Opening up our Persian collections

The Khamsah of Niẓāmī 1539-1543

The British Library holds one of the largest collections of Persian manuscripts in the world, consisting of over 11,000 items. These manuscripts originate from the whole of the Islamic world, in particular Iran, Central Asia and India, and range from the 12th century to handwritten and typed texts of recent years.

We are seeking £43,000 funding for the third year to match funding from the Iran Heritage Foundation. By the end of the three-year partnership, a large proportion of the manuscripts will have online catalogue records and a minimum of 50 manuscripts will have been digitised, enabling them to be searched for, studied and enjoyed by scholars and the public anywhere in the world.

The collection is strong in most of the traditional fields of humanities and religious studies. Many of the Persian manuscripts are copies of rare texts, and the illustrated volumes include some of the most famous miniature paintings of the Persian and Mughal schools.

We are mid-way through a three-year partnership project with the Iran Heritage Foundation UK. The aim is to open up access and increase awareness of this remarkable collection through a comprehensive cataloguing programme. In addition selected digitisation of some of the most significant and beautiful manuscripts will be undertaken. Several manuscripts are already available online.

For further information or to support this project, please contact Michele Burton on +44 20 7412 7030 or by email at