When Egeria visited the Sinai in 383-384, she wrote approvingly of the way the monks read to her the scriptural accounts concerning the various events that had taken place there. Thus we can speak of manuscripts at Sinai in the fourth century. It is written of Saint John Climacus that, while living as a hermit, he spent much time in prayer and in the copying of books. This is evidence of manuscript production at Sinai in the sixth century. The library at the Holy Monastery of Sinai is thus the inheritor of texts and of traditions that date to the earliest years of a monastic presence in the Sinai. In earlier times, manuscripts were kept in three different places: in the north wall of the monastery, in the vicinity of the church, and in a central location where the texts were accessible.
In 1725, Nicephorus Marthalis was elected Archbishop of Sinai. He had been a scribe, and the library contains manuscripts written in his hand. He had a great concern for the manuscripts, and asked that they be gathered into a new location opposite the Archbishop’s quarters, and that a catalogue of the manuscripts be drawn up.
In 1930, construction began on a new building along the south wall, which was completed in 1951. This provided a new space for the monastery’s collection of manuscripts and printed books. The library now consists of some 3,300 manuscripts, and some 8,000 early printed books, together with 5,000 new books.
In 1975, a cache of manuscript leaves and fragments were discovered in the north wall. These were damaged fragments that had been left behind when the books and manuscripts were moved in the eighteenth century.
Beginning in 2008, the entire top floor of the south wing will be renovated, to supply conservation workshops and digital photography studios, and greatly improved storage for the books and manuscripts, as well as an improved reading space for visiting scholars.