Manuscripts formerly held at the Indian Institute, Oxford, now in the Department of Oriental Collections at the Bodleian Library

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 161 MSS. Ind. Inst.
  • Dates of Creation
      15th-19th century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      Arabic, Bengali, Burmese, Coptic, Hindi, Hebrew, Malayalam, Mongolian, Syriac, Gujarati, Konkani, Thai, Pali, Panjabi, Persian, Sanskrit, Sinhalese, Tamil, Telugu, Turkish, and Urdu.
  • Physical Description
      574 shelfmarks

Scope and Content

Oriental manuscripts formerly held at the Indian Institute, Oxford, now in the Department of Oriental Collections at the Bodleian Library. The collection includes many mauscripts collected by Sir Monier Monier-Williams in Persian, Turkish, and Arabic, though the bulk are in Sanskrit, or other Indic languages. Monier-Williams' interests lay in classical Sanskrit, and the manuscripts he collected comprise a considerable number of the sacred poems called Tantras, a series of Jaina books in Prakrit, and an important collection of Indian bazaar paintings of the Kalighat school which flourished in 19th century Bengal. Another important item in the Indian Institute collection is a copy of the Shikshapatri, 19th century, given by Lord Swaminarayan to Sir John Malcolm, Governor of Bombay, in 1830.

The full shelfmarks of the collection are as follows: Arch O. f. 3, MSS. Ind. Inst. Arab. 1-28; Beng. 1 (R), 2-3; Burm. 1-5, 6-7 (R), 8; Copt. 2-11; Hindi 1-9; Misc. 1-19, 20 (R), 21-31, 32 (R); Pali 1-13 (R); Panj. 1-4; Pers. 1-127; Sansk. 1-74, 75-138 (R), 139, 140-218 (R), 219, 220-1 (R), 222-31, 232-7 (R), 238-9, 240-3 (R), 244-250; Sinh. 1-11 (R); Tamil 1-15, 16-18 (R); Tel. 1, 2-3 (R), 4-7; Tib. 1, Turk. 1-28, 30; Urdu 1-24.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Indian Institute at Oxford was founded by orientalist Sir Monier Monier-Williams (1819-99). It first opened in 1896. See the Dictionary of National Biography for details.

Access Information

Entry to read in the Library is permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card (for admissions procedures see

Acquisition Information

The Indian Institute Library's manuscript collection was joined with that of the Bodleian in 1927.


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

Other Finding Aids

Keith, A.B. A catalogue of the Sanskrit and Prakrit mss. in the Indian Institute Library Oxford. Oxford (Oxford, 1903): MSS. Ind. Inst. Sansk. 1-49, 51-66, 68-74, 75-130 (R), 138 (R), 140-1 (R).

Theodor Aufrecht, Moriz Winternitz, A.B. Keith Codices Sanscriticos complectens, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1864-1909), vol. 2.

Gnay Kut Supplementary catalogue of Turkish manuscripts in the Bodleian Library : with reprint of the 1930 catalogue by H. Eth (Oxford, 2003).

E. Sachau, H. Eth and A.F.L. Beeston Catalogue of the Persian, Turkish, Hindstn, and Pusht manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, 3 vols. (Oxford, 1889-1953), vol. 3.

Custodial History

Most of the manuscripts were given to the Indian Institute, though some were purchased, in the late 19th-early 20th century. The most siginificant donor was the Institute's founder Monier-Williams who gave Arabic, Bengali, Gujurati, Hindi, Konkani, Pali, Persian, Sanskrit, Telugu, Turkish and Urdu manuscripts, as well as some Middle Eastern paintings in 1833. Monier-Williams collected the manuscripts upon several journeys which he made to India for the purpose of obtaining material for his new foundation. The Jaina books he acquired, in Prakrit, were purchased through Professor Georg Bhler in 1877-8.

Other donors include:

  • All Souls College, Oxford, gave the Chambers Collection of Hindi, Persian, Urdu and polyglot manuscripts, which it had received in 1878, in 1944
  • Professor Georg Bhler gave Sanskrit manuscripts in 1878
  • The Marquess of Tweedale gave Arabic, Hindi, Persian and Sanskrit manuscripts in 1879
  • Gen. Younghusband gave Persian and Turkish manuscripts which had belonged to his brother-in-law, Robert Shaw (1839-79), in 1880
  • Rev. Solomon Caesar Malan, vicar of Broadwindsor, gave Arabic, Burmese, Coptic, Ethiopic, Hebrew, Japanese, Malayalam, Mongolian, Pali, Panjabi, Persian, Sanskrit, Sinhalese, Syriac, Telugu, Turkish and polyglot manuscripts in 1885
  • Major J.S. Law gave Sanskrit manuscripts in 1885
  • Sir Edwin Arnold gave Buddhist Chinese manuscripts, n.d. and a Pali manuscript in 1887
  • Rev. F. Gmelin gave Sanskrit manuscripts, c. 1909
  • Col. Ranking gave Arabic, Hindi and Persian manuscripts in 1920
  • Professor E.H. Johnston gave Sanskrit manuscripts, 1939-40
  • Thomas L. Blane gave Persian and Sanskrit manuscripts, including the Shikshaptri above, n.d.
  • C.R. Davy gave Persian manuscripts, n.d.

Related Material

Monier-Williams' printed books, about 3000, were also given to the Indian Institute.


H. Stooke 'Kalighat Paintings in Oxford', Indian Art and Letters (1946), pp. 71-3.