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Karaitica collection

Identifier: ubl084

Scope and Contents

The collection contains 50 manuscripts, 21 of which are miscellanies. The total number of texts is 174.

The Karaite manuscripts of Levinus Warner in this collection have introduced Karaite texts to European scholarship and includes important Byzantine manuscripts containing works by Byzantine Karaites and also Karaite Hebrew translations of eleventh-century authors who wrote in Arabic such as Yūsuf al-Basīr and Yeshuʾah ben Yehudah.


  • Creation: 14th century – c. 1980

Language of Materials

Hebrew, Turkish

Conditions Governing Use

Regulations that apply during the use of these materials can be found on the website of Leiden University Library.


50 manuscripts

Abstract in Dutch

Collectie bestaande uit handschriften met werken geschreven door Karaitische Joden.

Abstract in English

Collection consisting of manuscripts containing works by Karaite Jews.

Physical Location

Leiden University Library, Special Collections

Other Finding Aids

The library of Levinus Warner was catalogued by Steinschneider (1858) and Van der Heide (1977). See also the inventory.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Many of the Karaite manuscripts in this collection were acquired by Levinus Warner (1619–1665), whose library was purchased in 1669. Warner was an orientalist of German descent who for many years served as a representative of the Dutch government in Istanbul. He collected (and studied) a great number of oriental manuscripts in Hebrew, Arabic and other languages. Of particular interest were his contacts with the Karaite community of Istanbul, which for him, as a Protestant, had a specific fascination. Warner purchased a large number of manuscripts, including approximately thirty Karaite manuscripts. One of his acquisitions was a Karaitic compendium of no less than 23 texts (Or. 4779). Warner's personal notes in many of the Karaite manuscripts testify to Warner's special interest in Karaite Judaism.

Another source for this collection Karaitica was the library of Jehuda Gur b. Menachem (Or. 4752 and Or. 4779).

Karaite Judaism is a Jewish religious movement of a scripturalist and messianic nature, which emerged around the 9th century in the areas of Persia and Palestine. The Karaites reject allegorical and kabbalistic interpretations and those Talmudic rituals and rabbinic oral laws which are not founded in the Holy scriptures. The development of Karaism was characterised by various disputes on the literal interpretation of the Bible. Aaron ben Elijah of Nicomedia (1317-1369) wrote his code Etz Hayyim, which was recognised as authoritative. Later on it was Elijah Bashyazı and his pupil Caleb Afendopolo (1464-1525) who summarised the Karaite creed in ten articles. Among them the fifth says: "He sent us the Torah through Moses, which contains the perfect truth, which cannot be complemented or altered by any other (Oral) Law".


No future additions are to be expected.


  • Heide, Albert, Hebrew manuscripts of Leiden University Library. Leiden, 1977.
  • Drewes, Gerardus, Levinus Warner and his legacy : three centuries Legatum Warnerianum in the Leiden University Library : catalogue of the commemorative exhibition held in the Bibliotheca Thysiana from April 27th till May 15th 1970. Leiden, 1970.
  • Sklare, David, 'A Guide to collections of Karaite Manuscripts', in: Polliack, Meira [ed.], Karaite Judaism. A Guide to its History and Literary Sources. Leiden, 2003.
  • Steinschneider, Moritz, Catalogus codicum hebraeorum bibliothecae academiae Lugduno-Batavae. Leiden, 1858.


The material in this collection can be requested at the Special Collections Reading Room.

Collection guide of the Karaitica collection (14th century – c. 1980)
Collectie Karaitica
Robert Kerr, 2006.
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
This finding aid has been written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Leiden University Libraries Archives & Collections Repository

Witte Singel 27
Leiden 2311 BG Netherlands
+31 71 527 2857