Subject librarian Islamic Studies | Middle Eastern Studies | Oriental Studies

Subject librarian Bibliotheca Afghanica

Level 1: Introduction to the University Library

(in the Autumn semester)
For first-semester students
Introduction to the subject website and the University Library’s services as well as searching in the catalogue, with exercises. Optional tour through the open stacks, reading rooms and Information Centre.

Further training sessions of the library

Level 2: Databases - searching for information

(in the Spring semester)
For advanced students (after at least one semester course in Arabic)
Introduction to transliteration problems with searching in the catalogue and in subject-specific databases.


Thur 2nd May 2024, 2.15-3.45 pmUB Basel, 2nd floor (Schulungsraum)

Einführung in Datenbanken für Nahoststudien

Claudia Bolliger

Arabisch II Wolfgang Trimmel


Islamic Studies

Calendar conversion program (Oriental Department, University of Zurich)
Islam and Islamic Studies Resources (University of Georgia)
Middle East & Islamic Studies Resources (Columbia University, New York)
Lane's Arabic-English Lexicon,1863 (dictionary)
Steingass: Persian-English Dictionary (dictionary)
Islamic Philosophy Online (Philosophia Islamica)
Encyclopaedia Iranica Online
AMIR (Access to Mideast and Islamic Resources)
AMIR (Open Access Historical Newspapers and other Periodicals)
Mamluk Studies Resources (MEDOC, University of Chicago)
Online Bibliography of Ottoman-Turkish Literature (English)
Online Bibliography of Ottoman-Turkish Literatur (Turkish)
International Quranic Studies Association
Women's Worlds in Qajar Iran (Digital Archive)

FID Middle East, North Africa and Islamic Studies (Halle)

MENALIB (Middle East Virtual Library)
MENAdoc Digital Collections (ULB Halle)


Digital Library of Islamic Manuscripts (Princeton University Library)
Virtual Manuscript Room (University of Birmingham)
Manuscript catalogue (Oriental Department, Freiburg i. Brsg.)
Wellcome Arabic Manuscripts Online (Wellcome Library, London)
Minassian Collection of Quranic Manuscripts (Brown Digital Repository)
Chroniques du Manuscrit au Yémen (CEFAS)
Islamic Manuscripts at Michigan (University of Michigan Library)

Text Corpora

Koran Online (
Arabic and Persian literature (Digital Book Index, translations)
Sirat Bani Hilal Digital Archive (University of California, Santa Barbara)


Middle East Maps (University of Texas at Austin)

Islamic Art

Abegg-Stiftung (Riggisberg near Bern)
Museum Rietberg (Zurich)
MANAZIR Platform for Visual Arts & Architecture (SGMOIK)
Institut du monde arabe (Paris)
Museum with no Frontiers (MWNF): Discover Islamic Art
The Shahnama Project (Princeton University)
stambouline (Hazine)
Islamic Painted Page (University of Hamburg)

University Library general holdings

Primary literature:

  • collection of important source texts
  • translations of standard works
  • translations of modern Arabic, Persian and Turkish literature

Secondary literature:

  • lexicons, dictionaries, historical reference works, bibliographies, manuscript catalogues
  • overall presentations of Arabic, Persian and Turkish literature and language history
  • works on religion, mysticism and philosophy
  • selected literature on intellectual and religious developments in individual countries
  • selected literature on the history of the entire Islamic world and especially the Ottoman Empire
  • journals (religion, culture, language, literature)

University Library special collections

see Manuscripts and bequests, Orient photography, Bibliotheca Indica, Bibliotheca Afghanica

Libraries with additional holdings

Department of Near and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Basel:

  • selected research literature on focus topics
  • teaching material for the Arabic, Persian and Turkish languages
  • modern literature in the original languages

Oriental manuscripts

The collection comprises around 700 Arabic, Persian and Turkish manuscripts. The Arabic manuscripts are published in a printed catalogue:
Die Handschriften der Universitätsbibliothek Basel. Arabische Handschriften. Unter der Leitung von Gregor Schoeler beschrieben von Gudrun Schubert und Renate Würsch. Vorarbeiten von Fritz Meier, Gertrud Spiess, Hedwig Djeddikar. Basel 2001

Bequests of Orientalists

Access to manuscripts and bequests in swisscollections

Early prints

  • early translations of the Koran into European languages
  • European first prints of Arabic and Persian scripts
  • Oriental first prints of Arabic, Persian and Turkish writings

Access to early prints in swisscovery Basel 



In bequests

•    Alfred Sarasin-Iselin (1865-1953), swisscollections signature: NL 231 and Bibliotheca Indica (see below)
•    Samuel Flury (1874-1935), swisscollections signature: NL 166
•    Wilhelm Sarasin-His (1882-1950), swisscollections signature: NL 232:U
•    Rudolf Tschudi (1884-1960), swisscollections signature: NL 287:U

Rudolf Tschudi‘s bequest contains 480 Oriental photographs from the second half of the 19th century. This includes the over 140 Oriental photographs of the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Basel, which were originally part of the same collection. The bequest of Wilhelm Sarasin-His contains 65 photographs. All are catalogued in swisscollections. In 2018 they were digitised and uploaded to

