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Robertson Smith Collection

Collection Details

Robertson Smith Collection held at University of Cambridge Christ's College Old Library [Institution record]

Description of Collection

Content description

The collection contains approximately 2000 volumes of printed and manuscript works, most relating to the history of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religions throughout North Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. The collection also reflects Robertson Smith's lively interest in the history, languages, art, folklore, and architecture of these regions. A broad range of languages is represented, including (inter alia) Hebrew, Arabic, Coptic, Syriac, Persian, Aramaic, Greek, Kurdish, Turkish, and Chaldaic. Most works date from before 1894, when the collection was acquired, though some twentieth-century books have been added.

History and development

The collection was acquired by the college in 1894, at the death of William Robertson Smith. Since then it has grown modestly from time to time through further gifts and through a small endowment.


The collection is particularly strong in nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century scholarship on the history of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim peoples.

General arrangement and access regulations

The collection is kept in closed-access shelves, housed in the Old Library of the College. It is arranged broadly by subject. Access to the collection is via the card catalogue.

Subjects of the Collection

Regions of Asia

Central Asia and the Caucasus, East Asia, Near & Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, South East Asia.


Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Yemen.

Languages of material

Arabic, Aramaic, Armenian, Coptic, Egyptian (Ancient), English, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Persian, Kurdish, Malagasy, Mongolian, Nepali, Pali, Persian, Persian, Old (ca.600-400 B.C.), Phoenician, Samaritan Aramaic, Sanskrit, Semitic (Other), Spanish, Syriac, Tibetan, Turkish, Turkish, Ottoman (1500-1928), Ugaritic, Urdu.


Anthropology, Archaeology, Arts, Geography, History, Language, Literature, Philosophy, Religion.

Names relevant to the collection:

Robertson Smith, William, 1846-1894

Collection Material and Size of Collection

Material Types

Books, Manuscripts, Serials.

Total size of collection

About 2,000 volumes

Collection Management Information

The collection is being actively developed, and the average intake has stayed the same.

Annual intake

A budget of 700 per annum is disbursed on a range of serials and books

Content date range

1850 to present

Collection Catalogue Information


A card catalogue is available in the Old Library, Christ's College. A small number of recent acquisitions can be searched on the Cambridge University Library's Union Catalogue,

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