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Middle East & Islamic Studies Collection Description: Getting Started

Middle East & Islamic Studies Collection Description

Since 2000, Duke University Libraries have been building and expanding their Middle East and Islamic Studies collection. While collecting comprehensively in all subject areas in English, the collections in the three main regional languages, Arabic, Persian, modern Turkish/Ottoman Turkish, as well as Urdu, (for Hebrew, see the collection description on the Jewish Studies guide) center on the humanities and social sciences, with a particular focus on materials on Islam (jurisprudence, law, exegesis, theology), Arabic language (grammar) and literature (both classical and modern), as well as history (history of Islam, contemporary history) and politics. Duke faculty’s interests, curricular and programmatic development, and the Libraries’ consortial responsibilities towards their partners within the framework of the Triangle Research Library Network (TRLN) form the basis for Duke’s strong holdings in Arabic and Turkish. The figures in the table below are from 2018.

Duke’s Lilly Library houses a growing film and video collection in Middle Eastern languages. It includes documentaries and feature films which cover aspects of Islamic culture and civilization as well as political and societal issues. Duke also subscribes to video streaming services, including, but not limited to, FMG Master Collection, Filmakers’ Library Online, AsiaPacific Films, Films on Demand, and Ethnographic Video Online.

Consortial Collection Development

The Duke and UNC Middle East and Islamic Studies librarians are cooperating in building collections in Middle East area studies. Collection responsibilities are delimited by language and region. Both institutions collect Arabic materials from the Arab Middle East as well as North Africa and materials in French from North Africa. Duke collects at research collection level in Turkish, UNC in Persian.

In addition, collaborative efforts are facilitated through the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies, a National Resource Center funded by a Title VI Middle East Studies grant from the U.S. Dept. of Education.

Middle East & Islamic Studies Materials at Rubenstein Library

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library houses several collections and unique items of interest to Middle East and Islamic Studies. Highlights include, but are not limited to:

Collection of Ottoman Turkish Monographs
Collection of 216 Ottoman Turkish books on the Internet Archive platform. These include not only classical literature but also works of popular fiction, religion, and law. These mongraphs are freely available in Duke's Internet Archive (IA) repository.
Collection of Ottoman Turkish Periodicals
This collection includes periodocals from a wide variet of subject areas, including, but not limited to, popular culture, Islam, government publications, education, health, cartoons and caricature, and art.
Ethiopian Qur'an Manuscript - c. 1700
Typical of Harari work, and of a quality not matched elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, is the exceptionally fine leather binding. Both the distinctive large, curved script and zig-zagging marginal commentary are strongly reminiscent of the so-called ‘Bihari’ Indian Qura’ns of 15th century, raising questions concerning cultural transfer between India, South Arabia and the East African coast.

