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General information

Opening hours

11th June until 15th June:
Monday-Friday: 9.00 - 17.30

 Summer Vacation (18th June 2018 - 28th September 2018)

Monday - Friday: 9.00 - 17.00 (Lunch time closure: 12.00-13.00)
General enquiries:

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Library
Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge CB3 9DA
Tel: +44 - 1223 - (3)35112

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Registration and Borrowing


 The Library and its borrowing facilities are available to:

  • Staff of the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Faculty and of other faculties of the University of Cambridge
  • Resident graduate and undergraduate students
  • Teaching officers of Cambridge colleges
  • Cambridge MA holders who are resident in Cambridge
  • Official visiting scholars resident in Cambridge and attached to a faculty
Persons who are not in possession of a Cambridge University Card must produce an official letter of introduction (on headed paper) from a senior member of academic staff of the University of Cambridge in order to enter the library

All Library users must complete a registration form on their first visit and must possess either a University Smartcard or a University Library card. This card is used to record borrowed items in the Library's issue system so please bring this card with you when you wish to borrow books.

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The regional scope of the Library's collections includes China, Japan, Korea and Central Asia, the Indian sub-continent (but not South-East Asia), the Middle East (including publications on Islamic North Africa).

The subject content includes the languages, literature, history, philosophy, art and archaeology of the above regions from earliest times to the present.

More recently there has been a growth in the coverage of aspects of the modern world within the same regional scope, especially politics, sociology and economic conditions.

The Library contains around 60,000 monograph volumes and around 400 journal titles. It is primarily an English (and European) language collection but there are many publications in the various Asian & Middle Eastern languages taught in the Faculty. These are Chinese, Japanese, Sanskrit, Hindi, Arabic, Persian, Hebrew.

The collections are arranged on a regional basis and publications in Asian & Middle Eastern languages are not classified separately. The Library houses a number of special collections and there are also slides, videos and DVDs, photographs and maps. There is an archive collection of papers of scholars of Asia and the Middle East.

The Library is primarily a working collection for students but, because of its varied origins, it also contains a great deal of valuable material relevant to research students and to visiting scholars.

For the history of the collection click HERE.

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IT Services
  • Wireless internet access

    There are two main wireless internet facilities available : ‘UniOfCam’ and ‘Eduroam’. Current staff and students may log into the UniOfCam wireless network either by using their Raven ID and password or Eduroam, if configured on their laptop. UniOfCam wireless network is also available on a time-limited basis for visitors. Visitors from other educational institutions which support the eduroam service may find it more convenient to configure their laptops to connect to the wireless network using eduroam. Users of UniOfCam WiFi should note that while most electronic resources are available when connected to the wireless network, a proportion of them only available for eduroam users or from Library PCs. UniOfCam WiFi tickets for visitors may be obtained from the Computer Officer of the Faculty.

  • Catalogue Terminals

    There are computer terminals situated next to the Library counter, and in the IT Room (Room 101), Hebrew Room and in the Indian Art & Archaeology Room. They provide access to the Faculty Library catalogue via the iDiscover Web interface. The catalogue also provides access to the University Library's holdings and to most other Faculty and College libraries in the University.
  • IT Room terminals

    There are six computer terminals in the IT/Photocopy Room (Room 101) which provide additional access points to the catalogue and to the Internet. These terminals can also be used for e-mail and printing from the Internet.
  • Printing, Copying and Scanning

    A multi-function printer/copier/scanner is available in the IT room (Room 101 inside the Library). 
    The machine prints, scans and copies in mono or colour, single or double-sided, at A3 or A4 sizes.
    The printer is networked and print jobs can be submitted from any computer in the IT room and from students' laptops which are attached to the Cambridge University network, including those using the Lapwing/Eduroam wireless service. To setup access to the printer from your own computer, go to :
    Printing of a limited range of file types is also possible from a directly connected USB stick. Scans are sent to students Cambridge e-mail address.
    The machine is included in the University Computing Service's "DS-Print" system and, to use it, students will need to swipe their University Card on the attached card reader in order to unlock the touch-screen control panel.
    Charges for using the system are displayed on notices in the IT Room. Payment for use of the printer is via the Computing Service's "Common Balance" system. Students will need sufficient funds on their common balance before they can access the control panel.

  • Microfiche & Microfilm Reader/Scanner

A microfilm scanner is available for library users in the Library's Indian Room. The scanner is compatible with a variety of film formats such as microfiche, aperture card, and roll film. Images projected to the scanner’s screen can be saved as image data in the PC attached to it and printed out via the Library’s designated printer or saved on a memory stick. Other microfiche and microfilm readers are also available for readers' use.

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A new orientation: the origins of the Asian & Middle Eastern Studies Faculty Library (written by Catherine Ansorge)

The Library of the Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies has grown, from very modest beginnings in the early years of the twentieth century, to what is now a collection of more than 50,000 volumes about the language, literature and culture of the countries stretching across the centre of Asia from Turkey to Japan. The diverse nature of the Library's contents and the varied contacts of those studying Asian and Middle Eastern subjects have attracted personal collections from scholars, travellers and refugees who have found in the Library a suitable home for their personal book collections.

The study of Asian and Middle Eastern languages in Cambridge dates back to the early days of the University. The Regius Professorship of Hebrew dates back to 1540 and the Sir Thomas Adams's Professorship of Arabic to 1632. In 1867 the chair of Sanskrit (which was first held by Edward Cowell) was established and there were many other distinguished scholars such as Herbert Giles (Chinese), and William Wright, E.H. Palmer and R.L. Bensly (Arabists). The early scholars of Asia and the Middle East at Cambridge were pioneers in their subjects, sometimes colourful characters and often avid book collectors. They worked in their colleges as there was no teaching institute or faculty at that time. It was, however, the scholars of the early years of the twentieth century who were responsible for the growth of the original library collections and a rudimentary teaching institute.

Early records on the origins of the Faculty Library are few and far between and provide only an incomplete picture of its development. However, a library of sorts, which was used for teaching purposes, dates back to the first decade of the twentieth century and grew out of the amalgamation of scholarly collections. Cecil Bendall (1856-1906) who became Professor of Sanskrit, beqeathed part of his personal library, with a grant of £100, to form 'a working library in Cambridge for junior students'. These books were mainly grammars and texts published in Europe but also included was an early edition of Kalidasa's Shakuntala published in London in 1792. The Bendall Sanskrit library, was first housed in Caius which was Bendall's college, later in the Divinity School in St John's Street and then, from 1916, was to be found in the Arts School in Bene't Street, which also housed the early collections of the Seeley Library and the Modern and Medieval Languages Library. The kernel of the Arabic section is formed by the collection of A.A. Bevan who was appointed Lord Almoner's Professor of Arabic in 1893. On his death, his bequest of books relating to Arabic, Syriac and Persian were made available for use as a teaching library. These were added to Bendall's books and this original library dating from the early years of the twentieth century (which covered mainly classical Indian languages, Arabic and related studies) was often referred to, for obvious reasons, as the Bevan and Bendall Library.

The first permanent home of Asian and Middle Eastern languages in Cambridge was in Downing Place, the narrow lane off Downing Street. In 1935, alterations were made to the Balfour Laboratory, mainly for use as a Music School, but also to a building at the rear for a library of Asian and Middle Eastern languages. This remained the library's home for many years.

In 1937, books were added from the bequest made by E.J. Rapson (1861-1937) who succeeded Bendall as Professor of Sanskrit and it must also have been about this time that the largest and most valuable of the Library's donations arrived. It belonged to E.G. Browne, the scholar whose interests and expertise covered Turkish, Arabic and Persian and who was Professor of Arabic from 1902 to 1926. He came from a wealthy family and he was a keen collector of books and manuscripts. His manuscripts and the greater part of his book collection were bequeathed to the University Library but several hundred books, which were duplicate copies joined the Bevan and Bendall collections. Many of these volumes were rare and valuable editions, and all of them were neatly autographed often with annotated details of where and how the book was acquired. Some of Browne's books had previously been owned by other interesting individuals. A small number of volumes formerly belonged to Lady Anne Blunt, the granddaughter of Lord Byron, and were bequeathed to Browne by her husband Wilfred Scawen Blunt on his death in 1922.