In other collections

•    Collection of views  Franz Eduard La Roche (1847-1912)
•    Photo album Vues de Brousse
•    Photo album Landschaftsveduten von Palästina
•    Photo album Palästina & Italien

These photographs are recorded in swisscovery Basel

The Bibliotheca Indica is a collection of around 3000 volumes on Asian art, archaeology, handicrafts and history with a focus on South Asia. The collection was bequeathed by Alfred Sarasin to the University Library Basel, together with a foundation whose interest can be used to purchase new publications. For this reason, the collection did not stop growing in 1953, but also includes - to a lesser extent – more recent literature on archaeology and the history of art of South Asia and neighbouring areas.

Origins of the Bibliotheca Indica

Alfred Sarasin-Iselin (1865-1953) took over the management of Riggenbach & Cie. in 1893, which was re-named Bank Sarasin & Cie after him. Since 2011 the company has belonged to the J. Safra Sarasin Group. Alfred Sarasin-Inselin was one of the founders of the Swiss Bankers Association, its president, president of the Swiss National Bank and a member of numerous boards of directors. He represented Switzerland several times on economic issues abroad.
article about Alfred Sarasin-Iselin in Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz

In an article, Alfred Sarasin himself described how his Bibliotheca Indica came about:
"In the winter of 1889/90, over a period of four months, my friend, architect Emanuel LaRoche, and I started out from Colombo, travelled throughout India and primarily visited sites with buildings of architectural worth. (…)  I expressed to La Roche my wish that what we would see and deal with, should result in a publication. (…) For this, the existing literature had to be obtained. I took over these aspects of the work more and more, and eventually decided to purchase literature on Indian art and archaeology whenever the possibility arose."
(Alfred Sarasin: Meine Bibliotheca Indica. - Basel, 1944. - S. 3-4. - to the holding in swisscovery Basel)

The Bibliotheca Afghanica was founded in 1974 on the initiative of the Swiss couple Paul and Veronika Bucherer-Dietschi. Thanks to a broad network of researchers, the collection has grown over the decades and today represents one of the largest European collections of written and visual sources on the history, culture, flora and fauna of Afghanistan. The Bibliotheca Afghanica was bequeathed to Basel University Library in 2023 as part of a ceremonial act of donation. Since then, the University Library Basel has endeavored to gradually catalog the holdings and make them available to researchers and the general public.

The Bibliotheca Afghanica comprises over 300 linear meters of specialist literature on Afghanistan and neighbouring regions. In addition, there are various special collections and bequests containing cartographic material, archival documents and images.

Bequest of Peter Lumsden on the Afghan Boundary Commission of 1885/86

The Afghan Boundary Commission of 1885/86 was an agreement between Great Britain and the Russian Empire to define the north-western border of Afghanistan.  Peter Lumsden played an important role as the British representative and was instrumental in the negotiations and in determining the course of the border.
Materials: cartographic material, photographs, archival material, printed documents

Bequest and photo collection of Werner Otto von Hentig, Günther Voigt and Emil Rybitschka documenting the Hentig-Niedermayer expedition of 1915

The Hentig-Niedermayer Expedition was a German diplomatic and military mission to Afghanistan in 1915 with the aim of mobilizing Afghan support against the influence of Great Britain. Oskar von Niedermayer and Werner Otto von Hentig led the expedition. Emil Rybitschka was an Austrian officer who had escaped from Russian captivity in Central Asia to Afghanistan and joined the German mission, but only received permission from the Emir to return to Austria after the end of the war.
Materials: Photographs, slides, archive material, printed matter, special collections (Poulaines)

German Hindu Kush Expedition of 1935

The German Hindu Kush Expedition of 1935, led by Arnold Scheibe, aimed to explore the flora, fauna and ethnic diversity of the region. The expedition pursued both scientific intentions and political-colonial interests. It had excellent technical equipment and the University Library's holdings contain correspondingly high-quality photographic material.
Materials: slides, printed documents, photographs, documentation

Lithographs and resistance literature from the period of the Soviet occupation

The Bibliotheca Afghanica comprises a multi-part collection that documents the milieu of the Afghan resistance against the Soviet occupation. This includes around 22 linear meters of smaller publications (tracts, pamphlets) as well as several series of high-quality lithographic posters, which entered the Bibliotheca Afghanica's holdings directly from the Pakistani printing presses. The collection also includes wall calendars, wall newspapers, several series of propaganda matchboxes, pins, finger rings, stickers and other materials.
Materials: single-sheet prints, lithographs, brochures, etc.


The Basel University Library and the Bibliotheca Afghanica Foundation would like to thank the Swisslos Fund Basel-Stadt and the Sulger Foundation for their substantial contributions that are used to incorporate the holdings of the Bibliotheca Afghanica.


Joël László | Subject librarian Bibliotheca Afghanica

University of Basel | University Library

Schönbeinstrasse 18-20 | 4056 Basel | Schweiz

Tel +41 61 207 19 93