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Iranian studies

Collection Details

Iranian studies held at SOAS Library [Institution record]

Description of Collection

Content description

There are about 15,000 monographs in this part of the collection, of which some 10,000 are in Modern Persian (Farsi), and 3,000 in Western languages on Iran. There are also separate holdings of periodicals, maps, sound recordings, manuscripts, unpublished theses and electronic resources.

History and development

Modern Persian is a classical language of the Middle East second only to Arabic in importance, having been an official and cultural language for Empires in the Middle East, Central Asia and India. Material in it has been a significant part of the Library’s holdings from its inception.

Other modern Iranian languages of importance include Pushtu, Kurdish and Tajiki. Ancient Iran also falls under the Islamic Middle East Section, and ancient Iranian languages like Avestan and Pahlavi are of significance.


The collection had developed in parallel with the School’s research and teaching requirements. As a central part of classical Orientalist studies, the religious, legal, historical, linguistic and classical literatures are very well represented . Study of all aspects of Modern Iran and modern Persian literature are taught, as well as Iranian linguistics, both ancient and modern. The Library specialises in Persian language material and books on Iran in Western languages, under the MELCOM specialisation scheme.

General arrangement and access regulations

Mainly open access. Older monographs (pre-1880 publications), archives, manuscripts and microforms are closed access.

Post 1880 monographs are arranged in two sequence, vernacular and Western language publications.

The Western language collections are arranged by countries. Within these country and regional groupings the collections are arranged by subject. The vernacular materials are arranged by subject.

The exceptions are the law and the art and archaeology collections which are held in the relevant subject sections of the Library.

Subjects of the Collection

Regions of Asia

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


Afghanistan, India, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan.

Languages of material

Avestan, Baluchi, English, French, Iranian (Other), Judeo-Persian, Kurdish, Pahlavi, Persian, Persian, Old (ca.600-400 B.C.), Pushto, Sogdian, Tajik.


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

Languages as linguistic focus

Avestan, Baluchi, Iranian (Other), Judeo-Persian, Kurdish, Pahlavi, Persian, Persian, Old (ca.600-400 B.C.), Pushto, Sogdian, Tajik.

Collection Material and Size of Collection

Material Types

Archival materials (includes non-published & mixed material), Audio materials (includes cassettes & CDs), Books, Manuscripts, Maps (includes all types of cartographic material), Newspapers (includes microfilm editions), Official publications, Serials, Theses.

Total size of collection


Size of collection - vernacular

10,000 volumes in Persian, 560 volumes in Tajiki, 400 volumes in Kurdish, 280 volumes in Pushto, 80 volumes in Baluchi, 650 volumes in Ancient Iranian languages

Size of collection - western

3,000 volumes

Collection Management Information

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

Content date range

1600 to present

Interlibrary loan procedure

Co-operative agreements

  • MELCOM scheme: responsibility for publications in Arabic from North Africa and publications in Persian from Iran.
  • SCOLMA scheme: includes responsibility for African languages, Algeria, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan and Tunisia, as well as other countries south of the Sahara.
  • University of London agreements:
  • a) Siberian languages, including Eskimo and Aleut
  • b) Asian language texts on Middle Eastern Archaeology
  • c) Byzantium in Asian and African languages and works on the Asian and African aspects of Byzantine history
  • d) Descriptive works on the minor Finno-Ugrian languages
  • e) Law. Asian and African law in Western, Asian and African languages, including current legislation and law reports, with special responsibility for South Asian law.
  • British Library agreement

Collection policy

The Library aims to acquire the important contributions to Asian and African scholarship published anywhere in the world in the humanities and social sciences, as well as representative collections of literature written in Asian and African languages. It aims to be responsive to changing interests and new developments; at the same time it bears in mind its role as a leading national and international resource for Asian and African studies. For the text of the policy apply to the Director of Library and Information Services.

Retention policy

At present all material is retained with the following exceptions: outdated editions of teaching texts, multiple copies of teaching material no longer used, material for which there is no evident demand, material which has been replaced by microform, unless it is of historic value. Academic advice is normally sought before a decision is taken. Apply to the Director of Library and Information Services for further information.

Collection Catalogue Information


The online library catalogue offers access to all material acquired since 1989 and a substantial part of the material collected prior to that date. Work to add records for the earlier collections from the card catalogue is ongoing and by the end of 2002 all material acquired since 1979 will be included as well as significant parts of the rest of the collection. For those who cannot access the card catalogue on site the Library's catalogues have been published (details below).

Catalogue transliteration schemes

Since 1989 all records have been created using the current Library of Congress transliteration schemes, with the exception of Japanese which uses Modified Hepburn. As records are added to the online catalogue the transliterated records are being updated to these schemes.

Catalogue scripts

The current cataloguing and some of the earlier records for the following languages contain author and title fields in the relevant script: Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, Ladino, Persian, Yiddish.

Links to other collections

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