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Near & Middle East and North Africa excluding Hebrew and Judaica

Collection Details

Near & Middle East and North Africa excluding Hebrew and Judaica held at Wellcome Library [Institution record]

Description of Collection

Content description

Based on the collections brought together by Sir Henry Wellcome and augmented with primary and secondary sources relevant to the study of medicine and allied subjects. Travel, topography, ethnography and the social and religious history of the region as well as Islamic calligraphy and examples of early Arabic and Ottoman typography are also preserved. Egyptian papyri are the earliest documents in the Wellcome Library dating from 1100 BC.

History and development

The core of the collection brought together by Sir Henry Wellcome is varied in content. Acquisitions over the last thirty years have been more focused on the library’s main interest in medical history and the cultures of the region, Moslem and Christian and the ancient Near East.


Arabic Manuscripts.

Persian Manuscripts.

Islamic calligraphy.

Christian Orient (small but significant collections of Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Georgian, Karshuni, & Syriac manuscripts).

Egyptian papyri

Western language material includes many travel journals and collections of correspondence; also writings on the history of ancient medicine, including Egyptian, by members of Wellcome Library staff in the early 20th century. Items worth listing individually include: Charles Tilstone Beke (1800-1874), explorer of Abyssinia: journals, notebooks, correspondence and other papers (1849-1867 and n.d.) (MSS.6834-6835, 6841-6848, 6852-6856, 7330); Thomas Hodgkin (1798-1866), physician and philanthropist, papers include material on travels in Morocco, papers on Cyrenica, and sample of Egyptian linen (1817-1866) (WMS/PP/HO/D); Dominique Jean Larrey, Baron Larrey (1766-1842), Surgeon-in-Chief of the Napoleonic army, letters to his wife including some sent during Egyptian campaign (1797-1801) (MS.5316); Admiral Horatio Nelson, Viscount Nelson (1758-1805): letters and other documents relating to Nelson’s ships, squadrons and fleets, grouped chiefly around the year of the Battle of the Nile and the years commanding the Mediterranean Fleet (1780-1805) (MSS.3667-3681); French army in Egypt: inventories, muster returns, accounts, intelligence reports and despatches (1798-1799) (MS.7036); Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), nursing pioneer: photocopies of letters held at other repositories, including series of letters written from Egypt and descriptive notes (1849-1850) (MSS.9017-9018); Sir Charles Fellows (1799-1860), traveller and archaeologist: letters, drafts and illustrations of architecture, antiquities, costume etc. in Asia Minor (1835-1871 and n.d.) (MSS.5634 & 6959); Sir Thomas Barlow (1845-1945), physician: journal of a tour of Egypt and Palestine (1868) (WMS/PP/BAR/A/2-3); Charles George Gordon (1833-1885), Major General, letters and papers on his service in Egypt and the Sudan (1874-1884) (MSS.6894-6898, 6900); Clare M. Fox (fl.1899), songs and hymns extracted from ancient literatures, including Egyptian (1899) (MS.8078); Ebers papyrus: ancient Egyptian work on healing, translated into German by Dr. H. Joachim and thence into English by Arthur Hopkirk (1903) (MSS.2272-2279); William St Chad Boscawen (1854-1913), various articles on ancient medicine, including Egyptian (1910-1912) (MS.8857); Arthur Edward Pearse Brome Weigall (1880-1934), drawings of ancient Egyptian statues and motifs from murals, etc.; also of plants and birds, from nature that occur in ancient Egyptian art (early 20th century) (MS.8398); Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie (1853-1942), archaeologist: lectures on Egyptology (1912-1913) (MS.3856); C.J.S. Thompson (1862-1943), Librarian, Wellcome Historical Medical Museum: history of ancient Egyptian medicine and science (c.1915) (MSS.8442-8443); Family Planning Association: correspondence with foreign countries includes Aden, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, 1950s-1960s (SA/FPA); International Confederation of Midwives: correspondence with member associations includes Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Malta and Turkey; and non-member associations in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, 1970s-1980s (SA/ICM); Queen’s Nursing Institute: District Nursing Overseas ‘Countries’ files include Iran, Israel, Kuwait Oil Company, Malta, 1940s-1960s (SA/QNI); Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene: papers include Sir Philip Manson-Bahr’s copy of report on malaria in Egyptian Expeditionary Force, 1918 (WTI/RST); Sir Ernst Boris Chain (1906-1979), papers include files as consultant to National Iranian Oil Co, 1970s, re the Iran Society, 1978 (PP/EBC); Sir Robert Macintosh (1897-1989): correspondence with anaesthetists in Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Malta, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, and United Arab Republic, 1960s-1970s; travel diaries of visits to Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, 1950s-1960s (PP/RRM); Cicely Delphine Williams (1894-1992): papers as Head of Maternal and Child Health Services, WHO, relating to seminars and projects in the Near and Middle East generally, 1940s-1960s; rural women’s development, Iran, 1966; visit to the Trucial States, 1966; and from her period as visiting professor, American University of Beirut, Lebanon, 1960-1964 (PP/CDW); Royal Army Medical Corps Muniment Collection (RAMC): diaries, manuscripts etc. include material on Egypt, Malta, the Middle East and Turkey.

