Two Centuries of Indian Print

Watch this introduction to Two Centuries of Indian Print

This pilot project will digitise 1,000 rare Bengali printed books and 3,000 early printed books and enhance the catalogue records to automate searching and aid discovery by researchers.

Published date:

Project background

At the end of 2015, an international partnership led by the British Library received funding from the Newton Fund to digitise rare material from its South Asian printed books collection. The Two Centuries of Indian Print project will digitise 4,000 early printed Bengali books, amounting to more than 800,000 pages.

The project will explore how digital research methods and tools can be applied to this digitised collection, and will deliver digital skills workshops and training sessions at Indian institutions to support innovative research within South Asian studies.

This pilot project is a partnership between the British Library, the School of Cultural Texts and Records (SCTR) of Jadavpur University, Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, and the Library at SOAS University of London, working with the National Library of India, the National Mission on Libraries, and other institutions in India. 

The pilot will run from 2016 to 2018, and we hope to extend the project to other languages in further phases.

For media enquiries, please contact Ben Sanderson:

Follow us on Twitter @BL_IndianPrint and our Asian and African Studies blog.

Key British Library partners: Dr Nur Sobers-Khan (Lead Curator, South Asian Collections); Nora McGregor (Digital Curator).

What's new?

For the first time the project has made freely available in digital format the library's collection of bound Quarterly Lists. These are descriptive catalogue records of books published quarterly and by province of British India between 1867 and 1947. The Quarterly Lists are available to download as searchable PDFs via the British Library's datasets portal,

This marks the beginning of our digitisation of the British Library’s South Asian language printed books published in the period 1713 to 1914. 

Two Centuries of Indian Print has also recently benefited from an additional generous donation of nearly £500,000 from the Newton Fund which will allow for the digitisation of the South Asian Vernacular Tracts series, of which the Library holds approximately 6000 volumes. These are rare, fragile publications, many of which do not survive in other library collections, meaning they are hugely in demand by researchers. This new funding will digitise over 1 million pages.

In January 2017, the British Library and the Library of Birmingham announced a joint venture to stage a major exhibition and public programme celebrating South Asian culture.

We're also running a competition to find an optimal solution for automatically transcribing the Bengali Books and Quarterly Lists. Accurate transcriptions would enable researchers to search the full text of this valuable content. If you or anyone you know would like to enter, the competition is open for registration.



Asia and African Studies, British Library is pleased to announce the continuation of the ‘South Asia Series’; a series of talks based around the ‘Two Centuries of Indian Print’ project and the BL South Asia collection. We have a great line-up of academics and researchers from the UK and abroad in the upcoming months, who will share cutting-edge research, with discussion chaired by curators and specialists in the field. 

Location and Time: Foyle Learning Centre, British Library, 17:30 - 19:00


Writing Empire: The Memoirs of Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, Founder of Mughal India
Lubaaba Al-Azami (University of Liverpool)
Monday 7th August 2017

An illustration showing Babur greeting courtiers at the Id Festival (1595, British Library, Johnson 2, 12)

Babur greets courtiers at the Id Festival (1595, British Library, Johnson 2, 12)

From Sri Lanka to the Western Front: Reginald Farrer's Buddhism
Prof. Michael Charlesworth (University of Texas-Austin)
Monday 21st August 2017

A full description is available for each seminar. For further information about the the South Asia Seminars, please contact Dr. Layli Uddin at, no booking required. Please come along!

Recordings from our recent seminars are now available on SoundCloud.


Digital Skills Workshop

In December 2016, the first of three skill-sharing workshops took place at Jadavpur University, Kolkata, where library and information professionals from cultural heritage institutions in Bengal took part in a one-day event to learn more about how information technology is transforming humanities research today, and in turn Library services. View the agenda for the workshop. 

Digital Literacy Workshop Poster

Support Us

You can support this project and help make the Indian Print Collection freely available online to all.

Arts and Humanities Research Council

Newton Fund

    See also


    South Asia

    Resources for the study of South Asia, past and present.