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Early Arab American Collections: About

This guide will help you find information and resources about Arab American history available at The New York Public Library, with a focus on the early Arabic-speaking community in New York City.


This guide is designed to be a resource for patrons getting started with their research on early Arab American materials at The New York Public Library (NYPL). It features tips and suggestions for information resources, including links to print and digital collections accessible at the General Research Division and other special collections divisions. 

"A Syrian Arab at Ellis Island", 1926

Middle Eastern Collections at NYPL

Since the establishment of the Oriental Division in 1897, The New York Public Library has amassed an extensive collection of Middle Eastern and Islamic materials, encompassing published works, manuscripts, lithographs, fine arts, rare periodicals, pamphlets, and maps. Many of these items, some with origins dating back to the Astor Library, hold a distinctive character and, in several instances, stand as singular pieces, as they cannot be found in other repositories. Among these treasures is a private collection of manuscripts that once belonged to a family of scholars from Iraq, 19th-century prints originating from the most renowned publishing hubs in Iran and India, scarce pamphlets from pre-First World War Egypt and Lebanon, as well as the earliest newspapers and books printed in Arabic in New York by the first Arab American community in the City.

Early Arab American materials consist of books, newspapers, photographs, and prints, written in both Arabic and English. After the dismantling of the Oriental Division in 2008, Arab American collections were scattered across different locations of the Library, based on their format. If most of them are now part of the holdings of the General Research Division, some can be found in other divisions of special collections

"Lebanon Restaurant", 88 Washington Street

A 1917 Menu of "The Syrian Restaurant for Ladies' & Gents"