Yale University Library link to yale university library home page link to EAL page


Near East Collection: Collection Description

Collection Description

Mr. Simon Samoeil, Curator of the Near East Collection, Yale University Library, gives the oral introduction to the Near East collection, in both Arabic and English:

Arabic version


English version

The Near East Collection at Yale University Library is one of the oldest collections in North America. It started with the appointment of Professor Edward Elbridge Salisbury (1814-1901) to teach Arabic and Islamic Studies at Yale University in 1841. To serve the teaching needs Professor Salisbury started collecting what ever available printed and manuscript materials he could find. There weren抰 many printed books in Arabic at the middle of the 19th century because Arabic and Islamic Studies were in their infancy at the European Universities.

In the Islamic World the printing presses were in their beginning. Nevertheless, Professor Salisbury was able to select and collect important books and manuscripts. He laid the foundations of a collection which evolved to become one of the most comprehensive collections in Arabic and Islamic Studies in the United States.

According to Leon Nemoy (1901-1998) the Arabic Collection consisted of:

  1. The collection of professor Salisbury which he donated to the library. Most of this collection was purchased by Professor Salisbury's own money at the sale of the private collection of the French Arabist Silvester de Sacy (1785-1838).
  2. The Collection of the Swedish Arabist Carlo Landberg (1848-1924) of ca 700 volumes which was purchased in 1900 by Mr. MORRIS Ketchhum Jesup.
  3. The open Arabic collection which was acquired by Yale University from various sources. It includes some 300 Arabic manuscripts purchased from the Wellcome Museum in London from the antiquarian book-dealer Hans P. Kraus in New York and sold to Yale University in 1949. A preliminary check list of this collection was compiled by Prof. Landberg.
  4. Arabic books from Egypt donated by the Library of Congress to American Universities which teaches Arabic/Islamic Studies as part of the PL480 Program. At the end of the PL480 Program, the Near East Collection at Sterling Memorial Library continued to acquire Near East Materials using vendors from different countries in the Middle East, North Africa, Iran and Turkey.

The Curator of the Near East & North Africa Collection selects materials from different countries in the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey in Middle Eastern and Western Languages: Books, Serials, Microfilms, Manuscripts, Archival & Audiovisual materials and Electronic resources in different subjects to serve the teaching and research needs of the faculty and the graduates and undergraduates students who are studying Arabic/ Islamic and Middle Eastern Subjects.

The Near East Collection at Sterling Memorial Library has amassed a considerable amount of materials in Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Western Languages related to the Near East Studies. Today, the Sterling Memorial Library houses more then 400,000 items relating to the Near Eastern Studies in Western languages and spread over numerous libraries and collections.

There are over 250,000 Arabic and Persian volumes which cover a wide variety of subject areas. In addition, there are ca. 1900 periodicals, 1500 documentaries and classical motion pictures and ca. 1300 Arabic film posters housed at the Manuscript and Archives Library. The collection is particularly strong in classical texts, Islamic Law, History, Philosophy, and Arabic Literature. The majority of the materials are in Arabic. The Arabic and Persian collections are housed mainly on the 6th floor in the Sterling Memorial Library and are classified according to the Library of Congress Classification System. The older collection contains the materials classified under the Yale Classification system, is housed in the 7th floor.

The Manuscripts, ca. 4,000 manuscripts in Arabic, Persian and Ottoman Turkish are housed at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Some of the manuscripts are very old including a 7th century 1 leaf and an 8th century 134 leaves from the Koran.