Skip to main content

Levinus Warner collection

Identifier: ubl211

Scope and Contents

According to a survey carried out by P.S. van Koningsveld (1970, pp. 37-38), the approximately 900 Warner codices in Middle Eastern or Islamic languages comprise 1164 texts in Arabic, 224 in Persian and 98 in Ottoman Turkish. The estimate of the latter category, however, appears to be too low. The majority of the Middle Eastern collection is devoted to non-religious subjects such as language and literature, history, philosophy and science.

The majority of Warner’s Hebrew manuscripts originate from the Karaites, a non-rabbinical Jewish sect which attracted a great deal of interest among contemporary Protestant scholars from Europe.

The collection also contains Warner’s scholarly notes in Latin, most of which remain unedited.

Highlights of the collection are the unique manuscript of Ibn Hazm’s Tawq al-hamamaطوق الحمامة, 'The Ring of the Dove', a treatise on love and friendship (Or. 927), first edited by D.K. Pétrof in 1914 and many times since, and the oldest extant illustrated Arabic manuscript on a scientific subject, the Kitab al-hasha’ish كتاب الحشائش , a translation of De Materia Medica by Dioscorides Pedanius. The manuscript is dated Ramadan 475 / February 1083 (Or. 289). An item of palaeographical interest is a manuscript dated 252 / 866 of Kitab Gharib al-hadith كتاب غريب الحديث by Abu ‘Ubayd al-Qasim b. Sallam al-Harawi, the oldest dated Arabic manuscript on paper in the Western world (Or. 298).


  • Creation: 850-1665
  • Creation: Bulk 1450-1650

Language of Materials

Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, Hebrew, Latin, Greek, Armenian

Conditions Governing Use

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

Biographical / Historical

Levinus Warner, or Levinus Warnerus, was born c. 1618 in the principality of Lippe, Germany. After finishing his secondary education at the Paedagogium in Bremen he was admitted to the Athenaeum Illustre in 1636, where he received instruction from the headmaster Ludovicus Crocius, who took an interest in Oriental languages. On 19 May 1638 he matriculated at Leiden University as a student of Philosophy. At Leiden he studied Middle Eastern languages under Jacobus Golius (1596-1667) and Biblical Hebrew under Constantijn L’Empereur (1591-1648). He earned his living as a tutor to the nephews of Radslav Kinsky, an expatriate Bohemian nobleman. In 1642 Warner followed his pupils to Amsterdam, where he met the Hebrew scholar and printer Menasseh ben Israel. Between 1642 and 1644 he published four small treatises on Oriental subjects, apparently to attract the patronage of wealthy Dutch merchants and scholars.

After obtaining the necessary funds from, among others, L’Empereur and David de Wilhem, a councillor of Prince Frederick Henry of Orange, he departed from Amsterdam in December 1644, travelling overland via Gdánsk and Lviv in the Polish-Lithuanian Commomwealth. He finally arrived in Istanbul in the autumn of 1645. The first years he worked as a secretary for Nicolaas Ghisbrechti or Ghysbrechtsz, a jeweller originally from the Southern Netherlands who had been involved in the Capitulations accorded to the Dutch Republic in 1612. When Ghisbrechti became resident for the Dutch Republic in 1647 Warner continued working for him. After Ghisbrechti’s death in 1654 Warner took over from him as resident, receiving his first appointment from the States General in 1655. He would remain in this position until his death in 1665, living 'entirely after the Turkish fashion'. Warner’s correspondence with his patron David de Wilhem and the States General in The Hague has been published by Willem Nicolaas du Rieu (1883).


40 metres (c. 1,000 items)

Abstract in Dutch

De oosterse collectie van Levinus Warner (c. 1618-1665), oriëntalist en resident van de Nederlandse Republiek bij het Osmaanse hof tussen 1655 en 1665. Bij legaat verkregen in 1665.

