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Oriental manuscripts collection (KNAW)

Identifier: ubl045

Scope and Contents

A collection of predominantly Middle Eastern manuscripts, reflecting the interests of 18th and 19th-century Oriental scholarship in the Netherlands in general and of its last private owner in particular.


  • Creation: Prior to 1835

Language of Materials

Various Oriental languages, predominantly Arabic, Ottoman Turkish, Persian, Malay, Chinese, Latin

Conditions Governing Use

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

Biographical / Historical

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, originally known as the Royal Institute, was founded in 1808 by Louis Napoléon, King of Holland. Based in Amsterdam, it is one of the major research institutes in the Netherlands in the fields of Life Sciences, Social Sciences and the Humanities.


265 items (c. 7 metres)

Abstract in Dutch

Permanente bruikleencollectie van de Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, Amsterdam, verworven in 1856. Voorheen de privé-collectie van de Nederlandse orientalist Joannes Willmet (1750-1835). De collectie bevat voornamelijk handschriften uit het Midden-Oosten.

Abstract in English

Permanent loan collection of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam, accessioned in 1856. Previously the private collection of Dutch Orientalist Joannes Willmet (1750-1835), consisting mainly of Middle Eastern manuscripts.

Physical Location

Leiden University Library, Special Collections

Other Finding Aids

The collection was first described in Willmet’s auction catalogue (Bibliotheca Willmetiana 1837). The second part, with separate pagination 1-39, contains the Oriental manuscripts. The last complete catalogue of the collection was started by H.E. Weijers and completed after his death by P. de Jong: Weijers & De Jong (1862). More recent descriptions can be found in modern catalogues of the Leiden University Library Oriental collections, arranged according to language. For the Arabic manuscripts see Voorhoeve (1980), especially the conspectus of shelfmarks on pp. 605-608. The manuscripts in Chinese have been described by Kuiper (2005, p. 68-83).

Custodial History

With the exception of a limited number of items, the collection was formerly in the possession of Joannes Willmet (1750-1835), professor of Oriental languages at the University of Harderwijk from 1794 and at Amsterdam from 1804 (Nat 1929, p. 102-103). His books and manuscripts were sold at auction in 1837. The Oriental manuscripts among these were purchased by William I, King of the Netherlands, an active sponsor of Science and Industry, who donated them in turn to the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences. A number of items of Willmet's collection originate from the private libraries of J.J. Schultens (1716-1778), professor of Oriental languages at Leiden, E. Scheidius (1742-1794), and D.A. Walraven (1779-1804), professor of Oriental languages at Amsterdam.

For a succinct history of the provenance and acquisition of the collection see the catalogue by P. de Jong (1862, p. i-xvii).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The manuscripts were given in permanent loan to the Leiden University Library in February 1856.


No further accessions are expected.


  • Bibliotheca Willmetiana. Catalogus bibliothecae instructissimae, quam in suos usus comparavit vir clarissimus Joannes Willmet [...], cujus publica auctio fiet Amstelodami, die 22 Maji et sqq. MDCCCXXXVII [...] per bibliopolas J. Müller, J. Radink et D. Groebe, in aedibus Kalverstraat, No. 9. Amsterdam 1837.
  • Jong, P. de., Catalogus Codicum orientalium Bibliothecae Academiae Regiae Scientiarum quem, a clar. Weijersio inchoatum, post hujus mortem absolvit et edidit P. de Jong. Leiden 1862.
  • Kuiper, K., Catalogue of Sino-Western manuscripts in the Central Library of Leiden University. Leiden 2005. (Codices manuscripti, 33).
  • Nat, J., De studie van de Oostersche talen in Nederland in de 18e en de 19e eeuw. Purmerend 1929.
  • 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. (Codices manuscripti, 7).


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

Processing Information

All manuscripts have the shelfmark Acad. [Nos. 1-265]

Collection guide of the Oriental manuscripts collection (KNAW) (Prior to 1835)
Collectie oosterse handschriften (KNAW)
Dr Arnoud Vrolijk, 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