Some of the Arabic Collections may be considered as the oldest pieces of handwork in the field of Arabic Calligraphy. Among them is the seventh century A.D. Quran written on parchment in early Kufic script attributed to Hazrat Ali. (d.A.D.661)
Another specimen of the Holy Quran written in the eighth century A.D. on paper is attributed to the penmanship of Imam Jafar Sadiq. Another copy of ninth century Quran written on parchment is attributed to Imam Abul Hasan Musa. The celebrated scholar and calligrapher 'Ibn Muqla' who served the three Caliphs of Baghdad as Prime Minister and died on July 20th, 941 A.D., wrote the Quran in the early Naskh style in the 10th century. That masterpiece has found an important place in the collection of Raza Library. The noted calligrapher has reshaped the Arabic letters into Naskh which is still in vogue in one or the other form.It is indeed a unique specimen of the writing of Ibn Muqla in the world. The library has a copy of the Quran penned by the master calligrapher of 13th century A.D. of Baghdad, Yaqut-al Musta' simi. It bears the ornamentation in gold and precious lapis lazuli stone colours. Another master piece of Arabic manuscript by the same talented calligrapher is Diwan-al-Hadira dated 629 A.H. (1221 A.D.). It was once the part of the royal library of Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah of Bijapur. An interesting work in Arabic of Pseudo-geography and wonderful creations profusely illustrated with strange figures of human beings, animals and birds entitled Ajaibul Makhluqat was written by Zakaria bin Mahmud al-Qazvini (d.682 A.H./ 1283 A.D.) and scribed in elegant Naskh by Ibn Kamaluddin Husain in 929 A.H. (1571 A.D.).
Arabic manuscript "Sharhal-Kafia of Razi" is also a unique asset of library. It bears the marginal notes by Nawab Sadullah Khan, the Prime Minster of emperor Shah Jahan. This manuscript also contains a note by emperor Shah Jahan in his own hand writing and bears a seal and signature of Sadullah Khan, Inayat Khan, Itimad Khan, Muhammad Salih Khan, Aurangzib Alamgir etc.
Zakhirai Khawarizm Shahi' is an earliest treatise on medicine among the Persian manuscripts of the library. It was scribed by Zainuddin Ibrahim Gurgani (d. 531 A.H.) Another one is Tafsir-i-Tabari translated from Arabic by Abdul Baqi and scribed by Mirza Muhammad bin Mujtahid, is datable to 12th century A.D. It bears the autographs of Shah Abbas of Iran and Qasim Beg Khan dated 1031 A.H.(1621-22 A.D.). The earliest illustrated Persian work on history of Mongol tribes entitled 'Jamiul-Tawarikh' by Rashidud-din Fazlullah, includes rare miniatures depicting various aspects of political, social, and religious life of the Mongols. The paintings indicate inspiration of the Chinese and Central Asian early paintings which had influenced the Herat School of Persia.
The library has the Khamsa of Nizami Ganjvi (d.1203 A.D.) illustrated in 949 A.H. (1542-43 A.D.) It represents the Iranian style and is beautifully painted against floral background. Mention may also be made of the Khamsa of Abdur Rahman Jami scribed in A.H. 977 (1569-70 A.D.) by Muhammad bin Alauddin. Also Haft Aurang of Jam i dated A.H.1038 (1628 A.D.) was bound with other masnavis scribed by Jamaluddin Katib Shirazi.
The manuscript of the Diwan-i-Jami scribed in A.H.979 (1571 A.D.) bears a beautiful seal of Hamida Bano Begum, daughter of Ali Akbar, mother of Emperor Akbar and that of Nazar Ara, daughter of Shah Jahan, on the colophon. It is interesting to note that Nazar Ara Begum, daughter of Shahjahan whose seal appears on colophon does not appear to be mentioned in the contemporary Persian literature.
The famous fable of Indian origin namely Kalila wa Dimna translated by Abul Maali Nasrullah bin Muhammad Gaznavi seems to be illustrated and scribed in the mid sixteenth century A.D. The miniatures depict landscapes, floura and fauna in notable colour schemes.
Emperor Akbar took great interest in paintings particularly in book illustration following the Mongol, Timurid and Indian traditions. He commissioned several artists both Indian and Persian to illustrate various subjects besides illustrating the books translated from Sanskrit into Persian for developing better understanding among different communities.
The Rampur Raza Library has the distinction to possess one hundred and fifty illustrated manuscripts of great literary and artistic value. These illustrations provide deep insight into the contemporary life style, art, architecture, customs, and ornaments besides topographical details, floura, fauna and traditional musical instruments etc.
Diwan-i-Hafiz is a rare and valuable illustrated manuscript among the collections of the library. It was scribed in Akbar's eventful reign around 1575-80 A.D. and was illustrated by the celebrated court painters. The manuscript written in elegant Nastaliq script and bears eleven miniatures, representing (1) The emperor listening from the Diwan-i-Hafiz painted by Kanha (2) Darvishes dancing in the Khanqah overpowered by the ecstasy of devotional music (3) A young prince in rocky valley painted by Sanwala, a nobelman listening to musician in the garden painted by Farrukh Chela (4) A Prince riding on in a rocky surrounding, painted by Manohar (5) A prince discussing with scholars and old man watching a flock painted by Farukh Beg. An interesting scene of Turkish hamam and a prince enjoying wine, painted by Narsingh, provided details of contemporary life style of sixteenth century A.D.
