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The Near East Collections at Princeton University Library: HOME

This guide will introduce you to the history and scope of our Near East Collections here at Princeton University Library, and will also give you the basic tools you will need to start navigating the Collections themselves.

Near East Collections Curator

James Weinberger
Firestone B-15-P

Tel: (609) 258 3279

Special Collections Assistant (Near East)

Kim Leaman
Firestone B-5-J

Tel: (609) 258 5307



If you have general suggestions for this Library Guide, please make them here or email James Weinberger directly.


WELCOME Hoşgeldiniz مرحبا بكم ברוכים הבאים خوش آمدید

This guide will introduce you to the history and scope of our Near East Collections here at Princeton University Library, and will also give you the basic tools you will need to start navigating the Collections themselves. 

Some text within the box descriptions of this guide has been taken from websites and online guides; other descriptions were written by K. E. Leaman or Princeton University Library staff.

NEC locations for summer-fall 2016

Firestone Library Renovation: Stack Access Update

Posted: Wednesday, 15 June 2016 - 10:15am

The next phase of the Firestone renovation will begin soon and is expected to last through the fall semester.  Areas of active construction will include some parts of the general collection and the NEC (Near East Collection) on C floor. Active construction zones must be closed off for safety, but we have identified the most heavily used portions of these parts of the collection and have moved them to other areas so that they can remain open and accessible. Materials in the less-frequently used call number ranges (listed below) will stay where they are, and will be securely protected from damage by heavy plastic sheeting. They will not be available for general browsing until completion of this phase of the construction work, around the end of the fall semester. 

Collections sections to remain in active construction zone:

  • A-AZ
  • Q-ZA
  • (NEC) A-BL
  • (NEC) BT-DR
  • (NEC) DT-KA
  • (NEC) KG-VM
  • (XL) 

Fortunately, we’ve been able to arrange a means for you to continue to access any materials you may need from these sequestered call number ranges.  Our catalog records for these items will have a prominent PAGING REQUEST button which will cause our staff to go into the construction zone and pull out the books you need. (Paging requests can also be submitted via email to or made in person at the Circulation Desk).  We've coordinated with the construction workers to allow for specific periods when our paging staff will be able to go into the closed zones to retrieve your wanted books. They will retrieve requested books three times per day, Monday through Friday during the summer.

Items requested (online, via email, or in person) any time before 3:00 pm (weekdays) will be available for you to pick up at Circulation no later than 5:00 pm the same day (and often much sooner). If you have not picked up a requested book by the end of the same day, you will receive an email reminder that your book is available for you at Circulation.


Pyne Library (c.1910)

Photo: Courtesy of Princeton University Library. Reference: Princeton University Archives. Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. Princeton University Library.

The Princeton University Library's Near East Collections begin with the remarkable collection of Islamic manuscripts assembled and donated to Princeton by Robert Garrett (class of 1897). From 1899-1900, Garrett helped organize and finance an archaeological expedition to Syria, led by Howard Crosby Butler (Class of 1892).  The expedition solidified his passion for the collection of Near Eastern manuscripts, of which he collected 10,000 titles in Arabic, Persian and Turkish.  In 1942, Robert Garrett gave to Princeton his superb collection of manuscripts, and then added the gift of the Yahuda Collection in 1943, which contains over 5,000 medieval Arabic items. 

The Collections continued to grow under the tenure of Enno Littmann, a professor of Oriental languages and librarian of what was then called the Oriental Collections. They were expanded further with the generous bequests of the personal libraries of Rudolf-Ernest Brunnow, a professor of Semitic Philology, and Egyptologist David Paton.  By 1965, the Islamic Collection had become the best in North America, thanks to the efforts made by Rudolph Mach, curator of the Near East Collections from 1955-1977.

For more information on the history of our Near East Collections and Princeton's Department of Near Eastern Studies, click here.

For a general overview of the history of Princeton University Library, click here.


Harvey S. Firestone Memorial Library (2011)

Photo: Courtesy of Princeton University Facilities.

Today the Garrett Collection is one of the most important scholarly resources of the Princeton University Library's Near East Collections, and accounts for two-thirds of what is considered to be the greatest collection of it's kind in North America. In addition to manuscripts, the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) holds papyri and calligraphy collections, cuneiform tablets, stone seals, a numismatic collection, and modern and personal papers relating to the Near East. 

As of 2012, there are more than 457,596 printed volumes in the Near East book Collection, making it one of the largest collections of Near Eastern research materials in the United States.  The Near East Collections also boast a sizable periodicals collection of contemporary serials and newspapers that are acquired on a regular basis from around the world.  The library currently receives over 2,000 active serial publications relating to the Near East. The Library's holdings in this field in Near Eastern and Western languages combined exceed 500,000 volumes.

Princeton University Library is committed to making many of their collections available to a worldwide audience, and is involved in digital initiatives for its own collections, as well as for the collections of other institutions around the world.

To learn more about some of the current digital initiatives for Near East collections in which the University Library is involved, click on the links below.

Princeton Middle Eastern Film Posters Digitization Iniative - NEW

Yemeni Manuscript Digitization Initiative, International Workshop Program (PDF) -  May 9-10, 2012

Princeton Digital Library of Islamic Manuscripts

Peck Shahnamah Goes Online - March 27, 2012

Yemeni Manuscript Digitization Initiative


Copyright for all images in this Library Guide lies with the named individual or institution. Permission to use these images must be requested from the relevant source.