Publications about Rare Holdings in Arabic Script in the Columbia Libraries

NB – The list is compiled opportunistically, and I add publications whenever they come to my  attention.  However, they are given in the chronological order of publication dates.

Wynne, James. “Alexander I. Cotheal’s Library,” in Private Libraries of New York, by J. Wynne: 162-172.  New York: E. French, 1860.

Gottheil, Richard. “Semitic Languages at Columbia.” Columbia University Bulletin, no. 19, March 1898: 89-102, esp. 100-101.  The essay has a section about the department’s library resources in Semitic languages which provides some details about manuscripts and printed books as well as their acquisition.

Yohannan, Abraham. “A Manuscript of Gul ū Naurūz: A Seventeenth Century Persian Romance, in the Library of Columbia University.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 23 (1902): 102-108.  Description of MS pers. X892.8 R86; the manuscript is not available in OPenn.

“Oriental Manuscripts 1000 Years Old,” New York Herald, 8 January 1905, p. 15 of the magazine section.  The article features black-and-white reproductions of selected pages from the 21 manuscripts in Arabic script that Jacob H. Schiff (1847–1920), James Speyer (1861–1941), and J. Dyneley Prince (1868–1945) bought from the estate of Carl Reinhardt (1856-1903) in order to give them as a gift to Columbia Libraries.

Becker, Carl Heinrich. Papry Schott-Reinhardt I: Die Entwicklung der arabischen Papyruskunde und die Bedeutung der Papyri Schott-Reinhardt – Die Urkunden des Statthalters Qorra b. Šarīk. Heidelberg: C. Winter, 1906.  For a biographical blurb of Carl Reinhardt (1856-1903), a German Arabist, consular officer, and collector, see pp. 5-6 note 4; cf. his entry in the index of the Deutsche Biographie, available at:

Gottheil, Richard. “Two Forged Antiquities.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 33 (1913): 306-312, esp. pp. 308-312 for MS arab. Smith or. 388.  The manuscript is now available in OPenn, but the new record provides less information than the older CLIO record which was created in 1990s or early 2000s when the codex was microfilmed: see (cf. OCLC 1013878708).  In 1908, when Gottheil identified this codex as one of the manuscript forgeries of Giuseppe Vella (1740-1814), Smith and Gottheil were not yet friends.  Gottheil does not disclose the name of the manuscript’s owner, and, conversely, it is not known from whom Smith acquired the manuscript.

Smith, David Eugene. “In the Surnamed Chosen Chest: II – Orientalia.” American Mathematical Monthly 32 (1925): 393-397.

Kasir, Daoud Suleiman.  “The Algebra of Omar Khayyam.” PhD diss. Columbia University, 1929.  English translation with commentary of MS arab. Smith or. 34; the manuscript is available in OPenn.  Published as The Algebra of Omar Khayyam. New York: Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia University, 1931.

Brasch, Frederick E. “Honor Bestowed on Dr. David Eugene Smith by the Shah of Persia.” Science  N.S. 78, no. 2026 (27 October 1933): 384.

Frick, Bertha Margaret. “The David Eugene Smith Mathematical Library of Columbia University.” Osiris 1 (1936): 79-84.

Ünver, A. Süheyl. “Islamic Manuscripts in the Columbia Libraries.” Columbia Library Columns 8, no. 3 (May 1959): 31-35.

McAleer, Helen E. “A Family Portrait of ‘U.D.’.” Columbia Library Columns 10, no. 3 (May 1961): 18-35.  The memoir provides important information about the provenance of the Islamic manuscript collection of David E. Smith.

Orosius, Paulus. Taʾrīkh al-ʿālam. Anon. Arabic tr., ed. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Badawī. Beirut: Al-Muʾassasah al-ʿarabiyyah li’l-dirāsāt wa’l-nashr, 1982.  Edition of MS arab. X893.712 H; the manuscript is not available in OPenn.

Bulliet, Richard W. “Medieval Arabic Ṭarsh: A Forgotten Chapter in the History of Printing.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 107 (1987): 427-438.  Study of P. Col. Inv. 705b.

Bulliet, Richard W. “Printing in the Medieval Islamic Underworld.” Columbia Library Columns 36, no. 3 (May 1987): 13-20.  Study of P. Col. Inv. 705b.

Schmitz, Barbara. “Lives of the Prophets: An Illustrated Islamic Manuscript.” Columbia Library Columns 41, no. 2 (February 1992): 20-31.  Description of MS pers. X892.8 Q1 Q Folio; the manuscript is available in OPenn.

