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Mostapha Naji collection

Identifier: ubl270

Scope and Contents

Mostly Arabic and Berber manuscripts and books on Islam, Islamic law, history or belles-lettres. Practically all Berber manuscripts deal with religious topics. Mostapha Naji made a point of never selling Qurans to non-Muslim clients. Practically all 19th-century lithographed books from Morocco in the UBL collection were acquired from Naji, but detailed information on this is lacking. Naji’s private library consisted mostly of bibliographies and classical text editions.

The archival materials are mostly included in the series Or. 26.902-26.957


  • Creation: Bulk 1600-2000

Language of Materials

Arabic, Berber languagesFrench

Conditions Governing Use

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

Biographical / Historical

Mostapha Naji (also Mustapha Naji, Arabic مصطفى ناجي) was born in Morocco in 1951. Though receiving little formal training, he soon developed a thorough knowledge of classical Islamic and Arabic literature and a keen eye for antiquarian books and manuscripts. He set up as a bookseller and co-owner of Librarie Dar at-Tourath, Zankat Tabaria, Rabat (Morocco), later also of Librairie Dar al-Amana, also in Rabat. He was known for his widely ramified network of vendors and clients, not only in the Arab world, but also in Europe. His bookshop served as a literary salon for the intellectual élite of Rabat and beyond. He died of a heart condition in September 2000. For a brief biography see Buskens (2008).


485 manuscripts, c. 500 lithographed books, c. 1,500 modern printed books (c. 1 metre archival materials)

Abstract in Dutch

Collectie Marokkaanse handschriften en gedrukte boeken in het Arabisch, Berbertalen en Frans, vanaf 1990 aangekocht van Mostapha Naji, boekhandelaar te Rabat, of diens erfgenamen.

Abstract in English

Collection of Moroccan manuscripts and printed books in Arabic, Berber languages and French, acquired since 1990 from Mostapha Naji, antiquarian bookseller in Rabat, or his heirs.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

The manuscripts are sometimes fragile, but in the majority of instances they are available to readers.

Physical Location

Leiden University Library, Special Collections

Other Finding Aids

If catalogued, materials acquired after 2010 may be retrieved from the online catalogue by selecting ‘Advanced search’ and searching for ‘location data – Naji’. Materials acquired before 2010 can be found in Witkam (2007-….)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The first contacts between Mostapha Naji and Leiden scholars of Islam and Arabic date from the late 1980s. In 1988 Nico Kaptein, currently University Lecturer of Islam at Leiden University, introduced Mostapha Naji to Léon Buskens, currently Professor of Islamic Law at the same university. Not long afterwards, the first purchase of a manuscript by Leiden University Library was registered in March 1990 (Or. 22.315). Between 1990 and 2000 Jan Just Witkam, Curator of Oriental Manuscripts at Leiden University Library, bought manuscripts and lithographed editions from Mostapha Naji on a regular basis, largely with the mediation of Buskens. After Naji’s death in 2000, his two sons were unable to continue the book business. Nevertheless, acquisition continued on a more modest scale, mostly from private owners who had previously bought manuscripts from Naji, such as Belkacem Aït Salah Semlali (Rabat), P.S. van Koningsveld (Leiden), more recently from Léon Buskens (Leiden), and from Mostapha Naji’s heirs. In 2010, for instance, the remainder of Naji’s manuscripts, scholarly notes and some lithographed books were added to the collections with the financial support of the Juynboll Stichting, Leiden.

In 2012, Naji’s extensive reference library was acquired by LUCIS, the Leiden University Centre for Islamic Studies and subsequently donated to Leiden University Library.

In several cases substantial grants for the purchase of manuscript and book materials have been awarded by charities such as the Juynboll Stichting, VSB Fonds (The Hague) and Stichting het Oosters Instituut (Leiden).


Naji manuscripts are still added to the collections on a modest scale whenever the opportunity presents itself, mostly from scholars who bought manuscripts from Naji.

Related Materials

The Berber manuscripts acquired from Mostapha Naji are described in a separate collection guide.


