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.

The collection is strong in most of the traditional fields of humanities and religious studies. Many of the manuscripts are unique texts with no other known surviving copies. The collection also includes autographs and some of the finest examples of calligraphy and miniature painting dating from the periods of Timurid, Safavid and Mughal rule.

We are mid-way through a three-year partnership project with the Iran Heritage Foundation UK. Our aim is to open up access and increase awareness of this remarkable collection through a comprehensive online cataloguing programme combined with digitising a selection of the most important manuscripts. To date we have digitised fifty manuscripts, which can be found on our Persian manuscripts website.

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