The Aga Khan Library, London, formerly known as the IIS-ISMC Library, is the result of the merger of the library of the Institute of Ismaili Studies and the library of the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations, Aga Khan University.
As a shared library, the Aga Khan Library’s primary objective is to support teaching and research in its parent institutions. The Library, however, is also committed to fostering knowledge of Islam, past and present, and to facilitating access for external researchers and students to resources on the history, faith and cultures that comprise the global Ismaili Shia community.
With its relocation to new purpose-built premises in King’s Cross, the Aga Khan Library will be able to continue expanding its substantial collection, which covers a broad range of subjects relating to the work of both institutes, and includes works in a remarkable variety of European and Eastern languages, as well as several individual collections donated by acclaimed scholars in the field of Islamic Studies. Housed in state-of-the-art facilities, the Library now occupies two floors at the heart of the newly developed Aga Khan Centre, King’s Cross. This site offers a comfortable research space, and convenient access to the Library’s unique resources.
The Aga Khan Library is the proud custodian of part of the personal library of Professor Annemarie Schimmel (1922–2003) that includes many rare titles, mostly in Persian, Urdu and Sindhi, focusing on Indo-Muslim communities and cultures. This collection of 900 items was donated to the Library by Professor Ali Asani (1954–), her colleague at Harvard University, in 2005. Subsequently, over 300 volumes from the Schimmel Library at the University of Tübingen, Germany, were acquired to complement this collection.
In 2012, the Aga Khan Library received part of the personal library and the complete personal archive of Professor Mohammed Arkoun (1928–2010), in recognition of his long association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies. This legacy, mostly in Arabic and French, consists of his professional correspondence, notes, offprints of his articles and over 200 monographs, including theses on Islamic thought, history and culture. The Library has embarked on the process of cataloguing and digitising the Arkoun Archive, to aid research concerning this distinguished and highly influential scholar in the history of Islamic studies.
The Library acquired in 2010 the personal library of the late Prof Peter Avery OBE, an eminent British scholar in the field of Persian Studies. This collection contains approximately 1,600 volumes, including manuscripts, lithographs and many rare and out-of-print titles in Persian, English and Arabic.
In 2007, the library purchased a collection of works by Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905) which consists of three previously unrecorded manuscripts; thirteen printed works (five by Abduh and eight by other scholars on Abduh), and one original studio portrait of Muhammad Abduh with his friend the Egyptian photographer Muhammad ‘Ali Effendi Sa’oudi (1865-1955).
Among the Library’s other collections of note, there are 1300 books in Turkish and Ottoman Turkish that include literary works from the Tanzimat and post-Tanzimat period (mainly novels, poetry and plays) as well as travel literature, language materials, and works of history.
The manuscripts, as well as many of the rare books, are part of a digitisation project that will both conserve the original items and widen access to the Library’s important collections. While the Aga Khan Library builds its electronic platform for digitised materials, the original documents are available by request, condition permitting.
We would like to invite you to browse our collections through Copac or EDS. Soon, the Aga Khan Library will be available to researchers from London, the UK and abroad. In the meantime, the interlibrary loan service is available, and if necessary, access to our facilities and collections can be arranged by prior request. Please do not hesitate to contact us with further information about your access requirements.
Pedro Sánchez, Assistant Librarian
For more information you can contact the library by email, or telephone +44 (0)20 7380 3852.
NOTE: The Aga Khan Library still appears on Copac as the Institute of Ismaili Studies & ISMC Library. We are in the process of updating the library’s name and other details, but in the meantime you should select the Institute of Ismaili Studies & ISMC Library from the list of libraries in the main search form if you wish to search for their records.