Library Collections

The work of the CMES is greatly facilitated by the extensive resources available in the University of California, Berkeley Middle Eastern Studies Library Collection, which ranks among the top five academic collections in the United States.

The Association of Research Libraries recently ranked Berkeley the top public university library in the nation and third overall among major research universities in the United States and Canada. Berkeley libraries have outstanding Middle East coverage, including materials acquired over more than a century of purchases, exchanges, and gifts. The Middle East/Islamica collection supports course and research needs in areas of language and literature, politics, religious studies, government documents, and ancient studies. Materials in vernacular include Arabic, Kurdish, Persian, Turkish, as well less commonly collected minority languages, such as Armenian, Assyrian, Berber, and Lazuri.

The Judaica collection exceeds 50,000 volumes, and has several foci: Near Eastern languages and literature; Talmudic studies, including the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds and subsequent texts and commentaries; rabbinical, medieval and modern Jewish history throughout the world; modern Jewish thought; and comparative literature, including works in Hebrew, Yiddish, English, and other languages.

The Bancroft Library contains 400 rare and valuable works, including a fourteenth-century Rashi manuscript. Boalt Hall School of Law’s library contains the Robbins Collection of approximately 5,000 volumes, which is particularly strong in early editions of responsa and Jewish codes.

In addition to these central collections, the Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures supports a few modest library collections. The Baer-Keller Egyptology Library was created from the bequest of the Baer family, and comprises several thousand volumes—the core of an excellent collection. The MELC Media Library contains slides, videos, and other media documentation of the Middle East and North Africa from ancient to modern times.

Another resource available to scholars affiliated with the CMES is the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, which contains major collections of Middle East archaeological materials. Along with the Reisner Collection of more than 18,000 artifacts from Egyptian Old Kingdom excavation sites (such as Ballas, el Ahaiwah, and Giza), the Hearst Museum collection includes groups of cuneiform tablets, Sassanian cylinder seals, and Luristan bronzes. It also includes ethnographic materials from throughout the Middle East and Islamic World, including daily-use articles, clothing, and musical instruments from North Africa, Turkey, Afghanistan and Arabia; carpets from Iran, Turkey, and Central Asia; religious articles from Syria and Iran; and military armaments from Iran and Iraq.

CMES is also home to the Ira Lapidus collection, comprising several thousand volumes for use in the Center's offices. Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies librarian holds weekly office hours for students there every Wednesday afternoon.