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"Religion," mural in the North Corridor, Library of Congress Jefferson Building, by Charles Sprague Pearce, 1897.

Religion Collections in Libraries and Archives:
A Guide to Resources in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia

Table of Contents - Preface/Acknowledgements - Abbreviations
Lists of Entries: District of Columbia - Maryland - Virginia

Catholic University of America
Semitics/Institute of Christian Oriental Research Library (S/I)

Address: 18 Mullen Library
620 Michigan Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20064
Telephone Number: (202) 319-5084
Fax Number: (202) 319-4735
Contact Persons: Monica Blanchard, Head Librarian
Internet Catalog Address:

Access Policies

Hours of Service:
Monday--Friday 9:00 a.m.--5:00 p.m.
Open to the public: By appointment only
Photocopying:: Yes
Interlibrary loan: Yes

Most materials may be photocopied. The S/I Library tries to honor most interlibrary loan requests unless materials are in use in the Library.

Reference Policy:
Telephone and mail queries are accepted if they are relevant to the collection.

Borrowing Privileges:
Not a circulating collection.


Background Note:
The Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures at CUA was founded in 1895 by Msgr. Henri Hyvernat (1858-1941), who also established the Institute of Christian Oriental Research in 1931. The Library was established in 1895 to support the work of the Department and the Institute.
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Description of Collections

Books and monographs:
The collection has approximately 50,000 volumes (both monographs and periodicals) related to biblical studies and the religions of the ancient and medieval Near East. The personal library of Henri Hyvernat comprises roughly half the collection. The collections include works published by 19th-century Dominican missions in Iraq (the Mosul imprints) in Syriac and Arabic; travel literature on the Near and Far East written by Western travelers and missionaries (16th -19th century); and an extensive collection of 16th- to 18th-century books on Semitic philology and Christian Oriental studies. Some of these include: a 16th-century Syriac grammar by Johann Albrecht Widmanstetter; various (17th-19th centuries) editions of the writings of St. Ephraem the Syrian (ca. 306-373); a 15th-century Chaldean choral manuscript; an 18th-19th century Turkish translation of the Kitab Kalila wa-Dimna (Indian animal fables used in Moslem and Christian literature); and other works.

Particular subject emphases include: pre-Islamic epigraphy; biblical studies; Syraic patristics; medieval Christian-Moslem apologetics; Byzantine-Coptic papyrology; and missions.

The card catalog covers the entire collection.

Periodicals and newspapers:
There are 225 current subscriptions and an estimated 10,000 bound periodicals. The subject areas covered by this collection include: Semitic philology, Christian Near Eastern studies and Moslem-Christian relations.

Archives, manuscripts, correspondence, and oral histories:
The collection holds approximately 100 manuscripts in Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Coptic, Ethiopic, Persian, Samaritan, Syriac, and Turkish, and approximately 1200 facsimile reproductions in Coptic, Syriac, Arabic, and Hebrew. The collection also includes unpublished research aids for Coptic and Syriac studies prepared by Henri Hyvernat and other scholars; approximately 100 cuneiform tablets in Sumerian and Akkadian; approximately 100 Coptic and Egyptian ostraka and papyri; and casts of early Semitic inscriptions from the 1930 joint CUA-Harvard University expedition to Serabit-el-Khadim in the Sinai; Neothilic and Chalcolithic materials from Teleilat Ghassul (Palestine). The geographic focus of this collection is the Near East.

Monica Blanchard, the Semitics Librarian, is the curator for this collection.

Maps are integrated into the S/I Library. Many early travel books from the 16th through the 19th century contain maps from the Near East relating to religion.

Paintings, photographs, slides, and prints:
19th-century photographs of archaeological sites in the Middle East, and approximately 600 glass lantern slides of antiquities and monuments.

Other holdings not listed above:
2 dozen Akkadian cylinder seals; 650 Syrian and Palestinian coins.

Subject Headings

Ancient Near East--Religion; Antiquities; Biblical studies; Coptic studies; Missions and missionaries; Semitic studies; Syriac studies


Selections from the Syriac Exhibit [Online]. Available HTTP. URL March 1995 (file inactive as of December 1997).

Semitics/ICOR Library [Online]. Available HTTP. URL August 2000.

To contact the institution described in this entry, please use the contact information at the top of this page.
To submit updates and corrections for this entry, please use our comments form.
To ask a reference question, please use our Ask a Librarian form.
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  September 13, 2011
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