About Early Indian Printed Books

This online exhibition is a part of Two Centuries of Indian Print, an international partnership led by the British Library to digitise rare material from its South Asian printed book collection.

This pilot project is a partnership between the British Library, the School of Cultural Texts and Records (SCTR) of Jadavpur University, Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, and the Library at SOAS University of London, involving collaborations with the National Library of India,  and other institutions in India. 

The project has been generously funded by the AHRC Newton-Babha Fund and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Digitised Books

This online exhibition features selected highlights from the digitised collection. For access to all of the books digitised through the project visit the British Library catalogue, selecting 'I want this' and 'View digital content online'.  
All of the digitised books made available online through the project can be discovered by visiting the British Library catalogue selecting 'I want this' and “view digital content online”.All of the digitised books made available online through the project can be discovered by visiting the British Library catalogue selecting 'I want this' and “view digital content online”.All of the digitised books made available online through the project can be discovered by visiting the British Library catalogue selecting 'I want this' and “view digital content online”.


The ‘Two Centuries of Indian Print’ project has made the library's collection of bound ‘Quarterly Lists’ freely available in digital format. These are descriptive catalogue records of books published quarterly and by province of British India between 1867 and 1947. The Quarterly Lists are available to download as searchable PDFs via the British Library's datasets portal, data.bl.uk


Throughout the course of  the project we will deliver a series of digital skills workshops and training sessions at Indian institutions to support innovative digital humanities research within South Asian studies. More information about the workshops is available on the Training Resources page.

South Asia Seminar Series

We host a series of talks based on the 'Two Centuries of Indian Print' project and the British Library's South Asia collections. More details can be found on the Events page.

Transcription Competition

The ‘Two Centuries of Indian Print’ project recently ran a competition to find an optimal solution for automatically transcribing the Bengali books and Quarterly Lists that have been digitsed as part of the project. Accurate transcriptions would enable researchers to search the full text of this valuable content. If you or anyone you know would like experiment with OCR of our collection, the 'ICDAR2017 REID' competition dataset can be freely downloaded from PRIMAresearch.org. We would love to hear how you have found working with the dataset!

The Collection at SOAS

Through Two Centuries of Indian Print  a variety of rare Bengali books from the collection at SOAS will be digitised and made available through the SOAS Digital Library.

The Bengali language material at SOAS Library is one of the oldest and richest collections, consisting of about 6000 titles from the earliest periods to current day. Several hundreds of these pre date 1900. The library also holds one of the largest collections devoted to works by and about the Bengali writer/poet Rabindranath Tagore.

Material includes rare books such as Nathaniel Brassey Halhed’s, A Grammar of the Bengali Language (1778), translations of the Mahabharat (1865), the Bible-The New Testament in Bengali: translated from the Greek (1833)  and a Bengali translation of the Puranas Bhagavata-purana originally in Sanskrit (1830).

Stay updated

Subscribe to the Asian and African Studies blog for information on recent discoveries and developments on the Two Centuries of Indian Print collection other South Asian collections.

Follow us on Twitter @BL_IndianPrint  to receive updates and highlights.

Please feel free to contact TwoCenturies@bl.uk if you would like further information, or to give feedback on using our digital collection.

Terms of use

The material from the British Library's South Asia printed books collection featured in this ‘Early Indian Printed Books’ resource (part of the Two Centuries of Indian Print project) is primarily intended for the purposes of non-commercial private study, teaching, learning and research. The use of digital image files for these purposes remains freely accessible without charge to readers.

The images are being made available under a Public Domain Mark which indicates that there are no copyright restrictions on reproduction, adaptation, republication or sharing of the content available from the site. The catalogue information is made available under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

We do ask that users treat the collection items on this website with respect, by considering cultural, religious and ethical sensitivities when using the material. The Library respects intellectual property rights, as well as ethical, moral and traditional knowledge concerns. To the best of our knowledge, all books made available online are free of copyright and there are no privacy breaches. If you have any comments or questions about copyrights, please contact us.