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Persian manuscripts and rare books collection

Identifier: ubl128

Scope and Contents

The Leiden Persian collections reflect the intellectual interests of Leiden Oriental scholars from the late 16th century onwards.

The number of splendidly illuminated volumes, so often found in European royal libraries, is limited, although there are items of great artistic beauty, for example a Timurid manuscript of the Shāhnāma (Or. 494).


  • Creation: 12th-20th century CE
  • Creation: Bulk 15th-19th century CE

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Use

Many manuscripts are too old and fragile to handle. Where available, a microfilm will be offered as an alternative.

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


1200 manuscripts; c. 3,000 pre-1950 imprints (c. 35 metres manuscripts; c. 75 metres pre-1950 imprints)

Abstract in Dutch

Verzameling van ca. 1.200 Perzische handschriften en ca. 3.000 oude Perzische gedrukte boeken uit de 12e tot en met de 20e eeuw. De kern van de collectie behoort tot de nalatenschap van Levinus Warner (1619-1665), oriëntalist en diplomaat. De gehele Leidse collectie staat nog steeds bekend onder de naam Legatum Warnerianum (Warners nalatenschap), hoewel zowel voor als na Warner vele geleerden de collectie hebben uitgebouwd. De collectie omvat het gehele spectrum van het geschreven Perzische erfgoed, met name de literatuur, geschiedenis, islam en de exacte wetenschappen.

Abstract in English

Collection of c. 1,200 Persian manuscripts and c. 3,000 rare Persian printed books dating from the 12th till the 20th century. The core of the collection is part of the legacy of Levinus Warner (1619-1665), Orientalist and diplomat, after whom the entire Leiden collection is still known as Legatum Warnerianum (Warner's Legacy). However, many scholars before and after him have contributed to its growth. The collection covers the entire range of the Persian written heritage, most notably Belles Lettres, history, Islam and the exact sciences.

Physical Location

Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden, Bijzondere Collecties

Other Finding Aids

The most complete and up-to-date access to the Leiden Persian manuscripts is JJ Witkam's online inventory of Oriental manuscripts. A hardcopy of the Persian manuscripts in this inventory is Witkam (2002).

Persian printed books, or books on Iranian studies, can be retrieved with the help of the Leiden University Library catalogue (English version available).

Custodial History

Dutch interest in Persian is almost contemporary with the foundation of Leiden University in 1575. Franciscus Raphelengius (1539-1597), professor of Hebrew at Leiden, is credited with the discovery of the linguistic relationship between Persian and Dutch after studying the 1546 Judaeo-Persian Pentateuch printed in Istanbul by Soncino (De Bruijn 1990). Jacobus Golius (1596-1667), professor of Oriental languages, acquired Persian manuscripts for the University during his stay in Syria and Turkey from 1625 to 1629 (Witkam 1980). Among the early collectors the person of Levinus Warner (1619-1665) stands out, a Dutch diplomatic representative to Ottoman Turkey. His legacy of 1,000 Oriental manuscripts to Leiden University contains c. 200 Persian manuscripts which reflect Ottoman interest in Persian literature and history (Levinus Warner and his legacy 1970).

More than three-quarters of the Persian manuscript holdings, however, were acquired from the late 17th century till the present day.

Printed books

The collection of Persian printed books contains the fruits of European scholarship from the 17th century onwards, and mainly lithographed books from Iran and the Indian subcontinent (Tehran, Lahore, Cawnpore).


The Leiden University Library still acquires Persian manuscripts and rare printed books on a modest scale. Of late years, the acquisition pattern has shifted from Iran to the Indian subcontinent.

Existence and Location of Copies

Parts of the collection have been microfilmed.

Related Materials

The Leiden Persian manuscripts are part of the larger Leiden collection of Middle Eastern manuscripts, among which Arabic and (Ottoman) Turkish figure most prominently. Other Persian manuscripts can be found in the permanent loan collection of Oriental manuscripts of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). See also the catalogue by Weyers and De Jong (1862), p. 213-237.


  • Bruijn, J.T.P. de, De ontdekking van het Perzisch. Leiden 1990.
  • Catalogus Bibliothecae publicae Lugduno-Batavae noviter recognitus, accessit incomparabilis thesaurus librorum orientalium, praecipue Mss. Lugd. Bat. 1674, pp. 249-424.
  • Catalogus librorum tam impressorum quam manuscriptorum Bibliothecae publicae universitatis Lugduno-Batavae. Lugd. apud Batavos 1716, pp. 409-491: Manuscripti libri orientales.
  • Dozy. R.P.A. [et al.], Catalogus codicum orientalium bibliothecae Academiae Lugduno Batavae. 6 vols. Lugd. Bat. 1851-1877.
  • Hamaker, H.A., Specimen catalogi codicum Mss. orientalium bibliothecae Academiae Lugduno-Batavae. Lugd. Bat. 1820.
  • Levinus Warner and his legacy. Three centuries Legatum Warnerianum in the Leiden University Library. Leiden 1970.
  • Weyers, H.E. & P. de Jong, Catalogus codicum Orientalium Bibliothecae Academiae Regiae Scientiarum. Lugd. Bat. 1862, pp. 213-238.
  • Witkam, J.J., Jacobus Golius (1596-1667) en zijn handschriften. Leiden 1980.
  • Witkam, J.J., Inventory of the Persian manuscripts in Leiden University Library. Leiden


All manuscripts can be requested at the Special Collections Reading Room with the help of the appropriate classmark Cod. Or. [number]. Persian printed books can be requested through the online catalogue (English version available).

Processing Information

The Leiden Persian manuscripts were first described in the Leiden Catalogus of 1674, and again in 1716.

In the 19th century the Persian manuscript holdings were incorporated in the comprehensive Catalogus codicum orientalium bibliothecae Academiae Lugduno Batavae, abbreviated CCO, published between 1851 and 1877 by R.P.A. Dozy (1820-1883) and others. The Persian manuscripts are described throughout the catalogue according to subject.

The Persian acquisitions from 1879 to 1966 (Or. 2270 - Or. 11.097) are succinctly described in a bound set of cards available upon request at the Special Collections reading room.

In the 1980s and early 1990s JTP de Bruijn, professor of Persian at Leiden, prepared a scholarly catalogue of Persian manuscripts which was never published due to the lack of adequate funding. His working materials, one box of several hundred typed or handwritten cards, are available upon request.

The most recent catalogue of the Leiden Persian manuscripts is JJ Witkam's online inventory of Oriental manuscripts.

Collection guide of the Persian manuscripts and rare books collection (12th-20th century CE)
Collectie Perzische handschriften en oude drukken
Dr Arnoud Vrolijk, 2009
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Beschrijving is in het Engels.

Repository Details

Part of the Leiden University Libraries Archives & Collections Repository

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