With well over 2,900 volumes, the Arabic manuscripts form the largest group of holdings in the oriental collection of the Gotha Research Library.
A few pieces, such as the explanation of 40 traditions of Ibn Kamāl-pasha preserved in Ms. orient. A 3 from the 17th century, reached the library during the Turkish wars. There are dramatic notes in the manuscript itself – “Budae sub Cadavere occisi Muffti extractum multo sanguine aspersum [sc. Librum]” – i.e. “Pulled out from under the corpse of the murdered mufti in Buda, splattered with much blood.” The blood splatters are still preserved on the binding additionally testify to the book’s provenance.
Most of the Arabic manuscripts, just like the other oriental manuscripts were first acquired by Ulrich Jaspar Seetzen (1767–1811) over the course of his journey through the Middle East. Wilhelm Pertsch (1832–1899) described Seetzen’s acquisition practice as being characterised by mass purchases. The collection therefore covers a very broad spectrum of Arabic literature. Works from almost all fields of knowledge are represented in the collection – for example encyclopaedic and hodegetical works, such as a guide to the correct methodology of academic study, but also grammatical, rhetorical, metrical and lexicographical texts. The major disciplines such as theology, which covers the most extensive part of the Arabic manuscript collection, as well as jurisprudence, philosophy, mathematics, cosmography, geography, history, politics and medicine, are also represented. The collection contains further works that can be attributed to minor or arcane sciences, such as texts of mysticism, poetry, alchemy, dream interpretation and geomancy. Christian theological writings in Arabic also constitute a part of the collection.