Cambridge University Library's collection of Islamic manuscripts dates from the origins of Arabic scholarship in Cambridge in the 1630s when the University founded a Professorship in Arabic and William Bedwell donated a Qurʼān to the Library. Since that time the collection has grown in size and diversity to over 5,000 works, including the collections of Thomas Erpenius, J.L.Burckhardt, E.H.Palmer and E.G. Browne. These manuscripts shed light on many aspects of the Islamic world, its beliefs and learning.
This collection consists of over 1,800 titles including codices, rolls and single leaves, dating from the 8th to the 20th century CE. The texts are primarily in Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish, as well as a small number in Chagatai Turkish, Panjabi and Maranao. The collection offers a vast range of raw material for philologists and historians of various fields, including Islamic social history, knowledge transmission and acquisition, manuscript production and ownership, and the arts of the book.