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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

West African Arabic Manuscripts: Manuscripts at Illinois

This guide was created to aid in the finding of manuscripts from West Africa that are written in Arabic or in Arabic-script.

Charles C. Stewart

Charles C. Stewart is the Director of Programming for the Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa at Northwestern University, as well as Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at the University of Illinois. 

In 2005, the Charles C. Stewart International Young Humanitarian Award was established at the University of Illinois, to recognize the international service, achievements, selflessness, and dedication of Illinois' young humanitarians. 

Manuscripts at Illinois

The University of Illinois Archives are home to the collected papers of Charles C. Stewart, professor of history (1974-). The collection includes 104 microfilm reels amounting to 2,054 works from the libraries of Harun b. Baba b. Sidi Muhammad b. Sidiyya al-Ntishai'i, Ismail b. Baba, and Ya'qub b. Muhammad b. Baba. These Arabic language manuscripts and printed documents are primarily from the 19th century, and their varied topics include literature, law, Islamic religious texts and commentaries, Arabic language, and history.

The collection may be viewed in person at the University of Illinois main library, preferably by appointment. Additionally, digital surrogates from the Charles C. Stewart Papers have been created, of which an access copy is available upon request. Please contact Laila Hussein Moustafa to arrange an appointment and/or research consultation. 

About the Collection at Illinois


The Al-Shaykh Sidiyya, Boutilimit (Mauritania) Library of Arabic Documents and Manuscripts, 1988

The University of Illinois Archives are home to the microfilm copies of a family library from Boutilimit, Mauritania, which was microfilmed under an NEH grant to Professor Charles Stewart in 1987-88. It remains one of the most complete library reconstructions found anywhere in the Sahel of West Africa, containing four generations of scholarship and family archives dating from the early 19th century to the 1960s.

The collection is largely composed of literary works and correspondences written during the lifetime of Shaykh Sidiyya ‘al-Kabir’ b. al-Mukhtar b. al-Hayba al-Abyayri al-Intisha’I (1775-1868), but also contains many of the work of his son, grandsons, and great-grandsons. 

For more information on the history of the collection, its contents, and the Sidiyya Family, see the following documents:

West African Arabic Manuscript Database

This database, also known as the Arabic Manuscript Management System (AMMS), is a bilingual database developed at the University of Illinois in the late 1980's to describe Arabic manuscripts held in Southern Mauritania.

Subsequently, seven other collections have been entered. The database provides manuscript metadata, authors, authors' nisbas, subjects, and information about the collections themselves. It does provide some experimental linkage of digital images, however this is not universal.