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Sanskrit manuscript collection

Collection Details

Sanskrit manuscript collection held at Oriental Collections Central Bodleian [Institution record]

Description of Collection

Content description

A collection of some 8700 manuscripts with dates ranging from 5th-19th century A.D. on a broad range of subjects.

History and development

The foudation collection was started by the gift of Archbishop Laud's Ragamala in 1640. Other significant additions were a collections which came from Prof. Horace Wilson, Sir William Walker, and Dr. W.H.Mill. In 1909 the largest single collection of Sanskrit manuscripts ever to come to the Bodleian (over 6300 manuscripts) was donated by the Prime Minister of Nepal, the Maharajah Sir Chandra Shum Shere.

In 1927 the library's Sanskrit manuscript collection was further enriched when the Indian Institute Library's manuscript collection were joined to those of the Bodleian. This collection included manuscripts collected by Prof. Monier-Williams and over 300 texts which were acquired by Sir Marc Aurel Stein during his visits to Kashmir between 1888 and 1905.

The most recent Sanskrit collection to come the Bodleian s consists several hundred manuscripts, which had once belonged to a family of traditional astronomers by the name of Vyasa from Gujarat. The manuscripts had been sent to the library in 1940 by Mr. Bernard Hirschler, an Austrian Jewish refugee who hoped to sell them to the Bodleian on behalf of a friend, Mr. Salo Ringer in Antwerp. Mr. Hirschler was interned shortly afterwards and the library lost track of him and Mr. Ringer, so the manuscripts were stored as War Deposits and remained in the stacks until their rediscovery in 1986. This collection has yet to be catalogued.


A collection which is particularly strong in 17th, 18th and 19th century religious and philosophical manuscripts. The Aurel Stein collection includes some rare birch bark items.

General arrangement and access regulations

Closed access. Manuscripts from larger historical collections which came to the library are identified by call numbers which reflect the name of the donor or person from whom the collection was purchased e.g. MS. Chandra Shum Shere. Other manuscripts are identified by MS. Sansk. or MS. Ind. Inst. Sansk. shelfmarks.

Subjects of the Collection

Regions of Asia

South Asia.


Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka.

Languages of material



Agriculture, Anthropology, Archaeology, Arts, Communication and media, Development, Economics, Education, Environmental sciences, History, Language, Law, Literature, Medicine, Music, Philosophy, Politics and government, Recreation, Religion, Science and technology, Women.

Names relevant to the collection:

  • Laud, William, 1573-1645
  • Wilson, H.H. (Horace Hayman), 1786-1860
  • Walker, William
  • Mill, William Hodge, 1792-1853
  • Chandra Shum Shere, Maharaja of Nepal, fl. 1901-1929

Collection Material and Size of Collection

Material Types


Total size of collection

Approximately 8700 manuscripts.

Size of collection - vernacular

Approximately 8700 manuscripts.

Size of collection - western

0 manuscripts.

Collection Management Information

The collection is being actively developed.

Annual intake

1 manuscript per 5-10 years

Content date range

400 to 1900 AD

Collection Catalogue Information


A number of printed catalogues, details of which can be found on the Library's web page. The Chandra Shum Shere manuscript catalogue is not yet complete but a card catalogue for the Chandra Shum Shere collection can be consulted in the Oriental Reading Room. There is also an alphabetical handlist of Chandra Shum Shere manuscripts, on closed access, which can be consulted in the Indian Institute Library.

Catalogue transliteration schemes

Royal Asiatic Society

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