Miscellaneous Tibetan manuscripts in the Bodleian Library

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 161 MSS. Tibet a. 1-6, 7 (R), 8, 9-15 (R), 23-5 (R), b. 1-17, 20-7 (R), 28-32, 36, c. 1-23, 24 (R), 25-59, 60 (R), 61, d. 1-5, 19, 25, 29, e. 1-7, 12
  • Dates of Creation
      mainly 18th-20th century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      126 shelfmarks

Scope and Content

Miscellaneous Tibetan manuscripts, including meditation and ritual texts, as well as medical and astronomical manuscripts. The principal acquisitions are:

  • manuscripts obtained by Captain Samuel Turner of the East India Company when on a mission to the Panchen Lama in 1783-4, including correspondence relating to the mission, and notes on the Tibetan language
  • 102 manuscripts and block-books collected in the Indian Himalayas by German explorers Adolf, Hermann and Robert Schlagintweit
  • 131 volumes collected by Lieutenant Colonel Augustine Waddell, medical officer to the Younghusband Expedition of 1904. The collection includes two volumes of a manuscript prepared in the monastery of Shel-dkar in Southern Tibet (MSS. Tibet a. 15 (R), 23 (R)), which is important because of the part it plays in the history of the transmission of the Tibetan canon. The collection was split by the Indian government, and parts of it are kept by the British Library and Cambridge University Library
  • Tibetan manuscripts bequeathed by W.Y. Evans-Wentz in 1965.

Administrative / Biographical History

The material came from various sources. Among these are Captain Samuel Turner (1759-1802), army officer in the East India Company and diplomatist; and Lawrence Augustine Waddell (1854-1938), army medical officer and orientalist. See the Dictionary of National Biography for details on both. There are also manuscripts collected by brothers Hermann (1826-82), Adolph (1829-57) and Robert (1833-85) Schlagintweit, who travelled to India and Tibet, between 1854 and 1857, to undertake a scientific expedition sponsored by the East India Company. See the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie. The series also includes manuscripts formerly belonging to Walter Yeeling Evans-Wentz (1878-1965), Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford, and anthropologist.

Access Information

Entry to read in the Library is permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card (for admissions procedures see http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk).

Acquisition Information

The manuscripts were acquired between 1806, when Captain Samuel Turner's manuscripts were purchased, and 1995. The collection of the Schlagintweit brothers was purchased in 1885 from their surviving brother Dr. Emil Schlagintweit. The Indian government gave the Waddell manuscripts to the Library in 1905, and W.Y. Evans-Wentz bequeathed his collections to the Library in 1965.


Collection level description created by Susan Thomas, Department of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts.

Other Finding Aids

Some of the manuscripts are in Falconer Madan, et al., A summary catalogue of western manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford which have not hitherto been catalogued in the Quarto series, with references to the oriental and other manuscripts (7 vols. in 8 [vol. II in 2 parts], Oxford, 1895-1953; reprinted, with corrections in vols. I and VII, Munich, 1980), vols. V-VI, nos. 26268-311, 26313-17, 26319-21, 26324-5, 28027-30, 29897, 30986, 33623-9, 33638-44, 33717-23, 33732-8, 34025, 34697.

The manuscripts are also summarily described in the card catalogue, arranged by language, located in the Oriental Reading Room.

Unpublished descriptions of individual manuscripts were created by J.E. Stapleton Driver, and may be consulted at the Library. A PDF version is also available: A descriptive catalogue of the Tibetan manuscripts held at The Bodleian Library.


Michael Aris 'A Note on the Resources for Tibetan Studies at Oxford', Bodleian Library Record, 10/6 (1982), pp. 368-75.

Geographical Names