Abstract in English

The Oriental collection of Levinus Warner (c. 1618-1665), Orientalist and resident of the Dutch Republic to the Ottoman Court from 1655 to 1665. Bequest of 1665.

Physical Location

Leiden University Library, Special Collections

Other Finding Aids

The Middle Eastern manuscripts in the Warner collection bear the classmarks Cod. Or. 269 – 1182. With minor exceptions, the Hebrew manuscripts bear the classmarks Cod. Or. 4739 – 4802. Eight Greek manuscripts have been transferred to the Collection Bibliotheca Publica Graeca, where they are listed as BPG 46, 47, 60 C, 63 A, 64 A, 65 A, 73 G and 76. A description of the Middle Eastern manuscripts can be accessed online via, where all the Oriental manuscripts of the Leiden University Libraries are catalogued in sets of 1,000 each in the form of non-printable pdf’s (Witkam 2007).

The 218 printed Hebrew books are listed in the 1674 catalogue of Leiden University Library under the heading Excusi Legati Warneriani Spanheim 1674, pp. 259-289), but they cannot be identified as Warner books in the online catalogue.

Custodial History

During his twenty years of permanent residence in Istanbul, Warner formed a private collection of slightly over 900 manuscripts in Middle Eastern languages, 73 Hebrew manuscripts predominantly from the Karaite community, some Greek manuscripts and two manuscripts in Armenian. Interesting but not unique is his collection of 218 Hebrew printed books. Warner acquired his manuscripts and books through the lively antiquarian booktrade, receiving help from Arabs originally from Aleppo such as Muhammad al-‘Urdi al-Halabi (c. 1602-1660), whose faltering career probably forced him to offer his services to Warner, and the Aleppo-born Salih Efendi, known as Ibn Sallûm, a physician-in-ordinary to Sultan Mehmed IV who died in 1669. Another Aleppine, Niqula ibn Butrus al-Halabi or Nicolaus Petri, worked for him as an amanuensis. Warner’s Oriental correspondence has been edited by M.Th. Houtsma (1887).

Warner and his local helpers were active in Istanbul, the political and cultural capital of the Ottoman Empire, which comprised most of the Arab world. There was a flourishing booktrade, and if originals were not to be had, a copy could easily be obtained from professional copyists. There is documentary evidence to show that Warner bought at auctions, and ex-libris annotations show that many of Warner’s manuscripts hailed from high-ranking Ottoman officers or ulama. A number of manuscripts originate from the private libraries of Ayyubid amirs and Mamluk sultans.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Levinus Warner lived together with a Greek Orthodox common-law wife named 'Cocone de Christophle' in the sources, but he never married. He died childless on 22 June 1665, having drawn up his last will and testament two days previously. Under the terms of his will his entire collection was left to Leiden University. Several copies of his will are preserved in the National Archives in The Hague (Archive inventory 1.01.02, file no. 6910). The first consignment arrived in Leiden in December 1668; other shipments followed until 1674. In the first printed catalogue of the Warner collection it was announced on the title page as 'an incomparable treasure of Oriental books' (Incomparabilis Thesaurus Librorum Orientalium) (Spanheim 1674).

The collection of Levinus Warner is generally known as the Legatum Warnerianum, 'Warner’s Legacy'. It has dominated the Oriental collections of the Leiden University Library to such an extent that the entire Oriental collection is sometimes referred to by this name.


No future additions are to be expected.

Related Materials

Warner’s letters to his patron David de Wilhem in The Hague are in the Collection Bibliotheca Publica Latina, classmark BPL 293 A.

Separated Materials

Levinus Warner’s diplomatic correspondence with the States General in The Hague is preserved in the National Archives, The Hague.


