In March 2008, the Special Collections Department of the Gelman Library acquired the entire Rare Book Collection held in The George Camp Keiser Library of the Middle East Institute, Washington, DC. The collection consists of some 700 volumes of oriental literature and orientalist scholarship, treating of various aspects of the history, culture, politics, literature and languages of the Middle East, the Ottoman Empire, Central Asia, the horn of Africa, the Indian sub-continent and the Islamic lands. A large part of the collection is comprised of travelogues and other geographical works related to these regions.
The holdings of the collection vary in language, date and provenance. Although most of the books are in English, there are many in Arabic, and the rest in other western and oriental languages, especially French, German, Turkish and Persian. Among these are books printed in different corners of the Islamic world, including North Africa, the Ottoman Empire and India. The major portion of the collection stems from the 19th and early 20th centuries, but there are also some older volumes from the 17th and 18th centuries. The many editions and translations of sacred and classical texts include Alexander Ross’s version (from the French) of The Alcoran of Mahomet (London, 1688), Flügel’s academic edition of the original text, Corani textus arabicus (Leipzig, 1858), Edward Lane’s English version of The Thousand and One Nights (London, 1839-1841), and Macnaghten’s edition of the Arabic original, Alif Laylah wa Laylah (Calcutta, 1839-1842). The oldest book in the collection is the Spanish translation (from Ladino) of Moses Almosnino’s Extremos y grandezas de Constantinopla (Madrid, 1638).
The Middle East Institute Rare Book Collection complements several other special collections and rarities in the Gelman Library, including Maps of the Holy Land (the Halperin-Epstein Collection, with many antiquarian catalogues on this subject), color lithographic drawings of 19th-century Palestine and Egypt by the Scottish-born landscape painter David Roberts, and several Arabic rare books, including the manuscript Arabic History of the Rulers of the East and Morocco [Al-Tarjuman al-mu‘arab an duwal al-mashriq wa-al-maghrib, holograph 1878], donated by H.R.H. Muhammad V, King of Morocco, in 1968, and a facsimile of the lavishly ornamented Holy Qur’an prepared by the modern Persian calligrapher Bahram Saleki (Tehran, 2003), donated this year through the kindness of University Professor of Islamic Studies S. H. Nasr. In addition, the I. Edward Kiev Collection, within the Special Collections Research Center, holds much orientalia, including some printed texts in Judeo-Arabic and Judeo-Persian.
The entire contents of the collection are now accessible in the online catalogue of the Gelman Library: