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Research Guide to the South Asian Collection at the Library of Congress

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South Asian Collection: Rare Books

The South Asian rare books collection includes manuscripts, old and rare materials, and other unique and valuable items. To access the rare books collection, registered readers of the Library of Congress must do these two things:

  1. Read the Asian Division's rare book policy.
  2. Use the Asian Division’s Ask-a-Librarian form to schedule a research consultation with South Asian reference staff and discuss your plans to visit the Asian Reading Room. Rare books are accessible only by prior appointment.

Below are short descriptions of some notable collections and items categorized as South Asian rare books.

Albrecht Weber collection
In 1904, the Library of Congress purchased the personal collection of German Indologist Albrecht Weber (1825-1901), which contained approximately 4,000 books, articles, notes, newspaper clippings, postcards, and other correspondence with philologists and other scholars of his day. Many of the works on Indology in the Weber collection come with Weber’s handwritten notes and marginalia. The Weber collection also includes about 55 Sanskrit manuscripts, such as the Aitareya Brahmana, the Agnistomaprayoga, and the Kalanirnaya. For a complete listing of these manuscripts, see these pages from the German catalog enumerating items in the collection, Katalog der Bibliothek des verstorbenen Professors des Sanskrit an der Universität zu Berlin. More information on the Weber collection can be found at this post on LC's 4 Corners of the World blog.

Crosby Khotan fragments
The “Crosby fragments” are paper manuscript leaves from before 1100 CE in Buddhist Sanskrit from Khotan, an abandoned oasis in western China. The collection’s name derives from Oscar Terry Crosby, the American businessman who later became Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. Crosby purchased the fragments during a journey to Central Asia in the early twentieth century. This collection’s microfilm is available on request in the Asian Reading Room.

Examples of Crosby Khotan fragments from microfilm (South Asian rare books collection, Asian Division)

Princely State Papers collection
This collection contains thousands of legal and financial records in Hindi, Rajasthani, Urdu, and English from princely states in pre-independence India. Most of the papers are from Bikaner, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Kishangarh, Mewar, Shahpur, and other states in western and central India. Many of these documents are court petitions and rulings, commercial permits, and financial transactions, among other subjects. Many also have “court fee” stamps in various denominations.

Examples of Crosby Khotan fragments from microfilm (South Asian rare books collection, Asian Division)

Sanskrit manuscripts
Approximately 470 Sanskrit manuscripts have the categorization “Indo-Aryan Ms” in their catalog records.  Searching for this phrase in LC's online catalog is one way to browse the collection. Titles include Smārtavyavasthārṇava (Indo-Aryan Ms. 59), Tulasīmahātmya (Indo-Aryan Ms. 74), and Gajendramokṣa (Indo-Aryan Ms. 202). Please be advised that manuscripts range from complete to partially complete to only one or two leaves.

Urdu manuscripts
There are approximately 100 Urdu manuscripts, mostly from the nineteenth century, such as Shāzādi Nūrjahān̲ Begam va Navvāb Āṣaf al-Dawlah kā dilcasp mukālmah and Bazm-i suk̲h̲an. Most relate to poetry, literature, and religion, while a few are about traditional medicine.

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