Donoghue, Eileen F. “In Search of Mathematical Treasures: David Eugene Smith and George Arthur Plimpton.” Historia Mathematica 25 (1998): 359-365.  The article does not discuss any manuscripts in Arabic script, but Donoghue draws on the papers of Plimpton and Smith in Columbia Archives to elucidate Smith’s influence on Plimpton’s textbook collection.

Khayyām, ʿUmar. Al-Khayyām mathématicien. Eds. and trs. Roshdi Rashed and Bijan Vahabzadeh. Paris: Albert Blanchard, 1999.  For an edition with French tr. of the famous “Maqālah fī al-jabr wa’l-muqābalah,” which counts MSS arab. Smith or. 34 and 45 (9) among its 10 Leithandschriften, see pp. 116-236; both manuscripts are available in OPenn.  

Orosius, Paulus. Historiarum adversus paganos libri VII. Anon. Arabic tr., ed. Mayte Penelas. Madrid: CSIC, 2001.  Edition of MS arab. X893.712 H; the manuscript is not available in OPenn.

Schaefer, Karl R. Enigmatic Charms: Medieval Arabic Block Printed Amulets in American and European Libraries and Collections. Leiden: Brill, 2006.  For a transcription with English translation of P. Col. Inv. 705b, see pp. 169-176 and pls. 40a-c.

Jewels in her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections. Columbia University Library, 2004.  Online exhibition, available at:  The exhibition features MS arab. Smith 45 (9) and MS arab. and pers. Smith 263  The unsigned blurbs and item records contain errors.  The bi-lingual Quran fragment is not available in OPenn.

Lee, Jennifer B. “Our Tools of Learning”: George Arthur Plimpton’s Gifts to Columbia University. Columbia University Library, [2009?].  Online exhibition, available at:  The exhibition features MS arab. Plimpton or. 284; the unsigned blurb and item record were written by Dagmar A. Riedel.  This manuscript is not available in OPenn.

Berggren, J. Lennart. Review of Omar al-Khayyam: Algebra wa al-Muqabala, translated by Roshdi Khalil. Aestimatio 7 (2010): 53-58.  In the introduction  (pp. 53-54) Berggren explains the importance of David Eugene Smith’s collection of mathematical manuscripts in Arabic script for the translation of ʿUmar Khayyām’s “Maqālah fī al-jabr wa’l-muqābalah” into English.  

Riedel, Dagmar A. The Quran in East and West: Manuscripts and Printed Books. Columbia University Libraries,  2013.  Online exhibition, available at:

Sahner, Christian C. “From Augustine to Islam: Translation and History in the Arabic Orosius.” Speculum 88 (2013): 905-931.  Study of MS arab. X893.712 H; the manuscript is not available in OPenn.

Riedel, Dagmar A. “Manuscripts, Printed Books, and Near Eastern Studies in North America: The Manuscripts in Arabic Script of Columbia Libraries.” Journal of Islamic Manuscripts 6 (2015): 280-310.  An earlier version without illustrations is available in the Academic Commons of Columbia University at:  As of 2020 the article’s counts for Columbia’s manuscripts in Arabic script are no longer up to date.  In connection with the 2018 CLIR digitization grant for the Manuscripts of the Muslim World  (MWW) project, Columbia Libraries received the resources to improve the cataloging of its holdings in Arabic script, and decided to change the call numbers of the “Smith & Plimpton Oriental MSS” collection to “MSS Oriental”.  While the new records indicate the names of associated people and selected information about provenance, they do not provide any information about the old call numbers.  Moreover, the manuscripts are generally presented as unpublished material that has yet to be studied.  For a complete list of the selected Columbia manuscripts which are now available as digital surrogates, please see the OPenn website for the MMW project:

[Siegel, Jane Rodgers]. “Mary Lyon McClure (1870-1956).” Women in the Stacks and Other Aspects of Columbia University Library History, 4 September 2016, available at:  McClure was a salaried member of the cataloging department from 1906 until her retirement in 1939, and her initials MLM  are found in gutter of manuscripts and printed books, written in languages such as Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Armenian, and Russian. 

Liebrenz, Boris. “An Arabic Letter (ca. AH 6th/12th CE c.) Concerning the Production of a Manuscript of Ibn Sīnā’s al-Šifā.”  Journal of Islamic Manuscripts 9 (2018): 32-38.  Study of P. Col. Inv. 823.

Riedel, Dagmar A. “The Book in Arabic Script,” in A Companion to the History of the Book, edited by Jonathan Rose and Simon Eliot: 315-333.  2d ed. 2 vols. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2019.  DOI:

Dagmar A. Riedel

Last updated, 27 July 2020

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