The Paden collection contains 606 items, approximately 60% of which are original manuscripts, while the remainder are market or printed editions. Most of these documents were produced in the 19th and 20th centuries. They were acquired by Northwestern University Professor John Paden during the course of his research in Nigeria in the 1960s and donated to the library.
Approximately 40 % of the collection consists of copies--made in Nigeria--of works from classical Muslim/Arabic literature. Some are handwritten copies while others are printed editions. Subject matters include basic jurisprudential treatises, classical commentaries on these works, and printed versions of the better-known diwans of pre-Islamic Arabic poetry. The calligraphy (some of it ornamental), marginal comments and colophons by West African copyists are of interest.
The remaining 60 % of the collection contains works written by Nigerian authors, predominantly market or printed editions. Subject matters covered include poetry (especially of the madh genre, in praise of the Prophet, of Shaykh Ahmad al-Tijani, or of Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse), Arabic grammar, history, theology, jurisprudence, Qur’anic exegesis, Prophetic Tradition (hadith), biographies of local scholars, and Sufism. This last category predominates and the collection is particularly rich in works by Kano authors of the Tijâniyya tariqa and by the great Senegalese propagator of the Tijâniyya, Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse. There are also over 30 copies of works by the great early 19th century Sokoto writers—Shaykh ‘Uthman b. Fudi (Dan Fodio), his brother ‘Abd Allah, and his son Muhammad Bello.
The Paden collection has been the subject of an article by E.N. Saad, “The Paden Collection of Arabic Materials from Kano,” History in Africa 7 (1980): 369-72.
Language: Predominantly Arabic, with some items in Hausa, including a collection of Hausa poetry (items 425-468).
Authorship: 60 % works by Nigerian authors; 40 % authors from others areas of the Muslim world, mainly North Africa and Egypt.