From an early biography of the Yogi Milarepa (Or 16756)
From an early biography of the Yogi Milarepa (Or 16756)

The Tibetan collections contain about 2,700 blockprints and about 850 manuscripts in Tibetan mostly from the southern and central regions of Tibet. The collection also includes a number of official letters and documents from various Dalai and Panchen Lamas.

About the collection

The Tibetan Buddhist canon in its various editions is particularly well represented. Holdings include:

  • two copies of the sNar thang edition of the bka' 'gyur (Tib O - Tib V  and Tib A- Tib G, Mss Tib H) and bstan 'gyur (14310a and Tib W - Tib Y).
  • a manuscript copy of the bka' 'gyur from Shel dkar (related to the rGyal rtse Them spangs ma manuscript bka' 'gyur), also known as the 'London Kanjur' (Or 6724)
  • parts of the Peking edition of the bka' 'gyur (sher phyin 'bum, Tib Z)
  • an illuminated mid-18th century manuscript of the rNying ma rgyud 'bum from South Tibet (Or 15217)

Modern printed books (Western and pothi style) include:

  • Tibetan texts published in India
  • Tibetan language publications from the People's Republic of China (all subjects)
  • reprint of the sDe dge bka 'gyur and Tibetan Tripitaka Peking bka' 'gyur and bstan 'gyur collections (on open shelf in the AAS Reading Room).
  • The “Comparative editions” -- the so-called dpe bsdur ma. Published in Beijing 2006 (bka' 'gyur)  and 1995-2007 (bstan 'gyur).

What is available online?

Modern printed books from India and China are included in Explore the British Library. Transliteration scheme for modern printed books: Library of Congress. Note that the Library of Congress (and more recently the British Library) have adopted the Wylie transliteration system for Tibetan records. Presently and for some time into the future,  a number of records (including a large number of authority file records) still use the old Library of Congress transliteration system. Please note that during this transitional period Tibetan words containing the letters which are represented by sh, zh, ng, or ny in the Wylie system may only be found by using the letters s,z,n, and n respectively when entering a search term.

The Tibetan part of the Stein Collection comprises about 3,500 fragmentary paper documents (out of approximately 27,000) and 2,350 wood slips. Digitised images and access are available through the International Dunhuang Project (IDP)

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Manuscripts are catalogued in the following printed catalogues, which are available in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room. Transliteration scheme for manuscripts catalogues: Wylie.

  • Tibetan Manuscripts and Block Prints (Title List) (unpublished printout,  ORC Tib 1)
  • Pagel, Ulrich and Gaffney, Sean Location list to the texts in the microfiche edition of the Śel dkar (London) manuscript bKa' 'gyur London: British Library, 1996.
  • Denwood, Phillip Catalogue of Tibetan manuscripts and blockprints outside the Stein Collection in the India Office Library,  1975. (Unpublished typescript).
  • Catalogue of the Tibetan manuscripts from Tun-huang in the India Office Library. Oxford: 1962. PDF file here: LVP_1962
  • The Library subscribes to the Core collection scheme of the Buddhist Digital Resource Center. Readers have therefore free access to the material included in any of the Core collection of the BDRC website from the Reading Room.

What is available in other organisations?

The Buddhist Digital Research Center (BDRC)

Previously known as the Tibetan and Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC)  this is by far the most comprehensive online resource for Tibetan texts. The collection includes both texts in facsimile and electronic texts as well as a rich database of bibliographical data, persons, places and literary terms. A large part of the material have been published at a rate of ca 1000 volumes per year for the last 14 years. The British Library maintains a subscription to these so called Core collections and all volumes are accessible from the Reading Room.

Bibliothèque nationale de France

The Tibetan Dunhuang collection of the French National Library (BNF) can be searched and viewed through their  online search interface (search for “Pelliot tibétain”)

Himalayan Art Resources

An extensive collection of online images of Tibetan Buddhist art and an authoritative resource for Tibetan iconography. Associated with the Rubin Museum in New York. Online link

Treasury of Lives

an ever growing biographical encyclopedia of Tibet, Inner Asia, and the Himalaya. Treasury of Lives.

Further information