The Egyptian National Library and Archives in Cairo is the largest library in Egypt. The National Library, the oldest government library, houses several million volumes on a wide range of topics. It is one of the largest in the world with thousands of ancient collections. It also contains a vast variety of Arabic-language and other Eastern manuscripts. The main library is a seven-story building in Ramlet Boulaq, a district of Cairo. The Egyptian National Archives are contained in an annex besides the building.
Collections include music instruments, a wide variety of manuscripts of the Qur'an, written on paper and parchment, with some in the early undotted Kufic script, other written by celebrated calligraphers. Of Egyptian Islamic materials, there is perhaps the outstanding collection of illuminated manuscripts of the Qur'an in the Mamluk text-hand, and in Trilinear and Rayhani hands. There are also collections of Arabic papyri from different sites in Egypt, some dating to the 7th century AD or earlier. The library is a mine of information on early Islamic Egypt's social and cultural life. Ancient Persian and Ottoman collections are also housed.
The institution was founded in 1870 by a decree from Khedive Ismail through an initiative from Ali Pasha Mubarak, the education minister at the time. In its first decades the position of director was held by German Orientalists, most notable among them were Karl Vollers and Bernhardt Moritz.