The Muhammad Ali Hamdani Collection in the Library of The Institute of Ismaili Studies represents a large segment of the library collected over seven generations by an eminent family of scholars from the Da'udi Bohra community in India and the Yemen. The bulk of the manuscripts are Ismaili religious writings, but there are also a good number of interesting books of general Islamic, or indeed secular content, and these give a rare insight into the whole cultural range of a learned family of Indian religious scholars. The overwhelming majority of the books are in Arabic, but there are also a small number in Persian and in Bohra da'wat language (lisan al da'wat), Gujarati in Arabic script. Most of the manuscripts were produced in India, but some of the most interesting ones are from the Yemen, the ancestral home of the Hamdani clan (the oldest of these is from the 14th century CE, or perhaps earlier). The catalogue contains detailed descriptions of the manuscripts in this Hamdani collection, discussing both the content of the works and the codicological features of the manuscripts. The introduction contains also a comprehensive history of the Hamdani family.
Francois de Blois has published widely on Semitic and Iranian languages and on the history of religions in the Near East in pre-modern times. Notably, he contributed to the multi-volume work entitled Persian Literature, which had been initiated by C.A. Storey and published by the Royal Asiatic Society. He served as Professor of Iranian Studies at Hamburg University from 2002 to 2003. Currently he is a research fellow at University College London where he is engagesd in a major project on al-Biruni's 'Chronology' and other Arabic texts on non-Islamic calendars. He is also a teaching fellow for Aramaic and Middle Iranian languages at the School of Oriental and African Studies, Univerity of London. He has been a frequent contributor to the 'Encyclopaedia of Islam'. His recent publications include the Arabic and New Persian sections of 'The Dictionary of Manichaean Texts', Volume II: 'Texts from Iraq and Iran', edited by Francois de Blois and Nicholas Sims-Williams, Turnhout, 2006.