Online Cataloging and Digitization for Islamic Manuscripts

Cataloging is now available online for most of the nearly 10,000 Islamic manuscripts in the Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library. These extraordinary holdings of Islamic manuscripts constitute the premier collection of Islamic manuscripts in the Western Hemisphere and among the finest in the world. About two-thirds of these were the gift of Robert Garrett, Class of 1897. The online records have been created as part of the Islamic Manuscripts Cataloging and Digitization Project, to improve access to these rich collections and share them worldwide through digital technology. Generous support from the David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Project has funded this ongoing effort. Researchers can now locate manuscripts by searching the Library’s online catalog. The Library has digitized 200 manuscripts in the Princeton Digital Library of Islamic Manuscripts.

Over the past two years, the Princeton University Library has created online biblio­graphic records covering its collections of Arabic manuscripts in the Garrett and New Series. These had previously been only described in three printed catalogs: Descriptive Catalog of the Garrett Collection of Arabic Manuscripts in the Princeton University Library (P. K. Hitti, N. A. Faris, and B. `Abd al-Malik), Catalogue of Arabic Manuscripts (Yahuda Section) in the Garrett Collection (R. Mach), and Handlist of Arabic Manuscripts (New Series) in the Princeton University Library (R. Mach and E. Ormsby). Over two-thirds of the Library’s some 10,000 volumes of Islamic manuscripts are described in these catalogs. The catalogs were converted to XML format, and the resulting files were then edited for accuracy and consistency—they now have authorized names, properly romanized titles, and appropriate subject headings. The files were then imported into the Library’s online catalog. Still underway is an effort to link records that describe multi-text volumes.

The Third Series, comprising over 750 volumes in Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, Urdu, and Jawi, has been completely cataloged, and a finding aid has been created for the William McElwee Miller Collection of Bābī Writings and Other Iranian Texts, 1846-1923, comprised of 47 volumes of writings of the Bāb, Subḥ-i Azal, and Bahá’u’lláh, and their respective followers. The collection also includes Sufi texts and an anti-Islamic polemic writings. The Miller collection has been digitized, largely from microfilm, and is being made available online by the Library as a service to scholarship. File sizes are large (30-590 MB) and may take some time to download.

For more information about the cataloging, contact Denise L. Soufi, Islamic Manuscripts Cataloger, at; for information about the overall project, contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, at

Botanical treatise in Arabic. Islamic Manuscripts, Garrett no. 583H. Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library. Not to be reproduced without the permission of the Princeton University Library.