Near and Middle Eastern Collection

One of the largest in North America and has long been considered fully able to support advanced research in Near Eastern, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies.


The Near and Middle Eastern Collection is one of the largest in North America and has long been considered fully able to support advanced research in Near Eastern, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies. The print holdings are complemented by electronic resources which the Library makes available to registered users.

Although the University of Toronto held materials in many languages relating to Near and Middle Eastern civilizations prior to the nineteen-sixties, the library’s holdings have been built up in a systematic manner since mid-1966 when Dealer Selection Orders with defined subject profiles were established and library staff employed to monitor and staff them. In addition to Western countries, Dealer Selection Orders cover the Arabian Peninsula, Syria and Lebanon, Palestine, North Africa, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In addition to the Dealer Selection orders, the Librarian responsible for the Near and Middle East Collection orders individual titles not selected or provided by the Dealer Selection Orders as well as acquiring electronic collections and data bases.

The collection has evolved to become one of the most comprehensive collections in Near Eastern, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies in North America.

Departments/disciplines/programs/subject areas supported

The Near and Middle Eastern Collection serves teaching and research for faculty and students associated with the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations and the Islamic Studies Institute of the University of Toronto. The collection also serves faculty and students working in related areas in the humanities and social sciences such as History, Religion, Sociology, Political Science, Drama, Anthropology, Comparative Literature, Art History, Law and International Relations. The collection is also a hub for members of Toronto’s vibrant multicultural communities who are served by the library’s multi-lingual Middle Eastern collection.


The Near and Middle East collection covers the area of the world more commonly known as the Middle East although the collection also includes materials from North Africa. The Near Eastern collection includes materials concerning the region before the rise of Islam, including ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, while the Middle Eastern collection collects materials concerning the region after the establishment of the Islamic religion until today. The geographical coverage is therefore broad, interdisciplinary and historical moving from ancient history through to the rise of Christianity and Islam, moving on to medieval and early modern history, through contemporary times.

The Near and Middle Eastern collection also includes Near and Middle Eastern Studies materials published in Europe, North America, and other imprint areas outside the geographic area known as the Middle East and North Africa. In particular, a large number of English-language items on Islamic Studies are collected from India and Pakistan.

Formats collected

All appropriate formats are collected, but the library collects principally printed monographs and series, serial publications, materials in microform, sound and video recordings, and e-collections and books.

Languages collected

The library collects materials published in the three major languages of the Middle East and North Africa: Arabic, Persian and Turkish (Hebrew-language materials are supervised and selected by the Jewish Studies librarian). The collection also includes materials in additional languages of the region such as Kurdish and Dari.

Relevant materials concerning the region are also collected in major western languages including English, French, German, Spanish and Italian as well as other languages. These materials are collected systematically as part of Dealer Selection Orders in these languages.

As the library also collects in Near Eastern studies, the collection also includes materials written in no longer spoken or rarely-spoken languages such as Syriac, Assyrian, Aramaic and Akkadian.

Books on Islamic Studies are also collected in Urdu, Bengali, and Punjabi.

Chronological and geographical focus

Imprints in all appropriate languages and formats are collected from North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Mauritania), the lower Nile Valley (Sudan and Egypt), and Western Asia (all countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Turkey). Additional books concerning Islamic Studies are collected from the Indian subcontinent including Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.  The chronological coverage includes publications about the ancient civilizations that developed in these same parts of the world moving onwards in history to the present era.

Collaboration within the University of Toronto

The work of the Near and Middle Eastern Collection involves regular collaboration with other library departments, most notably the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library which holds a collection of roughly 200 mostly Arabic-language rare books as well as a roughly 1500 mostly Arabic-language Islamic manuscripts. Both collections were purchased from Sulaiman Bookshop in Beirut in 1973. The single volumes of the manuscript collection have been digitized and the collection is now in the process of being catalogued. The Fisher Library manuscript holdings also include a small collection of Graeco-Egyptian papyrus fragments.

The Library of the Royal Ontario Museum supplements the holdings of the Central Library in Near Eastern and Islamic archaeology and art history. The Libraries of the theological colleges federated with the University of Toronto are strong in fields related to development of Christianity such as Septuagnit studies and Oriental patristics.

Related materials can also be found in other University of Toronto libraries such as the Gerstein Science Library, the Earth Sciences Library, the Engineering Library and the Mathematics Library.

External Collaborations

The University of Toronto Library is an institutional member of the Center for Research Libraries, and the Librarian for Near and Middle Eastern Studies is a voting member of the longstanding Middle East Microform Project (or MEMP) which is administered by the Center for Research Libraries.  The membership of MEMP consists of over thirty institutional members and has been in existence since 1987. This inter-institutional 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.

Library users also have access to a wide range of dissertations and other less-used material through the Library’s membership in the Center for Research Libraries (their catalogue is available online).

Selection area: 
Selection area reference: 
Blair Kuntz