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Tibetan Collection

Collection Details

Tibetan Collection held at Cambridge University Library [Institution record]

Description of Collection

Content description

Over 25,000 books, manuscripts and xylographs. Coverage comprises all aspects of Tibetan Studies in all periods.

History and development

The beginnings of the Tibetan collection were sparked in the 1870s when Daniel Wright, surgeon to the British Residency at Kathmandu Nepal, sent the first Tibetan block-printed books and manuscripts. Part of the collection of manuscripts and Tibetan block-printed books collected by the medical doctor Lawrence Augustine Waddell during the Younghusband invasion of Tibet in 1903 was distributed to Cambridge University Library. (The British Library (i.e. The India Office Library and the British Museum then) and the Bodleian Library in Oxford also received parts of the collection.) In 1905 W.H.D. Rouse brought about the purchase of the University Library's first Tibetan bka' 'gyur and bstan 'gyur, the sDe-dge edition. The library remains very strong in its collecting of Tibetan canons including the present modern published sets.


The clear stengths of the collection is in its manuscripts, the most significant being the Tibetan Buddhist manuscripts. The monograph collection is especially strong on Buddhism and Bon po. But in the University Library it is always wise to look widely outside the department, maps will be found in the Map Department, Official Publications will be found in the Official Publications Department, Asian language Bibles will be found in the Bible Society's Library, music will be found in the Music Department. Indeed music is a good example where the L.E. Picken ethnomusicological collection is so very impressive in its Asian coverage.

General arrangement and access regulations

Open access (except for rare and reserved items). Books are arranged according to the Cambridge University Library Classification System. Tibetan monographs are classified in 839. Tibetan manuscripts and unbound pothi format printed books are requested in the Manuscripts Reading Room. Tibetan periodicals are requested in the Periodicals Department. The open access books stand on North Wing, Floors 5 and 6. A copy of the classification scheme is available on these floors. Pre-1900 publications have been withdrawn to closed access; these may be requested in the Rare Books Reading Room. Tibetan pothi format (unbound) books (S839 or Tib) may be requested in the Manuscripts Reading Room. In addition, works in Indic, Tibetan and Southeast Asian languages may occur in other Library collections, e.g. early works may be in Rare Books classes, government publications in Official Publications, maps or music in the relevant collections. Readers are strongly advised to use the catalogues, whenever possible by author, in the first instance. Works in Western languages on Indian, Tibetan and Southeast Asian subjects (other than language and literature) are classified in the general range of library classification, e.g. a study of Buddhism written in German will be classified with religion, not with the language texts in 833-844; a modern study in English on South Asian archaeology will be found with archaeology; one on Southeast Asian coins with numismatics; a general history of Tibet under history (subdivided by Tibet), not under Tibetan (subdivision history).

Subjects of the Collection

Regions of Asia

Central Asia and the Caucasus, East Asia, South Asia.


Bhutan, India, Nepal.

Languages of material

Dzongkha, Sino-Tibetan (Other), Tibetan.


Agriculture, Anthropology, Archaeology, Arts, Communication and media, Development, Economics, Education, Environmental sciences, Geography, History, Human rights, Industries, International relations, Language, Law, Literature, Medicine, Music, Philosophy, Politics and government, Recreation, Religion, Science and technology, Sociology, Travel, Women.

Languages as linguistic focus

Dzongkha, Sino-Tibetan (Other), Sino-Tibetan (Other), Tibetan.

Collection Material and Size of Collection

Material Types

Archival materials (includes non-published & mixed material), Audio materials (includes cassettes & CDs), Books, Computer files (includes CD-ROMs & other electronic material), Manuscripts, Maps (includes all types of cartographic material), Music (only includes printed & manuscript music), Newspapers (includes microfilm editions), Official publications, Public records, Serials, Theses, Visual materials (includes photographs, prints, drawings, videos & films).

Size of collection - vernacular

20,000+ monographs

Collection Management Information

The collection is being actively developed, and the average intake has risen.

Annual intake

500 volumes

Content date range

0 to 0 AD

Collection policy

Collection Catalogue Information


All monographs are included in the Cambridge University Library OPAC or the Pre-1978 Guardbook Catalogue under romanised headings. A retrospective conversion of South Asian non-roman script entries from the Guardbook slips to the online OPAC was completed in 2000. Pre-1978 imprints must be checked in both catalogues until the University Library's retrospective conversion of roman script entries is completed. All OPAC records have Library of Congress subject headings. In recent years romanisation follows Library of Congress schemes. Waddell, Laurence Austine. Tibetan manuscripts and books, etc, collected during the Younghusband mission to Lhasa / by L.A. Waddell. Imperial and Asiatic Quarterly Review and Oriental and Colonial Record. Third series. Woking : 1912; 34(67): 80-113.

Catalogue transliteration schemes

Library of Congress

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