  • Biografisch portaal (Levinus Warner)
  • Houtsma, M.Th., Uit de Oostersche correspondentie van Th. Erpenius, Jac. Golius en Lev. Warner. Eene bijdrage tot de geschiedenis van de beoefening der Oostersche letteren in Nederland. Amsterdam 1887.
  • Koningsveld, P.S. van, Warner’s manuscripts and books in the main printed catalogues>, in: Levinus Warner and his legacy. Leiden 1970, pp. 33-44.
  • 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.
  • Rieu, G.N. du (ed.), Levini Warneri de rebus Turcicis epistolae ineditae. Leiden 1883.
  • Schmidt, J., A. Vrolijk (eds.), The Ottoman Legacy of Levinus Warner. Leiden 2012. (Middle Eastern Manuscripts Online, 2). Online via Brill
  • Spanheim, F., Catalogus Bibliothecae Publicae Lugduno-Batavae noviter recognitus. Accessit incomparabilis thesaurus librorum Orientalium. Leiden 1674.
  • Vrolijk, A., J. Schmidt, K. Scheper, Turcksche boucken. De oosterse verzameling van Levinus Warner, Nederlands diplomaat in zeventiende-eeuws Istanbul. The Oriental collection of Levinus Warner, Dutch diplomat in seventeenth-century Istanbul. Eindhoven 2012.
  • Witkam, J.J., Inventory of the Oriental manuscripts of the University of Leiden. Leiden 2007-…, online via


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

Processing Information

The first inventory was drawn up in 1668 by the Danish Orientalist Theodorus Petraeus from Flensburg, which was later expanded by the Armenian copyist Shahin Qandi. Their work has not been preserved in the original form, but it was subsequently used by the German student N. Boots or Bootz, whose description of the Warner Legacy takes up a large part of the 1674 catalogue of the Leiden University Library, which appeared under the editorship of the University librarian Friedrich Spanheim the Younger (Spanheim 1674, pp. 316ff). Roughly one-third of the collection has been rebound in plain, brown leather European library bindings from the late seventeenth or early eighteenth centuries.

In 1729 the title of Interpres Legati Warneriani was created by the governors of Leiden University, to ensure the continuity of the collection by conservation, cataloguing and the production of scholarly editions. The title was first conferred on Albert Schultens (1686-1750), professor of Oriental languages at Leiden. The last Interpres was Jan Just Witkam, who retired in 2010. To date, no successor has been appointed.

The current classmarks of the Warner collection date from the nineteenth century.

In 1970 an exhibition of the Warner collection was held in the Bibliotheca Thysiana, Leiden, with a catalogue by G.W.J. Drewes, P.S. van Koningsveld, I. Acker-Van Eyk, J.T.P. de Bruijn and A.J.W. Huisman (Levinus Warner and his legacy 1970). In this catalogue, P.S. van Koningsveld published a list of the general printed catalogues of the Leiden University Library which contain descriptions of the Warner collection (V. Koningsveld 1970, pp. 33-37). For a more detailed overview of the extant manuscript catalogues the reader is advised to consult the collection guides for the various languages (Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, Hebrew, Armenian). See also the collection guide for Karaitic manuscripts.

Since 2000, a limited number of highlights from the collection, mainly Arabic manuscripts, have been digitised.

In 2012, on the fourth centenary of Dutch-Turkish diplomatic relations, the Ottoman Turkish manuscripts in the Warner collection were digitised in a joint project by Brill, Leiden, and Leiden University Libraries, The Ottoman Legacy of Levinus Warner (MEMO2), edited by Jan Schmidt and Arnoud Vrolijk (Schmidt 2012).

In 2012-2013, an exhibition of the Warner collection was held in Museum Meermanno, the National Museum of the Book in The Hague, with a monograph by Arnoud Vrolijk, Jan Schmidt and Karin Scheper (Vrolijk 2012).

Collection guide of the Levinus Warner collection (850-1665)
Collectie Levinus Warner
Arnoud Vrolijk, 2013
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Beschrijving is in het Engels.

Revision Statements

  • 2 March 2015: latest update

Repository Details

Part of the Leiden University Libraries Archives & Collections Repository

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