Oriental Collections Department

Size and Content

The Oriental Collections consist of manuscripts, old-printed books and archive documents in Ottoman Turkish, Persian and Arabic. 4000 handwritten codes are stored in the collection, as well as 2000 volumes of old-printed books and about 1 million sheets of documentary records, organised in 342,000 archive units. Archival documents cover the period from the 15th century to the beginning of the 20th century and shed light on a wide range of political, economic, social and cultural topics.


The Oriental Collections Department was developed with the establishment of the National Library in 1878 with the idea to become a centre for the preservation and study of Literary and archival documentary heritage in Arabic script, left on the Bulgarian lands after the withdrawal of the Ottoman administration. The first significant acquisition was the 2485 handwritten books from the collections of the waqf library of Hüsrev Mehmed Pasha from Samokov, followed by books and documents from the libraries in Sofia, Kyustendil and Vidin. The Oriental Collections include a rich variety of Archive documents in Arabic script both with local origin and acquired from the so-called “Constantinople Archives” in the late 20-ies of the 20th century.

Structure of the documentary archive

The available volume of processed documents is sorted in the following collections:

  • Oriental archival collection (ОАК) – 8,604 archived units
  • Newly acquired Turkish archives (НПТА) – 4,130 archived units
  • 328 settlements collections (which may contain main collection, A- collection and preliminary collection) – 329,160 archived units
  • “Daftars” Collection  – 730 archived units
  • “Sijills” Collection  – 185 archived units

Copies of documents received in exchange with Turkish archives – 25,000 microfilms

Valuable samples

The earliest manuscript dates back to 1017 and is a transcript of a collection of hadiths compiled by al-Bukhari (810-870). Especially valuable is the 1556 transcript of the work of the Arab geographer, cartographer and Egyptologist Abu Abdullah Muhammad al-Idrisi (died 1165) or A Diversion for the Man Longing to Travel to Far-Off Places. The transcript of the Persian work Stories of the Prophets, dating from the sixteenth century, is richly and exquisitely decorated.

The archival and documentary Oriental Collection contains emblematic documents such as the Ottoman ferman of the establishment of the first industrial factory of D. Zhelyazkov from 1836, the official statement (Berat) from 1872 with which the Ottoman government (the Diwan) recognized Antim I as a spiritual leader of the Bulgarian Church, the protocols of the interrogation of Vasil Levski before the Turkish court.

The old-printed books collection contains rare editions from the printing works of İbrahim Müteferrika as Mirror of the World and History of the Western Indies.

Catalogues, inventories and publications

“Vasil Levski and his associates before the Turkish court”, Documents in Turkish archives, S., 1952

VELKOV, Asparuh, “Types of Ottoman Documents”, S., 1986

KENDEROVA, Stoyanka, “Books, Libraries, and Readers’ Interests among Samokov Muslims” (from the 18th to the first half of the 19th century), S., 2002

KENDEROVA, Stoyanka and Z. Ivanova, “From the collections of the Ottoman libraries in Bulgaria in the 18th-19th centuries”, “Catalogue of an exhibition of manuscripts and old-printed books, Sofia, 1998, Sofia, 1999

KISELINCHEVA, M. “Persian miniatures of the 16th century” from manuscripts kept at the St. St. Cyril and Methodius National Library in Sofia, 1981

NEDKOV, Boris, “Ottoman Turkish Palaeography and Diplomacy”, Volume 2, 1972

INVENTORY of Timar Records, preserved in the Oriental Department of the National Library, Compilers: M. Mikhailova, A. Velkov, P. Gruevski, S., 1970

INVENTORY of Turkish documents for the struggle of the Bulgarian people for an independent Bulgarian church and for the Christian Churches in the Ottoman Empire 15-20 Century, Compiler: M. Stainova, S., 1971

INVENTORY of documents about Russia, Poland and the Czech Republic, preserved in the Oriental Department of the National Library, Part 1, Compiler: M. Mihailova-Mravkarova, S., 1974

INVENTORY of Jizya registers preserved in the Oriental Department of the National Library, Compilers: Velkov, P. Gruevski, S. Kenderova, Ts. Nikolova, S., 1983

INVENTORY of Turkish documents on the resistance and the national-revolutionary struggles of the Bulgarian people in the 19th century, Compilers: M. Mihailova-Mravkarova, S., 1984

INVENTORY of Ottoman documents on Cyprus, kept in the archives of the Oriental Department of the National Library, Compiler: J. Theocharidis, S., 1984

INVENTORY of documents in Arabic, kept in the Oriental Department of the National Library, Compiler: S. Kenderova, S., 1984

INVENTORY of Ottoman Turkish documents for crafts and trade (15-19 century), kept in the Oriental Department of the National Library, Compilers: A. Velkov, P. Gruevski, S. Vanova, M. Mihaylova-Mravkarova, N. Robev, E. Silyanova, S., 1993

PETKOVA-BOZHANOVA, G., Inventory of Arabic Manuscripts, Volume I. Quran, S., 1977

SAYAR, J, Inventory of Persian Manuscripts at the St. St. Cyril and Methodius National Library, S., 1973

STAINOVA, M., Ottoman libraries in the Bulgarian lands 15-19 century, Papers, S., 1982

Turkish sources on the history of law in the Bulgarian lands, S., 1961-1972

Turkish sources for Bulgarian history (TSBH), S., 1964-1986


Readers may request to reproduce materials from the collection by filling out a relevant form in accordance with the rules applied at the National Library – Rules and Regulations and Library Services Price List.

The archival materials are available for use only in the specialised reading room “PROF. MARIN DRINOV” (Reading room 1) with business hours: Monday to Friday from 8.30 to 18.00, Saturday from 9.00 to 15.00. The requests for archival materials from the Oriental Holdings are processed within 24 hours. On Saturday, readers can only use materials requested in advance.


Part of the documents in the collection is available via the Digital Library.