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

Can I copy material in the Reading Rooms?

What you need to know about copying British Library collections in our Reading Rooms

How to handle books

See the techniques you should use to keep our books in good shape.

How to handle rolled items

We show how you should unroll items like scrolls, rolls and maps.

Using gloves with books and manuscripts

Should you wear gloves? Here's some advice to help you decide.

Terms of use for Google Books

This page states the terms and conditions surrounding the British Library’s out of copyright books which have been digitised by Google.

How to request items not in the catalogue

You can use 'Request Other Items' to order items which have no record in Explore the British Library. Also to order most items found in Expore Archives and Manuscripts.

Guide to the British National Bibliography

A guide to help you use the British National Bibliography catalogue, covering: login, search, and how to manage your results

Free Discovery and 1-2-1 sessions: 2019

We offer a range of free Discovery and 1-2-1 sessions to help you make the most of your time researching here.

Guide to Explore the British Library

A guide to help you use the catalogue, covering: login, search, how to manage your results, how to order/view items

What collection items can I view online?

You can see books, manuscripts, maps, playbills, scores and much more. Researchers can use our collection of electronic resources and databases to help them find material relevant to their research.

Can I take photographs of British Library material myself?

You can now take photos of our collection items yourself in British Library Reading Rooms

Conditions of Use of British Library Reading Rooms

You need to follow some rules if you want to use our Reading Rooms

Breaches of British Library Reading Room Conditions of Use

These guidelines outline the British Library’s policies and procedures with regard to breaches of its Reading Room Conditions of Use. They are to ensure consistency in the actions taken in response to such breaches and to define the appropriate roles and responsibilities in the process.

Electronic resources

We collect thousands of electronic journals, books and websites and hundreds of databases. You’ll need to come to the British Library to access the majority of these resources.

Get a Reader Pass

Access over 200 million collection items for free with a Reader Pass. Carry out research in our Reading Rooms and access our online collections.

Search for resources in microforms

How to search for resources in microforms

Search the India Office Records for baptisms, marriages and burials

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

How to handle folded items

Find out how you should hand items like large maps and book inserts.

Guide to researching provenance of books now in the British Library

Where do the British Library’s old printed books ‘come from'? Who owned or read them in centuries past? Why does it matter?