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Mingana Collection of Middle Eastern Manuscripts

Collection Details

Mingana Collection of Middle Eastern Manuscripts held at Information Services: Special Collections (Archives and Manuscripts) [Institution record]

Description of Collection

Content description

The manuscripts are mostly on religious subjects, although the Islamic Arabic ones include philology, literature and science. The Islamic mss include fragments of Kufic Qur'ans, Qur'an commentaries, Hadith, law, and mysticism. The Syriac manuscripts include works on church documents, gospels, works on liturgy, lives of saints and homilies. Among the earliest Syriac items are a number of important fragments originating from St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai. The Arabic Christian ones include a fragment of the oldest known text of the Acta Thomae, and a very early copy of works by St. Ephrem.

There are manuscripts in 11 languages in 9 different scripts, ranging from 6th - 19th centuries, with a few Arabic papyri dating from earlier periods.

History and development

Sponsored by Edward Cadbury, the Collection was founded between the years 1924 and 1929 with manuscripts collected by Alphonse Mingana from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Upper Egypt. The Arabic and Syriac collections are described in a 4 volume published catalogue. Initially housed in the Library of the Selly Oak Colleges, the Collection moved into the Orchard Learning Resources Centre in 1997. The other language collections are mostly catalogued, but in article form published in various, mostly periodical publications. A catalogue of the Persian and Turkish manuscripts are in preparation.


The Christian manuscripts are important for Christian Theology, Church History in general, and the history of Eastern Christianity in particular. This collection includes the largest collection of Christian Arabic manuscripts in Europe after the Vatican and the Bibliotheque Nationale.

The manuscripts include a small number of excerpts of translations of Greek and Latin scientific/medical texts.

The whole collection is also important from paleographical perspective in terms of use of different mediums, vellum, parchment, early use of paper; examples of early bindings showing Middle Eastern binding techniques; and how a book is put together - the book as an artefact, a work of art.

General arrangement and access regulations

The Collection comprises of Middle Eastern manuscripts, although there are several Indian examples as well, arranged by language and within each language by shelf number.

Access is by appointment with Special Collections Department. This information is available on the Department's website.

Subjects of the Collection

Regions of Asia

Near & Middle East and North Africa, South Asia.


Armenia, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria.

Languages of material

Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, Georgian, Hebrew, Persian, Syriac, Turkish, Ottoman (1500-1928).


Agriculture, Anthropology, Archaeology, Communication and media, Development, Economics, Geography, History, Language, Law, Literature, Religion, Science and technology, Travel.

Languages as linguistic focus

Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, Georgian, Hebrew, Persian, Samaritan Aramaic, Syriac, Turkish, Ottoman (1500-1928).

Names relevant to the collection:

  • Mingana, Alphonse (1878 - 1937)
  • Cadbury, Edward (1873 - 1948)

Collection Material and Size of Collection

Material Types

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

Total size of collection

3061 manuscripts, 67 lantern slides of Coptic monasteries in Egypt, 14 clay tablets, 10 seals, c.70 coins.

Size of collection - vernacular

Arabic Islamic: c. 2000 manuscripts, including fragments, Arabic Christian: 274 manuscripts, Syriac: 660 manuscripts, Armenian: 5 manuscripts, Coptic: 1 manuscript, Ethiopic: 5 manuscripts, Georgian: 8 manuscripts, Hebrew: 44 manuscripts, Persian: 29 manuscripts, including 4 framed illuminations, Samaritan: 2 manuscripts, Ottoman Turkish: 33 manuscripts

Size of collection - western

Archival material: c. 30 files (These include archives of Mingana, the Collector; archives of curators administering the collection, and their research notes).

Collection Management Information

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

Annual intake

Approximately 100 new acquisitions of archives and manuscripts are received each year. These range in size from single items to major collections of upwards of 20 linear metres. Asian Studies material, where it falls within our collection policy, is added to our holdings of archives and manuscripts whenever the opportunity arises.

Content date range

1000 to present

Interlibrary loan procedure

Collection policy

A collection policy is currently in preparation which will be made available electronically. The following is a summary statement of our subject collection strengths which form the basis of the future development of our archive and manuscript collections: British politics; English literature and drama; Christian education and mission; theology and church history; public and local government administration; history of sport.

Collection Catalogue Information


Printed catalogues (4 vols) describe the main sections. Catalogue of the Mingana Collection of Manuscripts, I-III (Cambridge: Heffer, 1933-1939). [vol.I Syriac; vols II-III Christian Arabic and Syriac]. Derek Hopwood, Catalogue of the Mingana Collection of Manuscripts, IV (revised edition, Zug: IDC, 1985). [Islamic Arabic]. The catalogues and full-text manuscripts of the Arabic and Syriac mss are also available on microfiche from IDC Publishers. P.O.Box 11205, 2301 EE Leiden, The Netherlands. Tel. (31) 71 5 142700; Fax. (31) 71 5 131721. E.mail:

Collection printed catalogues

Catalogue of the Mingana Collection of Manuscripts, I-III.
Cambridge: Heffer, 1933-1939.
Vol.I Syriac; vols II-III Christian Arabic and Syriac.

Catalogue of the Mingana Collection of Manuscripts, IV.
Hopwood, Derek.
Zug: IDC, 1985.
Revised edition. Islamic Arabic.

Links to other collections

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