Among the other rare manuscripts of the library there is a copy of Risalah Khawaja Abdullah Ansari and Sad Pand-i-Luqman bound together and scribed in elegant Nastaliq by the great master calligrapher Mir Ali of Herat who died in 951 A.H. (1544 A.D.). It bears signatures and seals of several kings and scholars and was graded of first category by Emperor Shah Jahan and its cost was assessed by him as rupees one thousand. He presented another copy of the same Risalah to Jahan Ara Begum who lavishly praised its importance in her own handwriting. It has the date A.H.998 (1588 A.D.) and bears the seals of Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb. Jahan Ara Begum recorded in her own hand writing that "these few words of Khwaja Abdullah are matchless and could not be appropriately described even if I had one thousand tongues."
Similarly the fly leaf of Diwan-i-Hilali Chagtai scribed in Nastaliq by Mir Imadual-Husaini in A.H.994 (1585 A.D.) bears the seals of famous noblemen of Shahjahan namely Itimad Khan, Inayat Khan, Sadiq Khan, and that of celebrated calligrapher Abdur Rashid Delami.
Jahan Ara Begum recorded in her own hand writing that "these few words of Khwaja Abdullah are matchless and I could not be appropriately described even if I had one thousand tongues."
A unique illustrated Ramayan of Valmiki translated into Persian by Sumer Chand and illustrated during the reign of Farrukh Siyar in A.H.1128 (1715-16A.D.) bears 258 miniatures throwing light on the art, architecture, costumes, ornaments of the period and highlighting the composite culture of India in the late medieval period.
Among the notable Sanskrit manuscripts, mention may be made of Probodh Chandrika, a work on grammar. It was written by Baijnath Dev Chauhan Vanshi and scribed by Girdhari lal Mishra. There is an important but incomplete commentary on Jyotish Ratanmala written by Shri Shripati Bhatta. An interesting work entitled Natrajan Dipmishada on Karma Kanda or Stuart, also contains certain mantras for brightening the eyesight. The Mahinma Statures is a very famous work with commentary compiled by Pushpa Dutta with commentator Madhusudan Saraswati.
Another striking aspect of the collection of Raza Library is the holding of hundreds of Hindi Manuscripts written in Persian script. The complete book of Madhumati of Malik Manjan, recently published by the library, is also preserved besides Padmavat of Malik Muhammad Jaisi with Persian translation is a valuable work in the library collection. The library under a project edited and transliterated the Ang Darpan and Rasprabodh of the celebrated Hindi Poet Ghulam Nabi Raslin Bilgrami (1741 A.D). The library has published the Naghmatul Asrar of Shah Muhammad Kazim of Hindustani music and Nadirat-i-Shahi, the collection of Hindi poems Nadirat-i-Shahi of Shah Alam II of Mughal dynasty.
The collection of urdu manuscripts is lesser in numbers as compared to Arabic and Persian one. The library possesses the Dewan of Shah Hatim, Kulliyat-i-Mir, Jurat, Hasan, Dewan-i-Soz, and very important manuscript of Dewan-i-Ghalib which contains the correction and modification in the handwriting of Ghalib himself.
There are two rare copies of Insha's Rani Ketki Ki Khani. The Dewan of celebrated poet Nawab Yusuf Ali Khan 'Nazim' the Ruler of Rampur is highly embellished in gold. It contains the potrait of the Nawab.
The Turkish language bears a notable impact on Indian politics under the Sultans of Delhi and the early Mughals. Several words of Turkish are commonly used in Hindi, Urdu and other Indian regional languages. The Mughal Emperor Babur was a prolific writer and poet in Turko-Uzbek language and was accepted as an inventor of a particular style both in prose and verse.
The library has a distinction of collecting 50 rare books and manuscripts in Turkish language. It is note-worthy that the library has a unique manuscript of Babur's Bayaz popularly called Diwan-i-Babur which contains a Turkish Rubai (Quatrain) in his own hand writing. The fly leaf bears the seal and signature of Akbar's General, Muhammad Bairam Khan who wrongly attributed the writing of Diwan to Babur himself. This mistake was later rectified by Emperor Shah Jahan in his own hand writing that the only Rubai (Quatrain) is in the hands of Firdaus Makani (Babur). Evidently, this unique manuscript is the royal copy dated A.H.935 (1528 A.D). It has one Urdu verse of Babur which is remarkable. Among other rare Turkish manuscripts there is a unique but incomplete copy of Diwan-i-Bairam Khan in Turkish language in Nastaliq script. The floral border with birds is remarkable for its natural beauty. One of the latest works in Turkish is the diary (Roznamchah) of the classical poet Insha Allah Khan Insha which contains significant information about the court of Avadh.
The Rampur Raza Library has many palm-leaf manuscripts as its valuable asset. Most of them are in Telugu, Sanskrit, Kannarh, Sinhali and Tamil languages. They are generally religious in character. A Tamil script mentions the rules of preparing images and icons and the mode of worship; another leaf manuscript informs us about the medicinal properties of several herbs which cure diseases. One such manuscript in Sanskrit language.
Written in Grantha script; consists of important epic Ramayana. It eulogises Ramayana as Bhahmavachakam. Kannarh manuscript is a treatise on music yet another manuscript is Periyatine Vaimoli sacred hymn of the Vaishnavas.
The Raza Library is distinguished for its rare Pushto manuscripts and printed books as compared to the holdings of other oriental libraries in India. The library possess commentary on Quran in Pushto, and others two rare volumes collection of Diwan of Khushhal Khan Khatak which is decorated immensely with gold in Nastaliq characters. The rare illustrated Diwan of celebrated Sufi poet Rahman Baba is also one of the notable collections of the library. Mention may also be made about the work which was done at Rampur and the Pushto manuscripts of Hafiz Rahmat Khan, hero of the Rohila Afghans in India who laid down his life fighting against the British in the struggle for freedom.