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Iranian Language collections (excluding Persian)

Collection Details

Iranian Language collections (excluding Persian) held at Asian and African Studies [Institution record]

Description of Collection

Content description

The Old and Middle Iranian language collections consist of Avestan, and Pahlavi material mostly from India, and Khotanese, Sogdian and Middle Persian manuscript material from Central Asia. Also included in this section, although an Indo-European language rather than Iranian, is the Central Asian Tocharian collection.

The Modern Iranian language collections include Pashto (printed books and manuscripts), Kurdish (books, periodicals, and a few manuscripts), Ossetic (books) and Baluchi (books).

History and development

The holdings, like most of those in oriental languages in OIOC, comprise three elements: material collected by the India Office Library prior to 1982; material collected by the British Museum Department of Oriental Printed Books and Manuscripts prior to 1973; and subsequent acquisitions of the British Library era.


The most important of these holdings are the rare manuscript texts in the Stein and other collections.

The Kurdish and Pashto manuscripts also include several rare items, including the Gorani (Persian dialect spoken by Kurds) anthology Or. 6444. A number of the Pashto books are rarities. Most editions and facsimiles of Old and Middle Iranian texts can be found at the B.L Some current UK periodicals and newspapers in Kurdish are received by copyright.

General arrangement and access regulations

The collections are largely organised by language in sections comprising manuscripts, printed books, periodicals and newspapers.

Subjects of the Collection

Regions of Asia

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



Languages of material

Avestan, Baluchi, Khotanese, Kurdish, Ossetian; Ossetic, Pahlavi, Pushto, Sogdian.


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

Collection Material and Size of Collection

Material Types

Books, Manuscripts, Newspapers (includes microfilm editions), Serials.

Total size of collection


Size of collection - vernacular

Avestan: mss. 44 (includes Pahlavi); printed books c.200. Pahlavi: printed books. c. 200. Khotanese: mss. and fragments c. 2480. Ossetic: printed books c.20. Sogdian: mss c. 60. Tocharian: mss c. 800. Pashto: mss. c. 130; printed books c. 750. Kurdish: printed books c 300. Baluchi: printed books c. 20.

Collection Management Information

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

Annual intake

20 monographs

Content date range

0 to 0 AD

Collection Catalogue Information


Details of the Sogdian, Khotanese, Middle Persian and Tocharian mss from the Stein and Hoernle collections are or will be available on the International Dunhuang Project Database. The following card catalogues are available: Card catalogue of Pashto printed books. Card catalogue of Kurdish printed books. Card catalogue of Iranian printed books (other languages, but not New Persian).

Catalogue transliteration schemes

OPAC: Library of Congress romanization (Kurdish, Pashto)

Collection printed catalogues

Iranian manuscripts in the Library of the India Office.
Dhalla, M.N.
In: Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, April, 1912, pp 387-98.

Catalogue of two collections of Persian and Arabic manuscripts preserved in the India Office Library.
Ross, E. Denison, and Browne, E. G.
London, 1902.

Die soghdischen Handschriftenreste des Britischen Museums.
Reichelt, H.
Heidelberg, 1928-31.
2 vols.

The Buddhist Sogdian texts of the British Library.
MacKenzie, D.N.
Leiden, 1976.

The Sogdian fragments of the British Library.
Sims-Williams, N.
In: Indo-Iranian Journal, vol. 18 (1976), pp. 41-82.

Documents turco-sogdiens du IXe-Xe siècle de Touen-houang.
Sims-Williams, N. and Hamilton, J.
London, 1990.

Codices Khotanenses.
Bailey, Sir H. W.
Copenhagen, 1938.

Khotanese texts.
Bailey, Sir H. W.
Cambridge, 1945-67.
6 vols.

Khotanese Buddhist texts.
Bailey, Sir H. W.
London, 1951.
Rev. ed. Cambridge, 1981.

Saka documents.
Bailey, Sir H. W.
London, 1960-68.
4 portfolios and 1 text vol.

Catalogue of Pashto manuscripts in the libraries of the British Isles.
Blumhardt, J.F. and MacKenzie, D.N.
London, 1965.

Catalogue of the Hindi, Panjabi, Sindhi and Pushtu printed books in the Library of the British Museum.
Blumhardt, J. F.
London, 1893.

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