South Asia printed books and periodicals

The Avadh Akhbar, of which the British Library holds issues for 1875-81, and 1884
The Avadh Akhbar, of which the British Library holds issues for 1875-81, and 1884 / Op 285

The Library holds over 500,000 printed books and 60,000 European and South Asian languages periodicals.

About the collection

Printed books

The Library holds over 500,000 printed books in the South Asian regional languages (classical and modern), and over 200,000 relating to South Asia, in English and other Western languages.  These collections extend from the earliest imprints of mission presses, through to unparalleled runs of publications acquired systematically under the Indian Press and Registration of Books Act of 1867, to research-level publications of the present day, which continue to be acquired through purchase and donation.

Periodicals and newspapers

These collections include over 60,000 European and South Asian languages periodicals and newspapers, published both in the subcontinent and in the UK. In addition, the Library holds some 70,000 official publication in English. The range of subjects covered is wide and diverse including all aspects of the humanities and social sciences.
Of particular significance are the collections of journals and gazettes predating the Indian Independence, along with rare runs of research-level publications from Indian Academic Institutions.

Proscribed publications

Within the printed books and periodicals collections, the subsection of ‘Proscribed Publications’ is of particular interest – it includes more than 200 pamphlets, periodicals, handbills and posters banned by the British government in India during the crucial four decades leading up to Independence.

What is available online?

A number of key electronic resources for the study of South Asia are also available at the British Library. For licensing reasons, most of these may be accessed only from the Library’s reading rooms. Many important reference resources are held, including Asian Studies Virtual Library, Digital South Asia Library, Electronic Buddhist text Initiative, Journal of Asian Studies and Digital Himalaya. The Library also subscribes to a growing number of electronic journals relevant to South Asian studies.

The Library also has digital copies of materials held in South Asia, and digitised through the Endangered Archives Programme.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Printed or card catalogues for older materials are available in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room at St Pancras.

How to guides

Get a Reader Pass

A guide to how to obtain a British Library Reader Pass to use our Reading Rooms

Search the India Office Records for baptisms, marriages and burials

How to search the India Office Records for baptisms, marriages and burials