Arabic Manuscripts and Maps

When the Bodleian Library opened in 1602 there was already a manuscript copy of the Qur’an in the collections (MS. Bodl. Or. 322, not yet digitized), which had been given to Sir Thomas Bodley by John Wrothe, an English diplomat, in 1601. In the early 17th century, there was a renewed interest in Arabic Studies in their own right (and not just as an adjunct to Biblical Studies) in European Universities and Oxford was no exception. The collections of scholars such as Archbishop William Laud (Chancellor of the University) and Edward Pococke (the first Laudian Professor of Arabic at Oxford) added substantial Arabic and other Oriental material to the Library’s holdings. Highlights include MS. Pococke 400, a 14th-century copy of Kalīlah wa-Dimnah (that is, the Arabic version of the Fables of Bidpai), andMS. Pococke 375, a copy of al-Sharīf al-Idrīsī’s Book of Roger. A second, partial copy of the Book of Roger is held under shelfmark MS. Greaves 42.

Other major 17th-century collections include those of Robert Huntington, whose highlights include MS. Huntington 212 - a fine 12th-century illustrated copy of al-Ṣūfī’s Book of Fixed Stars, and MS. Huntington 264, a book on the military arts made for the treasury of Saladin.

The largest single, named collection of Arabic manuscripts, that of Archbishop Narcissus Marsh, was bequeathed to the Library in 1714. This collection includes MS. Marsh 144 - a second illustrated copy of al-Ṣūfī’s Book of Fixed Stars, and MS. Marsh 294 - a copy of al-Ṣifāqsī’s 16th-century Portolan Atlas.

Other digitized material which is not part of any named collection includes a glorious Safavid era (mid-16th-century) copy of the Qur’an (which once belonged to Tīpū Sulṭān of Mysore) at MS. Bodl. Or. 793; the extraordinary 15th-century astrological compilation made in Jalāyirid Baghdad known as Kitāb al-Bulhān at MS. Bodl. Or. 133; and one of the most recent acquisitions of the Library - MS. Arab. c. 90 – the remarkable cosmographical treatise known as the Book of Curiosities