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Malayalam language collections

Our Malayalam collections include manuscripts, early and modern printed books, periodicals, newspapers, and audiovisual materials. We have particularly important holdings of 19th to mid 20th-century publications. The Library's holdings overall are an important resource for the study of South Asia.


The manuscripts collection includes items which came from the India Office Library, the Oriental Collections of the British Museum, and those acquired subsequently by the British Library. Of the manuscripts, the gold and silver manuscripts are grants issued by the Zomorins of Calicut to the Dutch East India Company dated 1691 and 1710, presented to the India Office Library in 1840. These are accompanied by an English translation.

Early and modern printed books and periodicals

The Library holds, and continues to acquire, books and journals in the humanities and social sciences in Malayalam.  Books are acquired mainly by purchase from India and elsewhere, and through donations. Early publications not available elsewhere include one dated 1772, the first book published in Malayalam characters, and lithographs in modified Arabic characters published by Mappila community of Kerala.


An increasing number of Malayalam books are included in Explore the British Library.  Earlier publications not yet in Explore the British Library are listed in the following printed catalogues, available in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room.

  1. Catalogue of Malayalam books in the British Museum with an appendix listing the books in Brahui, Gondi, Kui, Malto, Oranoan, Toda and Tulu edited by Albertine Gaur, 1971
  2. India Office Library and Records Catalogue of Malayalam Books to 1950
  3. Catalogue of the Malayalam manuscripts in the India Office Library by Chelnat Achyuta Menon, 1954.
  4. There are also catalogues in microfiche and microfilms to 1973 for Malayalam collections of the India Office Library and the Oriental Collections.

Proscribed publications:

These are publications banned by the pre-1947 Indian government. Two Malayalam publications can be found in 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 by Graham Shaw and Mary Lloyd (London: British Library Reference Division, 1985)


Journals and other periodical publications are listed in:

Bibliography of South Asian periodicals: a union-list of periodicals in South Asian languages.  Shaw, G.W. and Quraishi, S. Brighton, 1982.

Current and post-1982 periodical publications can be found in Explore the British Library.

Manuscripts and older books may be consulted in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room.  More recent books may be viewed in any St Pancras Reading Room, and books in Malayalam published since 1945 are available for loan to libraries and other institutions through our Document Supply Services.


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