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Syriac manuscripts collection

Identifier: ubl035

Abstract in Dutch

Collectie bestaande uit ca. 118 manuscripten met teksten in het Syrisch.

Abstract in English

Collection consisting of c. 118 manuscripts with texts in Syriac.


  • Creation: 1183-1889

Language of Materials

Apart from Syriac, the items in this collection also contain texts in Arabic, Latin, Malay, Greek, Latin, Berber and Aramaic.

Conditions Governing Use

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


118 manuscripts

Physical Location

Leiden University Library, Special Collections

Custodial History

Previous owners of the Syriac manuscripts in this collection include Wolpherdus Senguerdius, Petrus de Cardonnel, J.H. van der Palm and Karl W. Hiersemann. The Dutch Orientalist Joannes Willmet (1750-1835), whose library is kept at Leiden University as a permanent loan from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, had purchased Syriac manuscripts from the library of D.A. Walraven (Cat., p. 59, No. 43: 'Liber incerti argumenti, pessime scriptus et lacerus', Acad. 219), the Library of E. Scheidius (1742-1794) (his cat., p. 99, Nos. 72-75, Acad. 220) and the library of Hidde Heremiet (Acad. 221).

Some of the Syriac manuscripts in this collection were passed along through a long chain of ownership before they were acquired by Leiden University Library. For instance, the manuscripts which have been registered as Or. 1198 and Or. 1199 (analysed by M.J. de Goeje in CCO V p. 66 and by Land Anecdota SyriacaI pp. 6-7) contain notes that indicate that they had been acquired by Daniel Bomberg in Venice from Guillaume Postel (1510-1581) who had acquired them in 1550 in Constantinople. Then they must somehow have entered into the possession of Christoffel Plantin (c. 1520-1589) and then into the possession of his son-in-law Franciscus Raphelengius (1539-1597) who collated from them for Plantin's Polyglot Bible (1572-1574). A. Hamilton (1990), pp. 105-117 esp. p. 108 gives the following chain of European owners and users: Acquired by Postel in Constantinople brought to Venice at the expense of the younger Daniel Bomberg in 1550. Bomberg sent it from Cologne to Antwerp at Christopher Plantin's request. In Antwerp it was used by Guy Lefèvre de la Boderie who edited the liturgical section from the 'codex Coloniensis' for publication by Plantin in 1572 of D. Severi Alexandrini qvondam patriarchae de ritibvs baptismi et sacrae synaxis apvd Syros Christianos receptis, liber. Nunc primum in lucem editus Gvidone Fabricio Boderiano exscriptore et interprete . Antverpiae ex officina Christophori Plantini 1572 [three copies in Leiden : 874 D 17:1 / 874 D 18:1 with notes by J.J. Scaliger / 874 16:3 with notes by J.J. Scaliger]

The manuscripts that have been registered as Or. 14.236 - Or. 14.241 were originally from the library of the St. Catherine Monastery in the Sinai. A collection of 53 such manuscripts was offered for sale in 1922 by the Leipzig antiquarian bookseller Karl W. Hiersemann (Katalog 500. Orientalische Manuskripte). The learned descriptions in that catalogue were made by Anton Baumstark (1872-1948). Several of the manuscripts of this catalogue went to private collectors. A few were purchased by the University Library of Louvain in Belgium (and were lost when that library was burnt down in 1940) and 28 items were acquired by a private collector in Sankt Gallen, Switzerland, namely Arnold Mettler Specker or Arnold J. Mettler, whose bookplates still can be seen in the manuscripts. The latter group of has for a while been deposited on loan in the Zentralbibliothek in Zürich but at some stage they were taken back by the owner and then in the course of 1948, sold by auction by Parke-Bernet in New York. At that sale the 5 manuscripts remained unsold and were returned to A. Mettler-Bener, a descendant of the original owner in Sankt Gallen. The latter sold the manuscripts in the course of 1974 to the Library of the University of Leiden. The purchase was conducted by Dr. W. Baars acting on behalf of the Leiden Library.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Several collectors, scholars, curators and notables have contributed to the collection of Syriac manuscripts at Leiden University. The following persons have donated manuscripts:

  1. Johan Boreel (1577-1629), notable from Middelburg (Or. 213)
  2. Wolpherdus Senguerdius (1646-1724), professor of philosophy at Leiden University (Or. 1204)
  3. J. Rendel Harris, March 18 1908, Professor of Biblical Languages at Cambridge (Or. 5531)
  4. Basile Nikitine (1885-1960), Russian Vice-Consul in Urumia (Or. 6303)
  5. W. Baars (Or. 11.072)

The copies of Syriac manuscripts which were registered as Or. 1638-Or. 1644 were donated by J.P.N. Land in 1858. Some were edited by Land, some were translated by him into Latin, some were both. After his promotion, Land was asked by professor Juynboll to investigate the major Syriac manuscripts of the British Museum in London, and to copy these for Leiden University Library. Most of these copies are collected in Land’s Anecdota Syriaca which was published in four volumes between 1862 and 1875.

The following Syriac manuscripts were purchased by Leiden University Library:

  1. or. 14.460 was purchased in May 1978 from Mr. L. van der Wal Leiden.
  2. or. 14.607-Or. 14.611 were purchased by auction in May 1979 from Messrs. A.L. van Gendt & Co. antiquarian booksellers and auctioneers in Amsterdam
  3. or. 5797 was purchased in 1913 through the intermediary of and for the use by A.J. Wensinck (1882-1939), professor in Semitic languages at Leiden University, in his Legends of Eastern saints chiefly from Syriac sources. Leiden, (Brill) 1911-1913.


No future additions are to be expected.


  • Dozy, R.P.A et al., Catalogus codicum Orientalium Bibliothecae Academiae Lugduno-Batavae . 6 vols. Leiden, 1851-1877. (CCO).
  • Gesenius, W., De Bar Alio et Bar Bahlulo. Lexicographis Syro-Arabicis ineditis commentatio liter.-philol. , Leipzig 1834.
  • Goeje, M.J. de, M.Th. Houtsma, Catalogus codicum Arabicorum Bibliothecae Academiae Lugduno-Batavae. 2 vols. Leiden, 1888-1907. (CCA).
  • Gregory, C.R., Textkritik des Neuen Testaments. Leipzig 1909.
  • Hamilton, A., Franciscus Raphelengius. The Hebraist and his manuscripts, in De Gulden Passer, 68 (1990).
  • Janson, A.G.P., Summiere Beschrijvingen . Leiden, [s.a.]
  • Juynboll, Th.W.J. en Weyers, H.E., Orientalia, Amsterdam 1840-1846.
  • Land, J.P.N., Anecdota Syriaca . I: Symbolae Syriacae. Insunt tabulae XXVIII lith . II: Joannis episcopi Ephesi Monophysitae scripta historica quot-quot adhuc inedita supererant. Insunt tabulae II lith. III: Zachariae episcopi Mitylenes aliorumque scripta historica Graece plerumque deperdita. Inest tab. lith. IV: Otja Syriaca. Insunt tabulae VIII. Leiden 1862-1875.
  • Voorhoeve, P., Handlist of Arabic manuscripts in the library of the University of Leiden and other collections in the Netherlands. 2nd, enl. ed. The Hague [etc.], 1980.


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

Collection guide of the Syriac manuscripts collection (1183-1889)
Collectie Syrische handschriften
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
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