The Abu Rayhan Biruni Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan was established in 1943 on the foundations of the Oriental Department of the Public Library (now Alishir Navai State Library). Until 1950 it was called the Institute for the Study of Oriental Manuscripts, and after 1950, considering the range of its scholarly directions, it was renamed the Institute of Oriental Studies.
At the beginning of its establishment, the Institute had only a Department for the study of oriental manuscripts. To expand the activities of the Institute, it was necessary to establish additional departments, such as the initial processing and systematization, scholarly descriptions and cataloguing, research and publication of the manuscripts and historical documents. And also it was decided to include the study of political, economic and cultural situation of the Middle and Near East countries and their ralations with Central Asia.
The scholarly activities of the Institute are bound up with predominantly its manuscript collection. The collection of the oriental manuscripts of the Institute is well known in the world and is considered one of the richest by its scientific value. The most ancient works which preserved in the Institute’s collection have more than a thousand years history (for example, Copy of the Qur’an, which dated from the ninth Century and copyed in the Kufic script). The most recent works dated from the middle of the twentieth Century.
Materials in the collection include works written in Uzbek, Arabic, Persian, Tajik, Urdu, Pasto, Azeri, Ottoman Turkish, Tatar, Turkmen, Uighur and other languages. These materials encompass the fields of history, literature, philosophy, law, astronomy, physics, chemistry, medicine, pharmacology, language, geography, music, mathematics, mineralogy, agriculture, the figurative arts, and so on.
At the present time the manuscript collection contains about 26000 volumes. Many of them are miscellanies, where one codex contains diverse treatises. The Institute’s collection of lithographed and printed books amounts to about 40000 volumes. They have important historical impontance for the study the history of Central Asia, and its neighboring states – Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China and Arab countries. As well as there are about 10000 historical documents in the manuscript collection of Institute.
The Institute also has a large number of archival documents that chronologically encompass a thousand-year period. The oldest document is from the tenth century, and the most recent is from the twentieth century. In particularly large quantity of documents compiled in the Bukhara, Khiva and Qoqand khanates. There carried out works on researching and publishing of these documents in the Institute.
Starting in 1952, effort was applied to the publication of catalogues of the Institute’s manuscripts. Up to the present, eleven volumes of the catalogue, The Collection of Oriental Manuscripts of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan and subject catalogues: on History, the Natural Sciences, Medicine, Sufism and Oriental Miniatures have been published. Work on completing the catalogue continues. In addition, researchers of the Institute have prepared and published catalogues which describes the works of outstanding scholars of science and culture – Abu Nasr al-Farabi, Abu ‘Ali ibn Sina, Amir Khusrau Dihlawi, ‘Abd al-Rahman Jami, Alishir Navai and others.
In 2000 the manuscript collection of the Institute has been included in UNESCO’s Register of Cultural Heritage as one of the most wealthy manuscript depositories in the world.
According to the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan PP-2995 "About measures for further improvement of the storage, research and propagation of ancient written sources" dated on May 24, 2017, the Abu Rayhan Biruni Institute of Oriental Studies of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences is recognized as the leading scientific research institution of the Republic in the field of preservation, research on a scientific basis and the propagation of ancient manuscripts, modern written sources having a historical and cultural significance.