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Near East Collections: Manuscript Resources at Princeton University and Beyond: WORKING WITH SOURCE MATERIALS-PRINCETON

This guide will introduce you to our Near East Manuscript Collections and available resources at Princeton University. The guide also provides useful information and links for other manuscript collections and resources worldwide.


A list of general reference materials has been provided below.  The list focuses on surveys that will lead the researcher to the libraries where specific manuscripts are held.

A link to, a site where you can search five important medieval Arabic dictionaries, has been provided here.


"A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event."-Princeton University RefDesk.


The Department of Special Collections (RBSC) functions as the repository for Princeton's Near East Manuscript Collections and modern and personal papers relating to the Near East Collections.  The Collections include more than 20,000 titles in 11,000 codexes; predominantly in Arabic, but there are also many in Persian and Ottoman Turkish. 

Working with primary source materials, such as manuscripts, requires tools that differ slightly from those used when working with secondary source materials.  Finding aids, databases, preliminary checklists, collection catalogues and descriptive lists have been created to assist researchers in finding materials within each collection.

The manuscripts listed in the catalogs by Philip K. Hitti, Rudolf Mach, and Rudolf Mach & Eric L. Ormsby (99% of the Arabic Manuscripts) are all in Princeton's Main Catalog.  The Persian and Turkish manuscripts of the New Series are cataloged.  For other Turkish and Persian manuscripts (and a few in Indic languages), the Preliminary Checklists for each series should be consulted.  A summary of Princeton's holdings, with links to the checklists, PDF catalogs, and digitized manuscripts, has been provided in this Library Guide.  

Access to the non-circulating collections housed in Special Collections may or may not be limited, and they may only be used within Special Collection's reading rooms.

For more information on RBSC and Princeton's various research tools for locating primary source materials, please click on the links below.


Special Collections Manuscripts Division - holds an estimated 8,500 linear feet of materials covering five thousand years of recorded history and all parts of the world, with special strength in Western Europe, the Near East, the United States, and Latin America.

Special Collections Catalogs, Databases, and Finding Aids - The Department of Special Collections has a wide variety of online reference tools that describe its holdings in varying degrees of detail.

Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library - Descriptions of all collections held at the Mudd Manuscript Library are available online at the Department of Special Collections Finding Aids website.

Near East Collections in Special Collections - include more than 20,000 titles in 11,000 codexes; predominantly in Arabic.  In addition to manuscripts, the Collections also include papyri, calligraphy, cuneiform tablets, stone seals, a numismatic collection, and modern and personal papers relating to the Near East.

Princeton University Geniza Project - Initiated in the mid-1980s, the Computer Geniza Project of the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University seeks to extend the methodologies available to Hebrew, Judaeo-Arabic, and Arabic scholars working with the documents found in the Geniza chamber of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo in the late 19th century.

Shelby White and Leon Levy Archives Center - serves as the Institute for Advanced Study's Archives and documents the Institute's history and the many significant people that have shaped it. We welcome inquiries from both within and outside the Institute community.


"A secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the event. Secondary sources may have pictures, quotes or graphics of primary sources in them."-Princeton University RefDesk.


The Near East book Collection (NEC) at Princeton University Library contains approximately 457,596 printed books in Arabic, Hebrew, Persian and Turkish and is one of the greatest collections of its kind in the United States. 

The Near East Periodicals Collection (PRNE) of contemporary serials and newspapers are acquired on a regular basis from around the world.  The library currently receives approximately 2,000 active serial publications in Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Turkish, Urdu, and many Western languages.

The Microforms Collections parallel the general holdings of selected books, newspapers, manuscripts, government publications, dissertations, and other materials at Princeton University.

The Institute for Advanced Study Libraries - the Historical Studies - Social Science Library contains about 100,000 volumes and has subscriptions to some 1,200 journals. The primary foci include classics, ancient history and archaeology.

Marquand Library of Art & Archaeology is one of theoldest and most extensive art libraries in the United States. 

Reference collections