Asian & Near and Middle Eastern manuscripts
All manuscripts are read in the Manuscripts Reading Room and requests to consult particular manuscripts should be made there in the first instance.
Near and Middle Eastern manuscripts
The Near and Middle Eastern manuscripts include important collections, representing a full range of literature in Arabic (over 1500 codices), Hebrew (over 1000), Persian (over 1200), Syriac (c. 300) and Turkish (c. 450), and E.G. Browne's collection of c. 480 codices (Arabic, Persian and Turkish). There are also major collections of documents, most notably the Taylor-Schechter Cairo Genizah, over 140,000 fragments of documents and texts, principally in Hebrew and Judaeo-Arabic from the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collection and the Michaelides collection of some 2,000 Arabic and Coptic fragments. The papers of E.G. Browne contain an important archive of original and unique Persian material on the first constitutional period in Iran. Papers of other Orientalists and those interested in the Middle East should be searched for among the Western manuscripts. Armenian, Georgian, Ethiopic, Malay and other Near and Middle Eastern languages are also represented.
The Library also holds, on deposit, a collection of Islamic manuscripts belonging to Corpus Christi College and two sections of the Pote collection which are the property of King's College and Eton College respectively. Papers of E.G. Browne which are the property of Pembroke College are housed alongside the Library's collection.
South Asian, Tibetan and Southeast Asian collections
These manuscripts include important collections, representing a full range of literature in Sanskrit & Prakrit (over 1,000), Sinhalese (111), Tibetan (109), Malay (93), Pali (64), Malayalam (52), Burmese (50), with smaller collections in Bengali, Cambodian, Javanese, Lolo, Lao, Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, Moso, Newari, Punjabi, Shan, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, and the like. A major focus of the collections is on Buddhist manuscripts.
The private papers of Lord Crewe, Sir Samuel Hoare, Lord Mayo and Lord Hardinge are among the Western manuscripts relevant to South Asia. The Jardine Matheson archive is also with Western manuscripts. Thomas Erpenius' manuscripts include early Southeast Asian manuscripts. Sir George Scott's collection is very significant for Southeast Asian material.
The Library also holds on deposit the Sanskrit manuscripts of Corpus Christi College.
Because of the very early use of printing, manuscripts in China are largely of an archival or decorative nature. The Chinese oracle bones, dating from 1400 to 1200 BC, are the oldest documents in the Library. Important manuscript materials for the study of 19th century Chinese diplomacy and commerce are included in the papers of such figures as Sir Thomas Wade and Sir Harry Parkes, and in the Jardine Matheson Archive.
The details of the Japanese manuscripts are available in Nozomu Hayashi and Peter Kornicki, Early Japanese Books in Cambridge University Library; a catalogue of the Aston, Satow and Von Siebold Collections (Cambridge, 1991); p. 10 of the introduction 'The oldest items by far are of course the Hyakumantõ darani... followed by a manuscript copy of the Myõhõ renge kyõ executed in the late Heian period ...'