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René Basset archive and collection

Identifier: ubl201

Scope and Contents

Arabic language and literature, Islam, history. Witkam (1983, p. 1) noted the absence of Berber manuscripts, a unexpected feature in view of the owner’s extensive involvement in Berber studies.


  • Creation: Bulk 1800-1900

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Use

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

Biographical / Historical

(Marie Joseph) René Basset was born in Lunéville, France, in 1855. In 1878 he graduated from the École Nationale des Langues Orientales Vivantes in Paris. In 1880 he received an appointment to teach extracurricular classes in Arabic at the École Supérieure des Lettres, Algiers. In 1884 he was called to the chair of Arabic language and literature at the same institution; the next year he received a supplementary appointment as 'maître de conférence' in Berber languages. From 1894 to 1910 he was the director of the school. When it was given the status of faculty of Humanities (Faculté des Lettres) in 1910 he became its first dean. He died in Algiers in 1924. He published extensively in the fields of Arabic and Berber studies. From its very beginning, he was editor of the first edition of The Encyclopaedia of Islam.

Two of his sons, Henri (1892-1926) and Georges (1895-1956) became distinguished orientalists in their own right (Pouilllon 2008).


72 items (c. 5 metres)

Abstract in Dutch

Arabische handschriften en nagelaten aantekeningen van René Basset (1855-1924), hoogleraar Arabisch en 'maître de conférence' in de Berbertalen aan de École Supérieure des Lettres van Algiers, later Faculté des Lettres.

Abstract in English

Arabic manuscripts and scholarly notes of René Basset (1855-1924), professor of Arabic and 'maître de conférence' in Berber languages at the École Supérieure des Lettres, Algiers, subsequently the Faculté des Lettres.

Physical Location

Leiden University Library, Special Collections

Other Finding Aids

The collection was first described (by P.S. van Koningsveld?) in the Brill catalogue of 1973 (Diversions 1973, p. 1-5); a more detailed description followed by Van Koningsveld in Bibliotheca Orientalis (Van Koningsveld 1973, 1974). The fullest description is by Witkam (1983).

Custodial History

According to Witkam (1983, p. 1) 'one may surmise that most of the MSS which bear no indication of date and place originate from Algeria and are contemporary with Basset. In two of the MSS it is expressly stated that they were commissioned by Basset: Or. 14.016 and 14.019.'

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection René Basset was acquired from E.J. Brill, Leiden, in August 1973. A few additions entered the library in 1974-1975 (Witkam 1983).


No future additions are to be expected.


  • [Koningsveld, P.S. v.], The Arabic manuscripts of René Basset, in: Diversions, presented to the participants in the 29th International Congress of Orientalists, Paris, July 1973. Leiden, 1973, pp. 1-5.
  • Koningsveld, P.S. v., The Arabic manuscripts collection of René Basset (1855-1924), in: Bibliotheca Orientalis 30 (1973), pp. 370-385.
  • Koningsveld, P.S. v., Supplementary list of Arabic manuscripts from the collection of René Basset, acquired recently by the Leyden University Librairy [sic], in: Bibliotheca Orientalis 31 (1974), pp. 160.
  • Pouillon, F. (ed.), Dictionnaire des orientalistes de langue française. Paris, 2008.
  • Witkam, J.J., Catalogue of Arabic manuscripts in the library of Leiden University […]. Leiden, 1983-…, pp. 1-140, 145-149, 274, 428-429.


The material can be requested and consulted in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Processing Information

Upon entering Leiden University Library in August 1973 the collection was assigned the classmarks Or. 14.001-14.067, with the later additions Or. 14.086-14.088, 14.168 and 14.303.

Collection guide of the René Basset archive and collection (1800-1900)
Archief en collectie René Basset
Arnoud Vrolijk, 2012
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Beschrijving is in het Engels.

Revision Statements

  • 30 January 2013: latest update

Repository Details

Part of the Leiden University Libraries Archives & Collections Repository

Witte Singel 27
Leiden 2311 BG Netherlands
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