Available via EBSCOhost; 1990 onwards


    Available via EBSCOhost; 1999 up to 12 months ago

    British journal of Middle Eastern studies

    Available via JSTOR; 1991 to 3 years ago. Available via EBSCOhost; 1996 to 12 months ago

    Central Asian survey

    Available via EBSCOhost; 1999 up to 12 months ago

    Die Welt des Islams

    Available via EBSCOhost; 1999 up to 12 months ago

    Edebiyat: journal of Middle Eastern literatures

    Available via EBSCOhost; 1997 onwards

    International journal of Middle East studies
    Available via JSTOR; 1970 up to 5 years ago.

    Iran & the Caucasus

    Available via EBSCOhost; 2001 up to 12 months ago

    Iranica antiqua

    Available via EBSCOhost; 2001 up to 12 months ago

    Journal of Arabic literature

    Available via EBSCOhost; 1999 up to 12 months ago

    Journal of Muslim minority affairs

    Available via EBSCOhost; 1996 up to 12 months ago

    Journal of Near Eastern studies
    Available via JSTOR; 1942 up to 5 years ago

    Journal of Near and Middle Eastern Studies

    Published from 2010 onwards by the Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations Students' Union at the University of Toronto, this annual open-access journal showcases undergraduate academic papers on all aspects of the region's history and culture from ancient Mesopotamia to the present day

    Journal of Palestine studies
    Available via JSTOR; 1971 up to 5 years ago; EBSCOhost; 1993 onwards.

    Continued by Middle East report. Available via JSTOR; 1986-1988

    MERIP reports
    Continued by MERIP Middle East report. Available via JSTOR; 1971-1985

    Middle East

    Available via EBSCOhost; 2000 onwards

    Middle East Economic Digest

    Available via EBSCOhost; 2003 onwards

    Middle East quarterly

    Available via EBSCOhost; 1999 onwards

    Middle East report

    Middle East report (continues MERIP). Available via JSTOR; 1988 up to 3 years

    Muslim World

    Available via EBSCOhost; 2000 up to 12 months ago

    Palestine- Israel: journal of politics

    Available via EBSCOhost; 2001 onwards

    MERIA: Middle East review of International Affairs
    Freely available; 1997 onwards