Skip to Main Content

Near East Collection, Yale University Library: Special Collections at Yale

Research guide for Islamic and Middle East Studies, and Arabic, Persian, and Turkish languages and literatures.

Special Collections related to the Middle East at Yale

Archives at Yale includes descriptive guides (or "finding aids") to all the archival and manuscript collections held at Yale.

Yale University: Visual Resources of the Middle East (also available as a public collection in ArtStor) -- Images of objects created in the Middle Eastern region from antiquity to the early 21st century. Yale University Art Gallery (YUAG) has manuscript paintings from early modern Iran and India, and strong holdings in textiles, ceramics, photography and contemporary art. Highlights from the 18th and 19th centuries include objects that document British travels through the Middle East from the Yale Center for British Art and the Lewis Walpole Library. Sterling Memorial Library offers visual resources from books and periodicals published in Persian, Arabic, and Turkish, while the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library houses numerous scientific manuscripts. Beinecke Library's renowned rare book and manuscript collections encompass resources from Safavid Shahnamah manuscripts to 20th-century field photographs. Included among the Peabody Museum of Natural History’s collection are archaeological objects from the Islamic world. This customized Artstor collection also includes the YUAG Gerasa and Dura-Europos collections.

The department of Manuscripts and Archives in Sterling Memorial Library and the Beinecke hold a number of important archive collections related to the Middle East; primarily concerned with nineteenth- and twentieth-century political & diplomatic history and missionary activities in the area, though there are also materials relating to the cinema & performing arts. These include:

  • The Paul Moody Atkins Papers, in particular boxes 17 and 18, on the Iran-Millspaugh Mission of 1943-1945 (English)
  • the Isaac Bird Papers: correspondence, diaries, etc. of an American missionary active in Syria in the early 19th century; particularly Box 2, folder 24, which includes correspondence in Arabic
  • the L. Paul Bremer III Papers, useful for the history of United States foreign relations during the final decade of the Cold War and the emerging global war on terrorism of the early twenty-first century (English)
    • Blog post describing the collection in more detail.
  • the Ghassem Ghani Collection of papers dealing with 19th-century Iranian diplomacy (Persian)
    • View transcribed documents from the Ghani Collection (Persian)
  • Islamic fundamentalist audio recordings, thought to have originated in Osama bin Laden's compound in Kandahar, Afghanistan (mostly Arabic)
  • the Ernst Jäckh papers, correspondence, reports, and other material relating to political and diplomatic affairs in Turkey and the Middle East from 1908 to 1921, particularly in relation to interests of the German Foreign Office in that area (German)
  • the Ali al-Kassar collection of manuscript music and comic plays from early 20th-century Egypt (Arabic)
  • the Arabic film poster collection of posters and other publicity materials related to the film industry (Arabic)
  • the Palestinian liberation movement collection of posters and other documentary items (Arabic)
  • archival materials related to the late 19th-century history of Palestine, the establishment of the state of Israel, and the migration of Iraqi Jews in 1950-51 are described in this list prepared by the Yale University Judaica Collection
  • the Sudan collection, printed material and photographs relating to political, economic, and social conditions in Sudan (English, Arabic, and French)
  • the Syrian poster collection dealing with political, cultural, and health topics (Arabic)
  • papers from The Inquiry, a group of experts assembled at the request of President Wilson to collect and collate data in preparation for a peace conference following World War I (English)

The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library holds over 4,200 manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, Syriac, and Armenian, in various subject areas, including language and literature, theology, biography, philosophy, and natural and social sciences. In addition, the Beinecke holds a variety of other materials including personal papers, photographs, maps, video, and other documents relating to the Middle East, including:

  • decks of playing cards from Iran for As-Nas, 40 decks total (created 1800-1905), search in Orbis to find them all.
  • the Eve Arnold Papers, including Arnold's photographs made in Afghanistan, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, and a copy of her 1970 documentary "Behind the Veil" (English)
  • the Sir Richard Francis Burton Collection, assorted items related to this translator of the Arabian Nights (English)
  • the Father Carney Gavin legacy collection of Holy Land photographs documents early photography of Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia in the 1860s and 1870s, as well as early twentieth century archaeological excavations and travel in Iraq, Greece, Egypt, and Palestine. Included are images by Abdullah frères, Henri Béchard, the Bonfils family, M.J. Diness, Francis Frith, G. Lékégian, J.P. Sébah, and Zangaki. Also present are stereoscopic views of Jerusalem and Palestine produced by Underwood & Underwood in circa 1900. The collection was assembled by Father Carney Gavin, primarily through gifts of photograph collections and single items to the Archives of Historical Documentation, in the 1990s and 2000s. It contains photographic prints, photograph albums, glass lantern slides, cartes-de-visite, stereographs, panoramas, writings and exhibition files, printed material, and electronic and audiovisual media.
  • Photographs relating to European Occupation, Colonization, and Conflicts in North and East Africa consists of photograph albums, loose photographs, and postcards documenting the European colonization, occupation, and conflicts in African countries including Abyssinia (present day Ethiopia), Algeria, Eritrea, Kenya, Libya, Melilla, Morocco, and Somalia, and events occurring between 1895-1945.
  • the Hartford Seminary collection of Islamic manuscripts (mostly Arabic)
  • the papers of Mustapha Khayati (b. ca. 1940?), Tunisian political activist & historian of culture (French and Arabic)
    • more information about Khayati and about this collection, from the "Postwar Culture" portal (Beinecke)
  • the Land of Zenj photograph collection, which includes items related to Arab coastal settlements in East Africa.
  • the Bert Stimmel Papers, documenting the life and professional career of American-born performer and artistic director Bert Stimmel (1920-2005, Yale '48), who from 1972-1999 was artistic director of the Caracalla Dance Theatre in Beirut, Lebanon (English)
  • the Yale Papyrus Collection, including items in Arabic, Syriac, Aramaic, and Persian.
  • Finding Syriac MSS:
  • click here to view a sample search of the Beinecke's digital collections, in this case for items related to Syria.

The Babylonian Collection is the largest collection of documents, seals, and other artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia in the United States, and one of the leading collections of cuneiform tablets in the world. This collection is housed on the third floor of the Sterling Memorial Library.

Primary-source materials, both analog & digital, related to the Middle East are also held in these collections:

Librarian for Middle East Studies

Profile Photo
Robin Dougherty
she, her
Sterling Memorial Library
120 High Street
New Haven, CT 06520
tel.: 203-432-1373