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Indian language collections (south)

The South Indian languages collections are made up of both the historic and modern collections of the British Library, and those of the India Office Library and Records. They include materials in the major and minor languages of South India.  The major languages included are Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. The minor languages are several and these are: Brahui, Gondi, Kui, Malto, Oraon (Kurukh), Toda, Tulu and Konkani (in Kannada script).

Please note that there are delivery issues affecting some books published between 1900 and 1985 with shelfmarks in the range 14002 to 19968 following their move to a new storage facility. Please see further information on moves of Asian language materials


In South India today, Tamil is the state language of Tamil Nadu, Telugu the state language of Andhra Pradesh, Kannada the state language of Karnataka, and Malayalam is the state language of Kerala. Of the minor languages, Tulu and Konkani are the only active languages, and modern works continue to be published in these languages forming part of the literature of Karnataka State.

The collections comprise manuscripts in both paper and palm leaves, copper plates, printed books, journals and newspapers, as well as a small collection of South Indian classical music on audio cassettes, and videos of interviews with eminent South Indian authors. Further audiovisual material from South India may be found in the holdings of the British Library Sound Archive, which has strong holdings of world and traditional music.

For catalogues and guides to the collections, see the pages for specific languages.  Books acquired since 1983, and many older items also, are included in Explore the British Library. Our collections in South Indian languages contain a significant amount of literature centred on the Sanskrit language and literature in our pre-1950s collections. Because of this, entries for classical works will also be found in our Sanskrit catalogues.

Proscribed publications

A number of publications in South Indian languages are listed in the catalogue by Graham Shaw and Mary Lloyd: Publications proscribed by the Government of India: A catalogue of the collections in the India Office Library and Records and the Department of Oriental Manuscripts and Printed Books, London, British Library Reference Division, 1985. These were publications banned by the pre-1947 government of India.


The Library’s holdings of periodicals in South Indian languages are included in the following catalogue:

Bibliography of South Asian periodicals: a union list of periodicals in South Asian languages, by Graham Shaw and Salim Quraishi. Sussex: The Harvester Press, 1982.

Journals and newspapers acquired since 1982 are included in Explore the British Library.


Mrs Nalini Persad, Curator of South Indian Language Collection
Asian and African Studies
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7659
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7850