  • Buskens, L., Conversations with Mostapha: learning about Islamic Law in Rabat, in: J. Kommers [et al.], Cultural styles of knowledge transition. Essays in honour of Ad Borsboom. Amsterdam 2008, pp. 19-24.
  • Witkam, J.J., Inventory of the Oriental manuscripts of the library of the University of Leiden. .. vols. Leiden 2007-.…, online via


The materials can be requested via the online catalogue. Except for the modern books, they can be consulted in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Processing Information

All manuscripts acquired between 1990 and 2002 are described in Witkam (2007), vols 23 and 24. The Naji provenance is sometimes anonymously referred to as the ‘antiquarian booktrade in Rabat’. Later acquisitions are mostly catalogued in the online public catalogue of Leiden University Libraries, but work is still in progress.

The following conspectus contains the basic registration numbers of the Naji manuscripts (‘Or. numbers’) with the month and year of acquisition:

  1. Or. 22.315-22.323 (March 1990)
  2. Or. 22.328-22.331 (April 1990)
  3. Or. 22.501-22.502 (December 1990)
  4. Or. 22.536 (May 1991)
  5. Or. 22.774-22.779 (November 1991)
  6. Or. 22.922-22.925 (February 1992)
  7. Or. 22.943-22.946 (April 1992)
  8. Or. 22.953 (June 1992)
  9. Or. 23.111-23.114 (January 1993)
  10. Or. 23.120-23.122 (March 1993)
  11. Or. 23.124-23.126 (April 1993)
  12. Or. 23.245-23.254 (November 1993)
  13. Or. 23.333-23.334 (August 1994)
  14. Or. 23.335-23.359 (September 1994)
  15. Or. 23.380-23.395 (January 1995)
  16. Or. 23.397-23.398 (March 1995)
  17. Or. 23.427-23.442 (October 1995)
  18. Or. 23.451-23.460 (December 1995)
  19. Or. 23.462-23.463 (December 1995)
  20. Or. 23.508-23.515 (May 1996)
  21. Or. 23.636 (July 1996)
  22. Or. 23.672 (August 1996)
  23. Or. 23.677-23.680 (September 1996)
  24. Or. 23.684 (September 1996)
  25. Or. 23.689 (November 1996)
  26. Or. 23.713-23.725 (February 1997)
  27. Or. 23.732-23.734 (March 1997)
  28. Or. 23.983-23.985 (September 1997)
  29. Or. 23.987-23.989 (October 1997)
  30. Or. 23.991-23.992 (November 1997)
  31. Or. 25.084-25.089 (March 1998)
  32. Or. 25.139-25.140 (April 1998)
  33. Or. 25.184 (July 1998)
  34. Or. 25.187 (August 1998)
  35. Or. 25.189-25.199 (September 1998)
  36. Or. 25.269-25.275 (October 1998)
  37. Or. 25.277-25.278 (October 1998)
  38. Or. 25.302-25.308 (February 1999)
  39. Or. 25.348-25.374 (April 1999)
  40. Or. 25.395-25.399 (July 1999)
  41. Or. 25.580-25.596 (October 1999)
  42. Or. 25.597-25.615 (November 1999)
  43. Or. 25.618-25.622 (December 1999)
  44. Or. 25.637-25.641 (February 2000)
  45. Or. 25.653-25.659 (March 2000)
  46. Or. 25.673-25.685 (1999, no month indicated)
  47. Or. 25.691-25.716 (June 2000)
  48. Or. 26.052-26.070 (December 2001-January 2002)
  49. Or. 26.544 (November 2006)
  50. Or. 26.610-26.614 (November 2008)
  51. Or. 26.838-26.958 (2010)
  52. Or. 26.975-26.990 (November 2014)
  53. Or. 27.103-27.120 (May 2016)

Naji’s reference library, acquired from his heirs in 2012, was in a poor condition after years of neglect. The books were transferred to NIMAR, the Netherlands Institute in Morocco, where they were inspected. Items beyond repair were deselected; the remainder was shipped to UBL. Through the care of Karin Scheper, conservator at UBL, the reference library and the most recently acquired manuscripts and archival materials were treated with gamma rays in a specialised laboratory to prevent further decay. The cataloguing of the modern printed books is still in progress.

Collection guide of the Mostapha Naji collection (1600-2000)
Collectie Mostapha Naji
Arnoud Vrolijk en Birte Kristiansen, 2016
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Beschrijving is in het English.

Revision Statements

  • 20 June 2016: latest update

Repository Details

Part of the Leiden University Libraries Archives & Collections Repository

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