SOAS University of London

The Collections

Yale University possesses one of the World's largest and richest academic libraries and is among the World's leaders in digitising Arabic manuscripts and OCR text conversion of Arabic script.

SOAS is much smaller, but is probably the biggest collection of its type specialising in the study of the whole of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Its library has a comparatively small collection of manuscripts but has extensive collections of rare materials in both Western languages and the vernaculars of the areas of its interest.

Choice of materials

In choosing the works for digitisation, we have prioritised works of high intellectual value, in order to underscore the value of the materials in terms of benefits in areas of teaching and learning. We have reviewed together the MSS catalogues and dictionaries held by both libraries. We narrowed our selection by prioritising 1) out-of-copyright resources, in order to avoid the time-consuming efforts needed for seeking copyright permission, 2) titles with
missing volumes, so that we can join collections digitally as a result of this project.

The collection at SOAS, approximately 400 Arabic manuscripts and 400 Persian manuscripts, was catalogued before the World War II by A. J. Arberry, and the proofs of the catalogue were shipped to Beirut in 1939. Unfortunately they did not survive the war, and the School has only Arberry’s notes and some galley proofs of the catalogue. In 1980, Adam Gacek worked up the
entries for the Arabic manuscripts with latter additions into a catalogue which was published in a limited edition in 1981, and again in 1985 with corrections. There is no complete catalogue of the Persian manuscripts. We have therefore made a selection of Persian manuscripts from the SOAS collection.

Ganj al-ganj

Ganj al-Ganj
This is an early 18th century Persian work which is in the nature of a scrap book of favourite passages copied from much earlier manuscripts. As an example of treasures can be hidden away in obscure manuscripts, Sandy Morton, a former lecturer in Persian at SOAS believes that this manuscript contains quatrains by Omar Khayyam not previously known to scholarship.