Southern Asia Studies
This statement describes Library of Congress holdings of materials produced in or having to do with the seventeen major nation-states comprising South and Southeast Asia. South Asia includes Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, the Republic of the Maldives and Sri Lanka. Southeast Asia includes Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines. Research-quality publications are acquired for all of these countries in all subject fields. Over thirty major modern and classical languages are represented in the Library's holdings from the region. In addition to printed sources, the Library has outstanding collections of recorded music, poetry readings and maps and selective collections of motion pictures and other special materials. Its legal collections for the states of this area are comprehensive.
For some 200 years up until the mid-twentieth century, all but a few of the modern nation-states of Southern Asia were governed in whole or part by Western European trading powers. History thus accounts for both the media of communication and the lacunae characteristic of this area. Pre World-War II documents pertaining to Southern Asia are chiefly in English (for South Asia, Burma and Malaysia), Dutch (for Indonesia) and French (for Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam). The modern states of South Asia continue to produce a very high percentage of English-language publications for both official and literary purposes, as does the Philippines. All such Western-language publications are treated as part of the Library's general collections and shelved by subject. They number approximately 500,000 volumes.
The flowering vernacular literatures which have appeared since independence are assembled in the Southern Asia Section's custody, together with national and regional government agency publications which now use national languages as their official media. These collections are estimated to number approximately 270,000 volumes. There is a rapidly growing microfiche collection of some 240,000 fiche and a microfilm collection of approximately 13,000 reels, consisting chiefly of regional newspapers.
The traditional Library of Congress strength in government agency publications acquired through long-standing exchanges has been supplemented during the past thirty-one years by comprehensive regional acquisition programs conducted by LC field offices in New Delhi, Karachi and Jakarta. These offices have implemented broad-ranging acquisitions efforts covering a wide variety of languages and subjects in virtually all sectors of the Southern Asia region. Post-1962 holdings for most of this region can therefore be said to be outstanding. Exchanges with scholarly institutions have built major resources in the form of classical and disciplinary studies of interest to Western scholarship through the years, and more recently significant economic, sociological and political research related to "developing societies."
Among Southern Asia holdings of exceptional interest are the Albrecht Weber collection, the "Crosby fragments," and the collection of early 19th-century Jawi manuscripts. In 1904, the Library acquired the personal library of German Indologist Alrecht Weber, thought to be the most comprehensive collection of its kind at that time. Included are some forty manuscript volumes including transcribed Sanskrit texts which have since disappeared in their original form.
The "Crosby fragments" are portions of what were once Buddhist hybrid Sanskrit texts thought to have been destroyed by Islamic tribesmen about the year 1000 A.D. They were purchased about 1905 in the region of Khotan, along what was once the "silk route" in western China, by the American businessman and traveller Oscar Terry Crosby, and deposited in the Library early in the 20th-century. Microforms of these rare fragments are currently under study together with similar collections from other research libraries.
LC's Jawi manuscripts were originally procured for the Smithsonian Museum by an American sailing expedition which landed in Singapore in the 1840s. Of particular interest is a collection of 46 petitions addressed to the British authority in the area by local potentates around 1819. Many of these unique manuscripts are decorated with handsome royal seals.
Like other American libraries, LC lacks researchable holdings of vernacular literature and other expressions of indigenous values for the period antedating World War II. Acquisitions trips, field office efforts and projects in cooperation with other American libraries promise gradually to improve these collections. Examples of the last are the South Asia Microform Project for the preservation on film of otherwise unavailable resources related to South Asia, and the Southeast Asia Microform Project, providing similar service for Southeast Asia. A project to microfilm retrospective Indian literary publications in Indian libraries has recently been inaugurated by a team working in LC's New Delhi office.