The Khalidi Family Library

Cover of a rare book at the Khalidi libraryExamining rare books at the Khalidi Family Library, East Jerusalem

The Khalidi Library, located in the Old City of Jerusalem, holds a trove of thousands of books and original manuscripts. The library was established in 1899 by Hajj Raghib al-Khalidi, as a public trust (waqf). This was made possible by a sum bequeathed to him by his grandmother. The collection came from family holdings of manuscripts and books collected over many generations. It was opened to the public in 1900, and continues to be operated by members of the Khalidi family. Since 1967, many of the income-generating properties which were part of the waqf have been confiscated by the Israeli authorities, and the family has had to find other ways to keep the library open.

We were shown incredible original hand-written manuscripts from which other copies of the work were derived. They are called umm or “mother” manuscripts. Often the scribe was overtaken by a desire to “improve” the texts, resulting in many notes in the margins, each with its own interpretation of the original, and presenting a direct intellectual dialogue written over time. We were also shown ornate texts like a 16th century Ottoman copy of the Quran and a text on poisons and antidotes written to protect a ruler from assassination.

For more information, visit the library’s website.