Prints, drawings and paintings of ancient and modern Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Holy Land, Turkey: extensive collection of works by 18th-20th century historical artists including: Richard Dalton, Luigi Mayer, L.F. Cassas, Marcus Tuscher, G.B. Belzoni, Achille Prisse, Amadeo Preziosi, Louisa Lady Tenison, Frederik Norden, G.A. Hoskins, Dominique Vivant-Denon, Henry Salt, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, Carl Haag, David Roberts, Charles Vacher, O.B. Carter, C. Lasinio, Frederick Goodall (collection of drawings), Mrs Alec-Tweedie (watercolours of the Nile), François Paris, Carl Werner, J.F. Lewis (large watercolour of bazaar, Constantinople), Antoine-Ignace Melling (panorama of Constantinople), Augustus Osborne Lamplough (watercolours), A. MacCallum (large watercolour), Dudley Hardy, J.B Vanmour and followers (paintings and prints of Turks), etc.

Drawings, paintings and prints related to Florence Nightingale and the Crimean War

Cyprus: photographs by John Thomson, 1878

Photographs of Egypt by Abdullah Frères, Beato, Bonfils, F. Frith, W. Hammerschmidt, G. Lekegian, J.P. Sébah, D.S. George, Elijah Walton. Photographs of Egyptian fellahin life by Winifred Blackman, 1920s/1930s.

Photographs of the Sudan by Sir R.G. Archibald (album), and others.

Part of the collection of Arabic medical manuscripts of Dr Sami I Haddad (1890-1957)

Tunisia: watercolours by C. Gülin

Ethiopia and Eritrea: aquatints by Henry Salt

Photographs of the nude, ca. 1900, including works from Cairo, Port Said, etc.

Saudi Arabia: prints of sacred subjects (the Ka’bah, Mecca, tomb of the Prophet, Medina etc.)

Persian gouache and lacquer paintings of historical and mythical subjects

Oil painting of the parable of the mote and the beam by Minus (Minas) M. Zorab (New Julfa, Isfahan,1833-1896)

Holy Land and Egypt: New Testament history (extensive subject-based collection of prints and drawings)

Secondary medical and scientific literature published over the last two hundred years reprinted in limited editions by the Institute for the History of Arabic-Islamic Science at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, in the Medicine Series and in several other series.

General arrangement and access regulations

Open access : Western language material post 1850 printed books arranged according to Barnard (modified) classification system.

Closed access : oriental printed books, western books printed before 1850, manuscripts oriental & western, iconographic collections oriental & western and calligraphy collection.

Subjects of the Collection

Regions of Asia

Near & Middle East and North Africa.


Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Cyprus, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Yemen.

Languages of material

Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, Egyptian (Ancient), English, French, Geez, Georgian, German, Greek, Modern (1453-), Italian, Latvian, Persian, Syriac, Turkish, Turkish, Ottoman (1500-1928).


Agriculture, Anthropology, Archaeology, Arts, Communication and media, Development, Economics, Education, Geography, History, International relations, Language, Law, Literature, Medicine, Philosophy, Politics and government, Religion, Science and technology, Sociology, Travel, Women.

Languages as linguistic focus

Arabic, English, French, German, Greek, Modern (1453-), Persian.

