General Reference Works
The following reference works can be used to identify and locate desired manuscripts. While useful, there is often more to be found upon visiting an archive since efforts are still ongoing to catalog manuscripts and make to make these listings available online.
Organized by Person
When searching for the surviving manuscripts of a particular personality the following reference works can be helpful.
Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur
Carl Brockelmann. Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur, 2 vols. Weimar: E. Felber, 1898-1902; Supplementband, 3 vols. Leiden: Brill, 1937-1942.
Given the difficulty of using this reference work for first-time users, the Middle East Librarians Association (MELA) published a guide to the work in MELA Notes 3 (1974). The guide, entitled Basic Reference Outline Series Nr. 1, is available as a PDF on the MELA website. Access to an online edition of Brockelmann’s work has been made available by Brill to subscribers.
Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums
Fuat Sezgin. Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums, 13 vols. Leiden: Brill, 1967-2000.
Like Brockelmann’s collection, Sezgin’s voluminous reference work is extremely useful for manuscript research. The volumes of the series, however, only cover up to the year 430 AH. Each volume is dedicated to one or more fields of knowledge. A figure may appear in more than one volume.
ʿUmar Riḍā al-Kaḥḥāla. Muʿjam al-muʾallifīn: Tarājim muṣannifī al-kutub al-ʿarabiyya, 4 vols. Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Risāla, 1993.
Provides basic bio-bibliographical information of a historical personality. This work has been published on several occasions with differing number of volumes.
al-Ziriklī, Khayr al-Dīn. al-Aʿlām: Qāmūs tarājim li-ashhar al-rijāl wa’l-nisāʾ min al-ʿarab wa’l-mustaʿribīn wa’l-mustashriqīn, 17th edn, 8 vols. Beirut: Dār al-ʿIlm li’l-Malāyīn, 2007.
Provides basic bio-bibliographical information of a historical personality. In some cases an image of the author’s autograph is provided.
Organized by Title
When in possession of a title the volumes compiled by Hajji Khalifa can be helpful in identifying a work’s possible author.
Ḥājjī Khalīfa, Kātip Çelebi. Kitāb Kashf al-ẓunūn ʿan asāmī al-kutub wa’l-funūn, 6 vols (vols. 1-2: Kashf al-ẓunūn; vols. 3-4: Dhayl kashf al-ẓunūn, vols. 5-6: Hadiyyat al-ʿārifīn), Istanbul: Maṭābiʿ Wikālat al-Maʿārif al-Jalīla, 1941-1955.
Organized by Library/Archive
Before traveling to a location in search of manuscripts it is helpful to identify the various archives and libraries in the area. While some of these libraries and archives have one of more works cataloging some or all the manuscripts available at a site, many do not. You may find the World Survey of Islamic Manuscripts a useful starting point.
World Survey of Islamic Manuscripts
Geoffrey Roper, ed. World Survey of Islamic Manuscripts, 4 vols. London: al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation, 1994.
This is a 4-volume reference work published by Brill. The work is organized by country and for each country a scholar has compiled a useful profile of the libraries and collections available. Countries with a large number of collections are then divided by state or city. The information provided typically, but not always, includes:
-Private and Public Collections (Contact Information, Accessibility)
-Available Catalogues (Published and Unpublished)
-General Description of a Collection