The Institute's Library has an important and significant collection of Islamic manuscripts. The beginnings of this collection can be traced back to the 1930s and 1940s when the Russian scholar and pioneer of modern Ismaili studies, Vladimir Ivanow (1886-1970), together with Mr Chotu Lakhani and other Ismaili scholars gathered a large number of manuscripts for The Ismaili Society in Bombay. These acquisitions have provided the basis for the Institute’s own collection. Over the past decade, a number of private collections have been gifted to the Library. In 1997, an exceptional collection of nearly 225 manuscripts was bequeathed to the Library by the family of Dr Zahid Ali. And, in 2006, Professor Abbas Hamdani gifted his outstanding collection of manuscripts and lithographs.
The manuscript collection of the Institute’s Library comprises over 1,700 volumes. Besides a small nucleus of manuscripts that contain the text of the Holy Qur’an, the scope of the collection encompasses a variety of subjects such as jurisprudence, theology, philosophy, logic, grammar, medicine, astronomy and alchemy, as well as poetical and biographical works.
The Library is engaged in a continuing and long-term program of preservation and conservation. The manuscripts are kept in special acid-free archival boxes and stored in a controlled and secure environment. In addition, the Library has embarked on a major effort to microfiche its manuscript collection, for both preservation and research purposes.
In addition to its own holdings of original manuscripts, the Library is also acquiring copies and microfilms of important texts, especially those relating to Ismaili and Shia studies, from other institutions and libraries.