Scope and Contents
This collection consists of over 700 manuscripts pertaining to the Islamicate world and South Asia, dating from the 10th to 19th centuries C.E. (the majority being post-1500). Chiefly bound paper codices, it includes sacred texts of importance to the Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh faiths, Qur’anic commentaries, Traditions of the Prophet Muhammad and the Shi’i Imams, works treating Islamic law, world history, the history of India, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, astrology, divination, philosophy, ethics, grammar, rhetoric, dictionaries, poetry, prose, tales and romances, proverbs, travel, music, agriculture and war. It also includes biographies, and correspondence between Indian rulers and dignitaries, and East India Company officials.
Some of the collection’s manuscripts are among the most iconic items found at the University of Edinburgh Library, such as Qur’anic fragments in Kufic script on vellum, dating to around the 10th century (Os Ms 175), Rashīd al-Dīn’s Jamī al-Tawārīkh (Or Ms 20) and al-Bīrūnī's al-Āthār al-bāqiya (Or Ms 161), both richly illuminated examples of Islamic historiography dating to the 14th century C.E., and an 18th century Sanskrit scroll of the Hindu Mahābhārata featuring miniature illuminations and measuring over 70 metres (Or Ms 510).
The grouping together of these items as one collection is the legacy of the route by which they reached the Library. It includes the vast majority of items formerly known as the "Oriental Collection"; the large donations that formed its basis were from the collections assembled by employees of the East India Company. This resulted in the collection incorporating material relevant to the Islamicate, largely gathered in South Asia, intertwined with items relevant to the Hindu and Sikh faiths, and the culture and history of South Asia more generally. The Turkish component of the collection includes manuscripts acquired in Astrakhan, with several early Ottoman texts. The items retain their "Or Ms" shelf mark to avoid creating a gap in the memory of their history. All catalogue records include the available provenance data. Research in this area is ongoing and such information will be expanded to include all details attesting the route of these items into the University of Edinburgh’s collections.
Language of Materials
Mainly in Persian and Arabic, but also Turkish, Sanskrit, Bengali, Hindustani, Malay, Panjabi, Prakrit, Syriac and Urdu.