A further important collection, added to the Library in 1947, included books bequeathed by Sir Herbert Thompson (1859-1944) the Demotic and Coptic scholar, who was also responsible for founding the chair of Egyptology in Cambridge, in 1946.

In historical terms the growth of the Library up to 1940 comprises its formative years, with the arrival of all the early collections which form its core. It is difficult at this stage in the library's history to find any solid information about its administration but in 1936, there is a record of the appointment as Librarian of J.D. Pearson, later to become eminent in Asian and Middle Eastern bibliography and as Librarian of the School of Oriental and African Studies. Possibly this was an advisory post held concurrently with his position in the University Library.

It is interesting to note the lack of any spatial division in the Downing Place library between teaching activity and the library resources. The lectures took place in the rooms which formed the Library; or to put it another way, the lecture rooms had books round the walls which could be referred to in teaching.

The late 1940s were marked also by further gifts to the Library such as a set of 30 valuable volumes transferred to the Library from the Museum of Classical Archaeology. These were books purchased in from the estate of Lt. Col. William Martin Leake (1777-1860). He was a classical topographer and numismatist who involved in the general survey of Egypt in 1801-2. Among the books in the Leake collection is a copy of Charles Wilkins's translation of the Bhagavadgita published in London in 1785 and a 1636 edition of the Arabic Grammar of Erpenius.

By the late 1940s, the Library consisted of an amalgamation of these personal collections of various sizes and with the addition, from the 1930s, of books purchased to fulfill teaching needs. It is important to understand that these individual collections were not kept separately shelved but added to those with similar subject content already in the Library. The origins of a particular volume can, however, often be traced from a bookplate, dedication, signature or notes. Not surprisingly, the Library had notable gaps (often serious) to the great frustration of those involved in teaching, who often had to rely a good deal on their own private collections.

About this time it became apparent that the building in Downing Place was impossible to expand further, so plans were made to acquire more spacious accommodation. At the beginning of the Lent term 1949, the Library moved to Mostyn House, 16 Brooklands Avenue which was officially named the Institute of Oriental Studies.

Mostyn House was a three storey Victorian family house where the Library was arranged so that books in a specific subject area were housed in separate rooms. The rooms were situated on different floors, so that the library collection was very difficult to organize, and the resulting security problems a nightmare.

In Cambridge, the development of the study of the languages of East Asia came later than those of the Middle East and India. Chinese first appears in the Tripos lists in 1913 and Japanese was first examined in 1948. In 1946, the University Librarian offered to present to the Library duplicate copies of books from their Chinese collections and the transfer of these was organised by Professor Gustav Haloun (1898-1951). Books to form a Japanese teaching collection were purchased by Eric Ceadel the first lecturer in this subject. Ceadel did much to further the interests of the Library both in terms of developing the Japanese collections and by serving for many years on the Library Committee. In 1967 he became University Librarian but continued to promote the well being of the Institute Library and its collections for many years.

In 1953, Christ's College presented to the Institute, on permanent loan, the collection of Israel Abrahams, a distinguished Rabbinics scholar and fellow of Christ's who died in 1925. The book collection, of around 1,200 items, contains many early and valuable European-printed works on various aspects of Hebrew history and scholarship.

Despite the numerous problems encountered during these years, the Library continued to grow, and in 1956, according to a Library Report from the time, the total stock of the Library in Mostyn House had reached 13,340 volumes "excluding those items kept in the Attic and in the Far Eastern Cupboard." What treasures these actually contained can now, unfortunately, only be imagined.

The Egyptology collection in Downing Place was always kept in rooms at the rear of the building separated from the Bevan and Bendall Library and these rooms were retained as a home for the Library of Egyptology after the other collections were removed to Mostyn House. At that time this was intended as a temporary measure but in fact the Egyptology collections were separated from the rest of the Library for nearly twenty years. They were moved, in 1966, to the ground-floor room of the Old Press Site, Mill Lane. They were at last reunited with the collections of the Institute Library, on the removal of both collections to the Sidgwick site, in 1968.

