Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Uncatalogued materials from the Middle East now available through Leiden University Libraries’ catalogue

A collection of uncatalogued books from the Middle East is now available through the Leiden University Libraries’ (UBL) catalogue. The collection contains over 12,000 books mainly written in Arabic, but also in multiple other languages from the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, including Persian, Urdu and Ottoman Turkish.

In 2023, the brand-new Middle Eastern Library will open its doors in Leiden, ushering in a new phase for the centuries-old connection between Leiden University and the Middle East. The new library will house parts of the collections of the The Netherlands Institute for the Near East (NINO) and works from collections currently located at the University Library. A number of collections have now been catalogued and made available through the Leiden University Libraries’ catalogue, and we are working on making the remainder available as soon as possible. Since the start of the project in September 2019, thousands of new catalogue records have been created. The newly available collections span over three hundred metres. The newly catalogued collections will form an addition to the current Middle Eastern collection, which already contain over 40,000 books in Arabic and 10,000 in either Persian, Turkish or Hebrew.

Brugman collection

One of the largest of these collections, the Brugman collection, is now fully catalogued. The Brugman collection was privately collected by dr. Jan Brugman, a diplomat and former professor of Arabic at Leiden University, and was donated to the University Library after his death. The collection primarily consists of modern Arabic literature, but also contains a considerable amount of other writings, such as legal works and documents from various Middle Eastern countries. Although dr. Brugman wrote his dissertation on the influence of Islamic law in modern-day Egypt, his passion lay with the study of Arabic literature, to which he made his primary scholarly contributions. He was deeply engaged with the Arab literary world and personally befriended many Arab authors throughout his life. His collection reveals the many colours and astounding variety of Arabic literature published in the 20th century.

Special publication from the Brugman collection

An interesting example from the Brugman collection is the work shown below, comprising three books, published during the late 1960s and early 1970s by the Lebanese publishing house Cajmal Qetub el-Ýaalam.

Lebanese booklets published by Sa‘īd ‘Aql in so called 'Aklian' script.

The titles are from left to right: “the Gospel of St. John”, “A Defense of Socrates” by Plato and a collections of poems by various Ceýara Finiciyyi or "Phoenician/Lebanese Poets." These books, one may be surprised to read, are written in Arabic, using a specially adapted Latin script. This so-called 'Aklian' script was developed by the Lebanese author Sa‘īd ‘Aql (d. 2014) in order to advance the idea of a 'Lebanese' identity separate from an 'Arabic' identity within Lebanon. Unlike the vast majority of Arabic works, which are written in Modern Standard Arabic, these three books are written in colloquial Lebanese Arabic. In the Arabic world, colloquial Arabic dialects or languages are generally seen as unsuited for higher fields of study, such as science and literature. With these publications, Sa‘īd ‘Aql attempted to proof that Lebanese was not just a dialect of Arabic, but a full, separate language.

Want to know more about the Brugman Collection? Take a look at the provisional collection guide.

This website uses cookies.