The rare books collection consists of volumes printed before 1850 which came to the Library mainly with the early collections. It contains volumes printed in England and continental Europe as well as many printed in the Middle East, India and East Asia. Many were collected by scholars of Asia and the Middle East connected with the Faculty or with Cambridge. Dictionaries, grammars, Bibles, descriptive works and books of travel and exploration are heavily represented as are books on Arabic and Persian studies.
The Library does not purchase volumes to add to this collection but books are sometimes added from new bequests.
The collection contains publications on language, literature, history and archaeology of the ancient near East. In particular there are works on Biblical studies, medieval Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac and Arabic language and literature. There are publications on the archaeology of Egypt and the Levant. A small number of items on ancient Iranian studies and on Sanskrit and Pali studies are also included. The contents are mainly in European languages but there are significant number of publications in Hebrew and a small number in Syriac, Arabic, Coptic, Persian and Sanskrit. There is a collection of several hundred Bible translations in many European and Asian languages. A large proportion of the contents are early editions of critical and descriptive works by European scholars of Asia and the Middle East of the 18th and 19th centuries most of which are too early to be present in the main Faculty Library collections.
The collection consists of the Asian & Middle Eastern Collection collection belonging to Queens' College which was transferred to the Faculty on permanent loan in 1972. The collection grew from the collections and interests of the scholars of Asia and the Middle East of Queens' College mainly William Wright (1830-1889), R.H. Kennett (1846-1932), and A.A. Bevan (1859-1923). The Bible collection belonged to Samuel Lee (1783-1852) a former Professor of Hebrew. The collection is primarily of nineteenth century items but some volumes date back to the eighteenth and seventeenth centuries.
The collection contains items of interest to researchers in Hebrew studies. Notably there are rare editions of religious texts and commentaries printed in Italy and Eastern Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, many of them rare editions. The majority of the publications are nineteenth century books on Jewish history and religion and textual and philosophical commentaries.
The Abrahams collection has been on permanent loan to the Faculty Library from Christ's College since 1953. Israel Abrahams (1858-1925) was a distinguished Rabbinics scholar, fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge and President of the Jewish Historical Society of England. The book collection, though mainly nineteenth century, contains many early and valuable European-printed works from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries on various aspects of Hebrew scholarship, medieval Jewish texts and Jewish history.
The books collection of the Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (formerly Middle East Centre) is shelved around the central reading area of the Library. The journals collection was amalgamated some years ago with the Middle Eastern collections of the Faculty Library. There is a separate CMEIS reading room on the ground floor of the Faculty for newspapers and ephemeral journals.
The collection was founded with the aim of covering aspects of the countries of the modern Middle East. This includes politics, economics, modern history and development which were never collected consistently by the Faculty Library which is predominantly based on classical and cultural studies. The collection contains publications in Arabic, Persian and Turkish as well as in English and European languages. It covers all countries of the Middle East and Islamic North Africa.
The collection was set up by Professor Arthur Arberry in 1960, originally in rooms in Pembroke College, with the aim of stimulating in the University at large interest in the subject of the Middle East in general and in its modern aspects in particular. Financial support was initially provided by Shell and by BP. The collection came to be regarded as one of the 'area study centres' established as a result of the Hayter report. These centres agreed to specialise in certain subjects or areas of the Middle East and the Cambridge Centre took on the responsibility for books on the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf region. There has been little funding available over recent years and the collection has not been added to in a consistent way since about 1990.
The major strengths of the section lie aspects of the politics and economics of the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf area in the twentieth century. There are many Russian publications included in the collection.
The collection contains books concerning Mongolia and Central Asia including publications in Mongolian, Russian and other central Asian Languages. The subject content includes language and dictionaries, history, geography, economic and political development, anthropology and travel. There are also book concerning arts and religion. The is a reference collection only and items may not be removed from the Faculty Library.
The collection is the personal library of Owen Lattimore (1900-1989) the scholar and traveler in Mongolia. The collection is on permanent loan to the Mongolian and Inner Asian Studies Unit.
The major strengths of the collection lie in the areas Mongolian history and culture and that of surrounding peoples such as Siberian, Tibetan and other central Asian peoples. The collection reflects the scholarly interests and enthusiasms of the original collector.
These collections contain a wealth of information, both written and photographic, of the lives and work of a number of eminent scholars of Asia and the Middle East.
The archive collections of mainly papers of scholars of Asia and the Middle East or travelers, many connected with Cambridge. Some papers are those of archaeologists, others of language specialists or missionaries.
The collections of papers and offprints have been deposited in the Faculty Library over a period of many years. Some of these have arrived along with a bequest of a library of books, among which there was also archive material. Other collections are those of former scholars of the Faculty or sometimes their friends and colleagues.
For more information, please see the archives pages.
The library's collection of maps is stored in a room off the main library. There is a handlist giving brief details of each sheet and location number.
The collection contains sheet maps of the countries of the Middle East, including Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt and the Sudan, the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. There are also maps of Mongolia and China and a small number of India and Japan. The maps are mainly topographical but there are some archaeological maps in the collection.
The maps have been donated to the library by Faculty members who have been involved in survey or archaeological work. A small number of maps have also been purchased to fill in gaps but the collection has not been developed in any organised way. Maps are mainly post-1930's although there are some sheets dating from the late nineteenth century or early twentieth centuries. There are a number of early maps of Egypt and Iraq in the collection. Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula. Aden and South Arabia is especially well-represented.
The photographic collections are stored in box files with handlists and notes. Photographs of particular regions, sites or monuments and boxed together and most have handlists describing their contents.
The photographs are of archaeological sites, monuments and temples in India, Pakistan and other regions of South Asia. The largest of the photographic collection is that of Sir John Marshall which came to the library in the 1960's. This consists of around 5,000 photographic positives mounted on card of temple sites, monuments and other sites of archaeological interest in India. There is a descriptive introduction written by Sir John Marshall. There is also a collection presented to the library in 1970 by Dr. S. Settar. This consists of 200 photographs of Indian archaeological sites and monuments. There is also a collection of photographic positives and negatives, which formerly belonged to Sir Mortimer Wheeler, of Indian archaeological sites. These are stored in 15 flat boxes and have written handlists in each box.