Names relevant to the collection:

  • Rhazes (865-925)
  • al-Majusi (fl. 10th cent.)
  • Avicenna (980-1037)
  • Ibn Jazla (d.1100)
  • Ibn an-Nafis (d.1288)
  • Ibn al-Baytar (d.1248)
  • Family Planning Association
  • International Confederation of Midwives
  • Queen’s Nursing Institute
  • Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
  • Royal Army Medical Corps
  • Hodgkin, Thomas (1798-1866)
  • Larrey, Dominique Jean, Baron Larrey (1766-1842)
  • Horatio, Admiral, Nelson, Viscount Nelson (1758-1805)
  • Nightingale, Florence (1820-1910),
  • Fellows, Sir, Charles (1799-1860)
  • Barlow, Sir, Thomas (1845-1945)
  • Petrie, Sir, William Matthew Flinders (1853-1942)
  • Chain, Sir, Ernst Boris (1906-1979)
  • Macintosh, Sir, Robert (1897-1989)
  • Williams, Cicely Delphine (1894-1992)
  • Beke, Charles Tilstone (1800-1874)

Collection Material and Size of Collection

Material Types

Archival materials (includes non-published & mixed material), Books, Manuscripts, Serials, Theses, Visual materials (includes photographs, prints, drawings, videos & films).

Total size of collection

5,000 volumes 1,500 manuscripts c.8,500 Western MSS, with relevant materials scattered through them c.550 archive collections, with relevant materials scattered through them circa 5,000 paintings, drawings, prints and photographs

Size of collection - vernacular

1,500 manuscripts 1,000 printed books unknown number of paintings, drawings, prints and photographs

Size of collection - western

4,000 printed books c.8,500 manuscripts, with relevant materials scattered through them c.550 archive collections, with relevant materials scattered through them unknown number of paintings, drawings, prints and photographs

Collection Management Information

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

Annual intake

c. 500 printed books, several manuscripts a year. Variable number (fewer than 100 items) of iconographic documents

Content date range

0 to 0 AD

Interlibrary loan procedure

The Wellcome Library is a Reference library only, apart from ILL.

Co-operative agreements

  • Informal arrangements with British Library, Oriental & India Office Collections regarding acquisition of oriental manuscripts.
  • The Library is an Associated Institution of the School of Advanced Study, University of London, and an Associate Member of the Consortium of University Research Libraries (CURL).

Collection policy

Collection Policy: The Wellcome Library has a collection policy for secondary post 1850 printed books which it collects to support medical history in its widest context of social history in all languages relating to every age and part of the world. Collection policies for other parts of the Library are under development.

Retention policy

Retention Policy: Post 1850 printed books not retained include multiple copies except those of particular value or significant provenance. These are deselected, offered to other potentially interested libraries and if not required, discarded.

Collection Catalogue Information


Uses software from Innovative Interfaces Inc. Allows searches of whole database including bibliography of works not held, or of specific sections, e.g. oriental manuscripts in particular languages only, western manuscripts and archives only, printed books only, pictures only. Contains records for most of the Library's printed books: journals and a small number of oriental printed books (still on cards) are still to be added. It includes some 50,000 records of iconographic material. A database describes the majority of western manuscripts and archives; a programme to convert old printed or typed catalogues of this material is well advanced. Where a catalogue has not yet been converted to electronic form the hard copy is available for consultation.

Catalogue transliteration schemes

Pin yin (Chinese); Hepburn (Japanese); LC for all other printed oriental material. Published catalogues of manuscripts vary

Collection printed catalogues

A descriptive and analytical catalogue of Persian Manuscripts in the Library of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine.
Keshavarz, Fateme.
London, 1986.

Catalogue of Ethiopian Manuscripts of the Wellcome Institute of the History of Medicine in London.
Strelcyn, Stefan.
in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 35(1), 1972, pp. 27-54.

C’uc’ak hayeran jeragrac’ Londoni Velk’om Instituti gradarami.
Nersessian, Vrej.
in Banber Matenadarani, 15, 1986, pp. 317-338.

Syriac fragments in the Wellcome Institute Library.
Allan, Nigel.
in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1, 1987, pp. 43-47.

Egyptian Manuscripts in the Wellcome Collection.
Quirke, S.G.J. & Tait, W.J.
in The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 80, 1994, pp. 145-158.

Catalogue of Western Manuscripts on Medicine and Science in the Wellcome Historical Medical Library.
Moorat, S.A.J.
London: Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, 1962-1973.

Catalogue of Western Manuscripts in the Wellcome Library for the History & Understanding of Medicine: Western Manuscripts 5120-6244.
Palmer, Richard.
London: The Wellcome Library for the History & Understanding of Medicine, 1999.

Middle eastern photographic collections in the United Kingdom.
Grant, Gillian.
Durham: Middle East Libraries Committee, 1989.

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