Manuscript Catalogs

A Note to Readers

We link below to a huge number of Syriac manuscript catalogs. In fact, exceedingly few, if any, physical libraries in the world own all of these catalogs. This list, organized alphabetically by city where the collection resides (or resided), is meant to facilitate serious research into the wealth of Syriac literature. For the beginner, we would like to signal up front that the most important historic collections of Syriac manuscripts are located in London (the British Library), Rome (Vatican Libraries), Birmingham (the Mingana Collection), Manchester (the John Rylands Library), Berlin, Paris, and Oxford and Cambridge Universities. The Monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai also has an extremely important collection. In North America the most important collection is at Harvard University, which acquired the bulk of the manuscripts owned by James Rendel Harris (1852–1941).

A. Baumstark, Geschichte der syrischen Literatur, mit Ausschluss der christlich-palästinensischen Texte. Bonn: A. Marcus and E. Webers, 1922 [Online]. Available: https://archive.org/details/geschichtedersyr00baumuoft is still an invaluable starting point for students of Syriac (see J. Tannous and Johnson, S. Fitzgerald, Eds., Histories of Syriac Literature. 2015 [Online]. Available: http://syri.ac/syriacliteraryhistory). Baumstark had a phenomenal personal knowledge of manuscript collections in both the Middle East and in Europe. While the idiosyncratic abbreviations Baumstark employed can be difficult to decipher, the payoff of learning them is that you can thereby get a reasonably good sense for the major manuscript sources for any particular Syriac author. One goal of this page is to link to every manuscript catalog cited by Baumstark, so that, when you are interested in an author, you can find all the resources he had at his disposal right here in a single place. This is not enough, however. Baumstark's Geschichte appeared in 1922 before the publication of Mingana's catalogs of his own important collection. Therefore, the student should always consult Mingana in addition to Baumstark.

The vast majority of the most ancient and important Syriac manuscripts in existence today come from one of two places, both in modern Egypt: the Monastery of St Catherine's in the Sinai and Dayr al-Suryan (the Monastery of the Syrians) in the Wadi Natrun. W. Henry Pain Hatch, An Album of Dated Syriac Manuscripts, 2nd seriesnd ed. Boston: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1946 [Online]. Available: https://archive.org/details/AnAlbumOfDatedSyriacManuscriptsByW.h.p.Hatch is the standard point of reference for Syriac paleography and includes images of a large number of manuscripts from Dayr al-Suryan (Hatch superseded E. Tisserant, Specimina codicum orientalium. Bonn: A. Marcus and E. Weber, 1914 [Online]. Available: https://archive.org/details/speciminacodicum00tissuoft, a resource which is still useful to be aware of). Following the discovery of a cache of new manuscripts and fragments at St. Catherine's in 1975, the recently published "New Finds" catalogs by Mother Philothea (manuscripts) and Sebastian Brock (fragments) have become crucial resources for manuscript study, especially for Chalcedonian ("Melkite") Syriac authors. The Sinai "New Finds" contain significant material that was unavailable to Baumstark. Most of the manuscripts originally collected or copied by the monks of Dayr al-Suryan in the medieval period were purchased by either the Vatican in the 18th century or the British Library in the 19th (and thus show up in those respective catalogs). However, a small number of important Syriac manuscripts remain at the Monastery. A catalog of these "New Finds" at Dayr al-Suryan, has been edited by Sebastian Brock and Lucas van Rompay.1

Baumstark needs updating in other ways as well. While we have sought to link below as many of the manuscript catalogs that he cites as possible, the appearance of a manuscript in a catalog does not mean that the manuscript is still in that library today. This is most notably the case for the catalogs by Addai Scher and for the catalog of Urmia College. When looking up a manuscript cited by Baumstark, you should always consult A. Desreumaux and Briquel-Chatonnet, F., Répertoire des bibliothèques et des catalogues de manuscrits syriaques. Paris: Éditions du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1991. , under the place name of the catalog, and Desreumaux will often helpfully redirect you to where that manuscript resides now (if known).

Finally, the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library (HMML) at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University in Collegeville, MN, has made available an enormous number of manuscripts in digital form which were previously unknown to Western scholars. In terms of sheer quantity, HMML has more Syriac manuscripts than any other library in the Western world. Much of their Syriac collection has been digitized, catalogued and made available at the Virtual Hill Museum and Manuscript Library: Reading Room. 2016 [Online]. Available: https://www.vhmml.org/readingRoom/. Their cataloguing efforts are on-going, and it is worthwhile returning to their website regularly. This is a remarkable development for Syriac studies and we anticipate that it will stimulate much new research in the future. OLIVER, the online catalog of HMML is often best searched through a 'keyword' search. Many other libraries and collections have put their manuscript images online for viewing. For searchable lists of digitally available manuscripts, visit M. Reed, Ed., Digitized Manuscripts. 2016 [Online]. Available: http://syri.ac/digimss

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  • Princeton (Princeton University)

    • The Garrett and Scheide manuscripts can be found via Princeton's online catalog, by searching for "Syriac manuscript" under "keyword" and then listing the results by ascending date. NB: To get full information on the ms, you must click on "long view". Also, the data contained in the catalog is taken from Clemons' descriptions3 and may not be totally accurate. The Scheide Collection has acquired one additional Syriac ms. since Clemons looked at Princeton's mss.
    • As manuscripts are further made available in this collection, they will be catalogued and included in the Digitized Manuscripts database here.