Tamil language collections

Citampara Cuvāmikaḷ healing ailments, in line drawings depicting Murugan worshipped in Tiruppōrūr. 19th C.
Citampara Cuvāmikaḷ healing ailments,in line drawings depicting Murugan worshipped in Tiruppōrūr. 19th C.

The British Library’s Tamil collection includes manuscripts, early and modern printed books, periodicals, newspapers, and audio-visual materials.

About the collection

We have particularly important holdings of 19th to mid-20th century publications in the Tamil language.

Manuscripts

The Tamil manuscript collection includes about 200 items on palm leaf and paper. Among the most important items of this collection, we find two autographed items by Father Beschi, along with palm leaf manuscripts and items from the Hugh Nevill collection.

The Tamil manuscript collection includes about 200 items on palm leaf and paper. Among the most important items of this collection, we find two autographed items by Father Beschi, along with palm leaf manuscripts and items from the Hugh Nevill collection.

Among the India Office Library Tamil manuscripts is a copy of the Christian epic poem, Tembavani, by Father Beschi, written in 1724 possibly in the author's own hand.

Four Tamil items are included in Indian charters on copper plates, A Gaur, London, 1975.

The manuscript 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

Early and modern printed books and periodicals

The Library continues to acquire, books and journals in the humanities and social sciences in Tamil. Books are acquired mainly by purchase from India and elsewhere, and through donations. 
The monograph collection amounts to roughly 50,000 items, with particularly important holdings of 19th and early to mid-20th century Tamil materials. 

Among the printed books are many publications of the Tranquebar Mission Press, which are the oldest surviving Tamil printed books, dating back to 1713.

What is available online?

Catalogues

Books and journals

Tamil monographs and periodicals acquired since the 1980s can be found in Explore the British Library electronic catalogue. Explore the British Library.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Printed books

Items acquired before the 1980s are listed in the following printed catalogues, available in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room.

Proscribed publications

These are publications banned by the pre-1947 Indian government. 29 publications in Tamil language can be found in:

Periodicals

Journals and other periodical publications are listed in:

Manuscripts

A hand list of Tamil manuscripts from the Oriental Collections and India Office Library collections is available for consultation on request in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room.

Manuscripts and early printed material can 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 Tamil published since 1945 are available for loan to libraries and other institutions through the Library's Document Supply Centre.

How to guides

Search the India Office Records for baptisms, marriages and burials

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

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