Near East Collection


The Near East Collection at Yale University Library is one of the oldest in North America, established in 1841 with the appointment of Edward Elbridge Salisbury to teach Arabic and Islamic studies at Yale University.

Building a library for this subject was difficult as Arabic-script printing was still in its infancy at this time, and printing presses were not yet widespread in Middle Eastern countries. Nevertheless, Salisbury was able to select and collect important books and manuscripts, laying the foundations of a collection which has evolved to become one of the most comprehensive collections in Arabic and Islamic studies in the United States.

The Arabic Collection included:

  • Salisbury’s personal collection, which he donated to the library.
  • The collection of the Swedish Arabist Carlo Landberg of more than seven hundred volumes.
  • Additional materials acquired by Yale University from various sources, including more than three hundred volumes of Arabic manuscripts and another 67 volumes of manuscripts in Persian.

Modern Arabic books from Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries began to be acquired systematically through the PL-480 program beginning in the 1960s. When this program came to an end, the Near East Collection at Sterling Memorial Library continued to acquire materials in modern Middle Eastern languages directly from vendors located in the Middle East, North Africa, Iran, and Turkey.

Departments/disciplines/programs/subject areas supported

The Near East Collection serves teaching and research for faculty and students associated with the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, as well as those faculty and students working in related areas in a variety of humanities and social science departments (principally History, Religious Studies, Sociology, and Political Science, but other departments such as Anthropology, Comparative Literature, and History of Art). The Council on Middle East Studies administers a graduate certificate of concentration in modern Middle East Studies, the Yale Law School sponsors the Middle East Legal Studies Seminar and the Abdullah S. Kamel Center for the Study of Islamic Law and Civilization, and the Jackson Institute of Global Affairs offers an M.A. degree in International Relations; students enrolled in any of these programs are potentially users of materials collected for the Near East Collection.


The Near East Collection covers the part of the world that is also more commonly referred to nowadays as the Middle East, and thus has a very broad geographical coverage. It is interdisciplinary and also very deeply historical in nature, moving from ancient history through to the rise of Christianity and Islam, on through medieval times and early modern history, and into the present day.

The Near East Collection is also responsible for collecting materials published in the field of Near and Middle Eastern studies in the humanities published in North America, Europe, and other imprint areas outside of the geographic area commonly referred to as the Middle East.

Formats collected

All appropriate formats, but principally monographs and monograph series, serial publications, materials in microform, and sound and video recordings.

Languages collected

Principally the three major modern spoken languages of the Middle East (Arabic, Persian, and Turkish). In-scope materials in Hebrew and western languages (English, French, German, and Spanish) are collected when they are produced in one of the countries of imprint covered by this department. Additional languages of the region may be collected, when in scope, by request from faculty or students.

Chronological and geographical focus

Imprints in all appropriate languages and formats are collected from North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya), the lower Nile Valley (Sudan and Egypt), and Western Asia (all countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey). The chronological coverage includes publications about the ancient civilizations that developed in these same parts of the world (when published in these countries), and moves forward through history up to the present day.

Collaborations within Yale

The work of the Near East Collection involves regular collaboration with other library departments, most notably Manuscripts and Archives and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Related materials can also be found in other Yale libraries, such as the Divinity Library, the library of the Yale Center for British Art, and the Medical Historical Library. 

External collaborations

The Yale University Library is an institutional member of the Center for Research Libraries, and the Librarian for Middle East Studies is a voting member of the longstanding Middle East Materials Project (administered by the Center for Research Libraries). The membership of MEMP consists of 34 institutional members and has been in existence since 1987. This interinstitutional collaboration ensures the preservation of rare and important newspaper and other serial publications from countries all over the Middle East, in a wide variety of regional languages.

Subject Librarian

Roberta L. Dougherty
Librarian for Middle East Studies
Near East Collection
Department of Area Studies and Humanities Research Support (DASHRS)
(203) 432-1373