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Oriental and Asian Manuscripts
Koran aus Sevilla, Cod.arab. 1, fol. 129v und 130r
Through the purchase of the library of the diplomat and Orientalist Johann Albrecht Widmanstetter the Munich Court Library had already acquired about 200 Oriental manuscripts in the Arabic, Armenian, Hebrew and Syrian languages upon its foundation. The secularisation added only few manuscripts to the Oriental collection, however, these few manuscripts were all the more important, such as the world-famous  Babylonian Talmud.
 
During the 19th century numerous Oriental manuscripts were acquired through private purchases which were necessary for the corresponding university departments and their demand for literature. The most spectacular acquisition was the purchase of the library of Etienne Quatremere, comprising 1.250 manuscripts from the Middle East and from India. Since the beginning of the 19th century also manuscripts of East- and South-East Asian origin have been acquired. The foundation for the prestigious collection of Sinica was laid by several collective purchases.
 
The collection was continuously complemented throughout the 20th century. Today, the library holds around  18,200 Oriental and Asian manuscripts in over 50 languages. Among them are also around 800 old south Arabian wood inscriptions,  hieroglyphic texts and texts in cuneiform script. The scope of materials used for writing on is extraordinarily broad: papyrus, paper, leather, parchment, palm leaf, dluwang, birch bark, bamboo, wood, cloth, ivory, bone, stone, gold, silver and other metals.
 
Some items which deserve special attention are the ornamental Korans among the Arabic manuscripts, the Persian miniature manuscripts and lacquer covers, the Tibetan book covers and the manuscripts of the peoples of South-East Asia (Shan, Yao, i. a.). With approximately 2800 Yao manuscripts, the BSB hold the most important collection of this kind in the Western world. As one of only few libraries outside Yemen, the BSB holds 800 old Sabean wood inscriptions, which were partly deciphered only in recent years. To mention some important unique specimens, the BSB holds a Hebrew Machsor, the cosmography by al-Qazwini (1280), an Armenian book of gospels with miniatures (1278), a 83 meters long roll containing the Indian epos Mahabharata, a Tibetan manuscript with the thumb print of the 5th Dalai Lama, gold and silver leaves from Burma, a Buddhist sutra from the Japanese Tempyo period (8th century) and a blue-gold sutra from the Heian period in the 12th century. The most valuable of the Chinese manuscripts are doubtlessly the Dunhuang manuscripts, followed by a copy of the Tang law book from the Hanlin academy which was crafted upon order by the emperor during the Ming period. Furthermore, several partially bilingual (Manjurian-Chinese) edicts and deeds should be mentioned.