Information Services


Collections for Islamic and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Edinburgh

Main collections (monographs, journals and DVD films)

The University Library has a good collection of printed resources on Islamic and Middle Eastern studies, ranging from monographs, journals, manuscripts and electronic databasesThere are over 23,000 monographs on a wide range of subjects about the whole region and various countries.

The bulk of the collections are mainly in English and some in other Western languages. Importantly, there are about 9,000 printed books in Arabic, 2,600 in Persian and 1,500 in Turkish.

There are about 180 journal titles on various subjects of the area, of which 80 are in electronic format (titles like country reports from Business Source Premier included). Current subscriptions consist of 11 titles in print and 10 in electronic format.

The Serjeant & Watt Collections

The collections contain around 6,400 titles on a wide range of subjects such as Islamic law, Islamic and medieval philosophy, the relationship between Islam and Christianity, history of the Arab world and Arabic literature. They are located on the 4th floor of the Main Library.

There is an extensive collection of the Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram al-yawmi 1876-1930, with indexes for certain parts, in the Centre for Research Collections (CRC).

The Main Library holds about 100 DVD films in Arabic or Persian languages. They are all listed in the catalogue and available for short loan. To get a list of all these DVDs, do the Boolean search using the following search terms:

(Arabic OR Persian) AND (DVD OR videorecording)

It is also possible to retrieve DVD films by or on a particular country, for example, by using the following search term:

(Iran OR Iranian) AND (DVD OR videorecording)

Electronic resources

The Library also provides access to several important online indexing, reference and full text databases for Arabic and Islamic studies, including 12,500 Arabic e-books in three Kotobarabia Arabic e-Library collections.

Class Library

The University’s Islamic and Middle Eastern subject area (within the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures) has a good class library called the Islamic Library, located on the first floor of 19 George Square.

It is generally for the use of postgraduates and staff, as most of its holdings are in Arabic, Persian and Turkish, or else are advanced research, on such topics as modern and classical literature, Islamic history, religious studies, modern Middle Eastern politics and history.

There are a fair number of canonical texts in original language editions.


The Library has over 650 manuscripts in oriental languages.

A large part of the Oriental Manuscript Collection consists of Arabic and Persian manuscripts, of which there are 429 in the Special Collections in the Main Library, and 102 in the New College Library.

Arabic manuscripts include commentaries on the Koran; traditions of the Prophet and Imam; prayers; law, general history and biography; medicine, mathematics, philosophy and ethics; and, grammar, rhetoric, poetry, prose, tales, dictionary, and controversy.

Persian manuscripts include theology, history, biography, and travel; mathematics and astronomy; ethics, poetry, music, composition and proverbs, tales and romances; grammar and dictionary; and, agriculture and war.

The Collection includes two of the significant treasures of the Library, namely the World history of the Mongol vizier Rashid Al-Din, which illustrates parts of the life of the Prophet Muhammad, and the chronology of ancient nations of Al-Biruni, both of which were written in Arabic in Tabriz in Persian circa 1307 A.D.

A detailed description of the Arabic and Persian manuscripts is found in Hukk, Mohammed Ashraful, et al., A descriptive catalogue of the Arabic and Persian manuscripts in Edinburgh University Library (Hertford: Printed for the University of Edinburgh by S. Austin & sons, Ltd, 1925. viii, 454p ; 23 cm, while R. R. Serjeant’s A handlist of the Arabic, Persian and Hindustani MSS. Of New College, Edinburgh (London: Luzac & Co., 1942) contains a detailed list of the manuscript holdings in the New College Library.

Information on these manuscripts can also be found in the Archives Hub's oriental manuscript collection.