Photographic Collections

Bonfils, Félix and Georges Saboungi.
Palestine photograph albums, ca. 1881.
Rubenstein Library Library Service Center Box 1 & 2
Check availability @ Duke
Holmes, Randolph Bezant, 1888-1973.
R. B. Holmes photographs, 1910-1919 and undated.
Rubenstein Library Library Service Center Fully Processed: Box 1-3
Finding Aid/Guide
Check availability @ Duke
Collection of ninety-two 11.5 x 9.5" black-and-white photographic prints of Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. The images were taken by British photographer R. B. (Randolph Bezzant) Holmes and possibly others from his studio who traveled with him. Holmes was the owner of the R. B. Holmes & Co. photography studio in Peshawar, Pakistan. The majority of these detailed images were taken during the end of the Anglo-Afghan war in 1919 and depict large British military camps and vast landscapes, sometimes with camel caravans or military convoys. Some scenes show the remains of villages, military features such as towers, and religious structures. There are also portraits of individuals along with scenic views. Several of the images have been hand-tinted, probably by Holmes himself.
Jewett, Milo A. (Milo Augustus), 1857-1921.
Milo A. Jewett albumen photographs of northern Turkey, 1891-1894 and undated.
Rubenstein Library - Library Service Center Fully Processed: Box 1 Check availability @ Duke
Summary: Physician, amateur photographer, and American consul in Turkey (Sivas, 1892-1905 and Trebizond, 1905-1911).
Collection comprises 19 images of various locations in the northern provinces, including 18 mounted albumen photographs probably taken by Jewett, along with one published view of Sivas attributed to Franklin Eng Co, Boston. All but one of the images is captioned, and several photographs an additional information written on the back of the mount. Ten of the photographs were taken in Sivas; other locations identified include the Kızıl Irmak River,
Tokat Plain, and Divaik[?]. Two of the photographs document the quarantine camps established during a cholera outbreak in 1894. Other subjects include housing conditions, street life, and the Seljuk Gateway and ruin. There are individual photographs of groups of people, including Armenian Christian women returning from a prayer meeting, a father and his daughters, a graduating class of local teachers, and attendees at a hanging of a murderer. A boxlist listing the photographs and their captions is stored with the materials.
Rosenthal, Mel.
Mel Rosenthal photographs and papers, 1975-2004
Rubenstein Library
Finding aid
Includes 25 16x20 and 21 11x14 gelatin silver prints from Rosenthal's exhibit "ARAB AMERICANS - AMERICAN BY CHOICE." This exhibit documented Arabic-speaking Americans, many of whom were living in New York State. Acquired as part of the Archive of Documentary Arts.
Sebah & Joaillier.
Panorama de Constantinople : pris de la tour de Galata
ca. 1878-ca. 1890.
Rubenstein Library E f#1559 Rare Books Check availability @ Duke
Summary: Panoramic vista of Constantinople in an accordion-fold format encompassing approx. 270 degrees, taken from the Galata Tower looking across the quarter of Galata towards the Tophane district and the Bosporus beyond, then to the outer Golden Horn harbor and the tip of the Istanbul peninsula with the Palace of Topkapi, then sweeping across the city inland along the Golden Horn waterfront towards the district of Eyüp.
Sykes, Sir Percy. 
Photographs taken by Lt. Col. Sir Percy Sykes to illustrate Chinese Turkestan, the Russian Pamirs and Osh April-November, 1915
Bound photograph album containing 48 photographs taken by Sir Percy Moleworth Sykes during his travels in a mountainous region of Central Asia, now the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China, with his sister, Ella Sykes. The gelatin silver prints measure approximately 4 1/2 x 6 3/4 inches and are window-mounted two to a page with calligraphic captions in white ink. Subjects include landscapes, strategic buildings such as forts and trading posts, and local Uighur, Beg, Kyrgyz, and Kazak people and their dwellings and animals, as well as British, Russian, Turkish, and Chinese people and officials. Specific locations in captions include Kashgar, the Tuman River, Yarkand, Khotan, Merkit, Bulunkul, the Pamirs, Tashkurgan, Muztagh Ata, Karakul lake, Tian Shan mountains, and Osh. The images are large, crisp, and rich with detail, offering views of a remote area and its culture during tensions in the decades following the Russo-Turkish War.
Rubenstein Library: Reading Room only Check availability @ Duke

Watts, George Washington, 1851-1921.
George Washington Watts photograph albums, [188-?]
Rubenstein Library: Reading Room only Check availability @ Duke
Summary: Collection (03-111) comprises two photograph albums of albumen prints collected by Watts during a trip to the Middle East. The albums contain photographs made by a number of prominent 19th-century photographers working in the Middle East, including A. Beato, Félix Bonfils, Gulmez Freres, Reiser, G. Lekegian, Sebah & Joaillier, and Zangaki.

In Duke's History of Medicine Collection

Special collections & manuscript materials are handled according to rules and procedures established by Rubenstein Library. Please consult Rubenstein's Research page before you request any items.

Manuscript in Duke's History of Medicine Collections

Check availability @ Duke


Select Bibliography

Manṣūr ibn Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad, active 14th century.
Kitab-ı Teşrihü'l-ebdan min e't-tıb.
Ankara: Atatürk Kültür Merkezi, 2008.
Perkins/Bostock Library R631 .M268 2008 Check availability @ Duke
Facsimile of Persian manuscript with translations and commentary in Turkish and English.
Russell, Gül A.
"Ebn Elyās, Manṣūr"
in: Encyclopædia Iranica (
Savage-Smith, Emilie
in: Encyclopædia of Islam, THREE (