The Mongolian Collection
Illustrated folio from the Sutra of the Great Liberation.
Mongolia, 18th or 19th c. manuscript.
Gift of William W. Rockhill.
The Mongolian Collection consists of approximately 2,500 monographs,
160 serial titles, over 2,000 microfiche, and 408 volumes of rare
books. Since 1992 the Library’s New Delhi Field Office, through
a bibliographic representative in Ulaanbaatar, has been actively
acquiring publications from Mongolia, in both classical Mongolian
script and Cyrillic.
Included in the rare book collection are 80 traditional Mongolian
books which were acquired in the early 20th c. The first of these
to arrive were two manuscripts and one xylograph donated by William
Woodville Rockhill, American scholar and diplomat, between 1893
and 1901. All three are Mongolian translations of famous Buddhist
sutras (sudur), which Rockhill acquired during his travels in Mongolia
at the turn of the century. Other early notable acquisitions include
over seventy works acquired by Berthold Laufer in 1917, containing
his brief handwritten notes, and two xylographs acquired from the
Krebs Collection of Linguistics. These 80 works have been analyzed
and indexed in an article by David M. Farquhar, “A Description
of the Mongolian Manuscripts and Xylographs in Washington, D.C.” Central
Asiatic Journal, Vol. 1, No. 3, 1955. Included are 27 canonical
works, 19 works on Buddhist ritual and prayer, 11 works on biography
and history, 5 on medicine, 2 on language, and an episode of the
Central Asian Gesar (Geser) epic. The collection contains many
18th c. xylographs of popular sutras such as the Ocean of Parables
(Uliger-un dalai), the Sutra of the Golden Light (Altan gerel-tu)
, the Collection of Sutras (Gzungdui), the Mongolian translation
of the Diamond Sutra, as well as an elaborately illustrated manuscript
of the Mongolian translation of the Sutra of the Great Liberation.
The Mongolian rare collection also includes complete reprint editions
of both the Mongolian Kanjur and Tanjur, the Buddhist canonical
texts and their commentaries. The Mongolian Kanjur, in 108 volumes,
was published in New Delhi, 1973-1974 by Dr. Lokesh Chandra. The
edition was reproduced from the Imperial Red block-print edition
of 1720, which in turn had been prepared based on the rare handwritten
Ligdan Khan Kanjur produced in the early 17th c.
During 1956-58, Professor Raghu Vira obtained a microfilm copy
of the extremely rare Urga Tanjur, kept in Ulaanbaatar. This edition
had been compiled and translated into Mongolian under the direction
of Lcang-skya Rol-pa’i rdo-rje in the mid-18th c. A 226 volume
set of photocopy enlargements taken from this film was given to
the Library by Dr. Lokesh Chandra, and is kept in the rare book
cage, along with the 8 volume catalog to the set, published in
Catalog records for more recent materials can be found in the
Library’s online catalog using the LC/ALA
romanization tables for Mongolian in vertical script and in Cyrillic Script. Many
titles, including newspapers, are microfilmed or microfiched
in the New
sent to the Asian Division. Handlists for uncataloged materials
are available in the division’s reading room.