Date range: 8th-19th centuries
Number of items:
A notable collection comprising manuscript codices and fragments on papyri, parchment and paper. The collection contains nearly 900 codices, many of which are unique and rare, covering roughly 1,000 years and a wide range of subjects. These include many Qur'ans (among them texts in Early Abbasid scripts from the 9th and 10th centuries AD and a rare 15th-century trilingual version from Mamluk Egypt), other religious material and texts relating to history, law, science, medicine, geography, cosmography, astronomy, astrology, philosophy and literature.
The collection also includes 800 papyri, comprising private letters, tradesmen's and household accounts, receipts for payment of kharaj (land tax), and other documents. The papyri date from the 2nd to the 5th centuries AH (8th-11th centuries AD), the greater number of dated items belonging to the 3rd century AH. The town most frequently mentioned is Ushmunaya, or Ashmûnein, the Greek Hermopolis, whose inhabitants were largely Copts.
The majority of the codices and papyri were acquired by Enriqueta Rylands in 1901 with the purchase of the Crawford collection. There are also almost 1,500 uncatalogued paper and parchment fragments, of which the majority derived from the Genizah of the Synagogue of Ben Ezra in Old Cairo and were acquired in 1954 when the Library purchased the collection of Dr Moses Gaster.
Catalogues of the vast majority of the Arabic manuscripts and papyrus fragments are available via the following pages: