The University of Ghana Collection contains 485 items, all of which are photocopies of original manuscripts. Most of these documents were produced between the late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries.
In the 1960s the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana (IASAR) established a project of Islamic manuscript collection, directed by Professor Ivor Wilks. The Institute borrowed manuscripts from Muslim scholars, made multiple photocopies, and returned the original to the owners. Permission was given to anyone who wished to purchase copies of the manuscripts. Professor Wilks, an expert in Ghanain history and Islam, obtained copies of 485 items. Wilks later became a professor of history at Northwestern. When he retired in 1993 he donated the entire collection to the Herskovits Library. Cross-references to the cataloging numbers from the IASAR collection are included in the “Miscellaneous” field.
Nearly half of the works are on religious disciplines (jurisprudence, Sufism, ethics, theology) and literature (poetry: eulogy, elegy, satire). Another half is made up of chronicles, lists of kings and imams, and letters, all being sources for the history of Northern Ghana.
Language: Arabic, often with Hausa glosses, especially in the case of classical Arabic poems. Some items are in Hausa. Individual items are found in Gonja, Dagbani, a poem in Mamprule in praise of Shaykh Ahmad al-Tijani, and some other unidentified languages of Northern Ghana. All items are in Arabic script.
Authorship: Mainly Ghanaian authors of the twentieth century such as al-Hajj ‘Umar of Kete-Krachi and members of the Bamba and Saghanugu families. It also includes many anonymous historical documents. Copies of works by Nigerian authors such as ‘Uthman dan Fodio and ‘Abd Allah dan Fodio are also included, as well as some by Malian authors, together with major classics by North African authors (Abu Madyan, Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili, Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, Abu Zayd al-Qayrawani).