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European Printed Books

Collection Details

European Printed Books held at Asian and African Studies [Institution record]

Description of Collection

Content description

Monographs, serials and newspapers in western languages (mainly English, but including substantial numbers of publications in French, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, etc.) relating to Asia and the Middle East. Particularly rich in English-language books published in South Asia. Estimated 207,000 titles.

History and development

The collection includes the western-language collections of the East India Company Library (founded in 1801 but including many 17th and 18th century publications) and its successor the India Office Library, as well as English-language titles published in Asia acquired following the IOL's incorporation in the British Library. Between 1867 and 1947, under the provisions of the (Indian) Press and Registration of Books Act 1867, the library was entitled to requisition titles included in the quarterly lists of books printed in British India and Burma [Myanmar]. From 1947 the collections have been augmented by current and antiquarian purchases.


General support material for oriental studies (catalogues, bibliographies, encyclopaedias, directories, dictionaries, etc.).

Publications relating to the East India Company.

Plate books relating particularly to South Asia - topographical, natural history and ethnographic works.

History of the British in India to 1947, including many biographical works, regimental histories, etc.

18th, 19th and early 20th century tracts and pamphlets.

General arrangement and access regulations

Closed access collection (apart from selective reference material on open access), unclassified but indexed in large part by Library of Congress subject headings.

Subjects of the Collection

Regions of Asia

Central Asia and the Caucasus, East Asia, Near & Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, South East Asia.

Languages of material

Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish.


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

Collection Material and Size of Collection

Material Types

Archival materials (includes non-published & mixed material), Books, Newspapers (includes microfilm editions), Official publications, Serials.

Total size of collection

Estimated figures: 200,000 printed books, 6,000 serial titles (500 current) and 246 newspapers on microfilm (19 current).

Size of collection - vernacular


Size of collection - western

All western-language materials.

Collection Management Information

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

Annual intake

5000 volumes

Content date range

1482 to present

Collection policy

As Oriental and India Office Collections overall collection development policy.

Collection Catalogue Information


Many western-language catalogue records, including the majority of those in the printed catalogues, have been retrospectively converted and are available in The British Library Public Catalogue online. All titles catalogued since 1983 are included in this online catalogue.

Catalogue transliteration schemes

ALA-LC romanization tables

Collection printed catalogues

A Catalogue of the Library of the Hon. East India Company.
London, 1845.

Catalogue of the Library of the India Office, vol. 1.
London, 1888-1936.

Catalogue of European Printed Books.
Boston, Mass.: G.K. Hall, 1964.

Links to other collections

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