In 1949, the Library purchased volumes from the collection of Charles Allberry, the Coptic scholar, killed in 1943, having been shot down in action over France. He was a student and later, Fellow, of Christ's and did much to further the study of Coptic in Cambridge. The manuscripts with the collection were associated with his publications and included those of his unfinished Coptic dictionary.

Sir Alan Gardiner (1879-1963) was a privately funded Egyptologist with a varied career and was author of the Egyptian Grammar which remains the basic textbook for Egyptian language teaching. Gardiner's book collection of some 600 items was bequeathed to the Library; it contained many valuable items, including a complete set of the Description d'Egypte, a complete set of the Denkmaler by Richard Lepsius, the distinguished German Egyptologist and a copy of Lepsius's Konigsbuch der Alten Agypten which contains a dedication and signature in the author's own hand.

In the late 1950s, resulting from the recommendations of the Hayter Report, there was a growing interest in stimulating study and research in the Middle East and in its modern aspects in particular. In 1958, the Faculty Board minutes record the intention to establish a Middle East Centre with a library dedicated to its interests, a lecture series and a publications series. Financial support was provided by the Shell Company and by British Petroleum. The Centre and its Library was established in 1960 by Arthur Arberry (Arabic Professor, 1947-1969) in rooms in Pembroke College. This Library moved from its first home in Pembroke to Station Road, where it was housed for some years. In 1965, already a collection of some size, the Library moved to rooms in Botolph Lane. This collection, which grew to around 6,000 volumes, joined the Faculty Library in 1968.

In terms of acquisitions the 1960s were notable for the addition of a number of collections; these were not in general large, or as valuable as the great collections bequeathed to the Library in its early years, but each, in its way, increased the library's breadth and scope. For example, in 1964, E.M. Forster, the novelist and Fellow of King's, gave to the Library ninety books on Indian history.

In 1959, there had been a mention of the possibility of a move for the Institute and its Library to a new building on the Sidgwick Site. This move did, finally, take place during the summer of 1968 when the books were transported by van from Brooklands Avenue by members of the University Library staff. The Egyptology books were transferred from the Old Press Site and, at the same time, the Library of the Middle East Centre was moved from its accommodation in Botolph Lane. The Institute was officially renamed the Faculty of Oriental Studies, which name it retained until 2007 when the name Asian & Middle Eastern Studies was adopted.

Since the move to Sidgwick Avenue the Library has grown further and many aspects of its administration have been modernized. However, gifts and bequests are still frequently made to the Library from scholars past and present. In 1971, the Asian and Middle Eastern collection of Queens' College, was transferred on permanent loan to the Faculty. This collection consists of early scholarly works in the fields of Hebrew, Arabic, Egyptology, Assyriology and Sanskrit studies which complement the other early collections very well. A second, smaller, collection on Buddhist studies arrived in the 1980's. This was the collection of Miss I.B. Horner (1896-1981), Pali scholar and former Fellow and Librarian of Newnham College. In 1990, the Library received on permanent loan the Library of Owen Lattimore (1900-1989) the Mongolian specialist.

Today, the Library of the Faculity of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies is the first port of call for undergraduates reading for the Asian and Middle Eastern Tripos. It is also widely used by research students and by many members of the University whose interests include some aspect of Asia or the Middle East. The modern Library is light and spacious and new readers see little immediate evidence of the early history described here. Recent revisions of the Asian and Middle Eastern Tripos have encouraged the growth of a collection of wider cultural interest than that of the early years. However, the early collections remain a constant source of surprise and interest.

As a result of a major reorganisation of the Faculty in 2005, the teaching of Egyptology and Assyriology was transferred to the Faculty of Archaeology and Anthropology and the Egyptology and Assyriology collections were also moved to the Faculty of Archaeology and Anthropolgy during the summer 2012.

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