How to find material in Burmese and other languages of Myanmar (Burma)

A colourful depiction of three sisters in traditional Shan clothing on their way to a festival.
Three sisters on their way to a festival. Or 13824, ff. 11-12.

The British Library holds ca 1 800 manuscripts in Burmese and other languages of Myanmar. Printed books, periodicals and newspapers in the Myanmar (Burma) Collection include many thousands of volumes of current and historical material.

Manuscripts

A large part of the manuscripts in the Myanmar (Burma) collection are included in the Library’s Explore Archives and Manuscripts catalogue. However, many of the manuscripts are currently only accessible in printed catalogues and handlists, most of which are available online. Copies of all the catalogues can also be consulted in the Asian & African Studies Reading Room.

We are gradually transferring the contents of the older manual catalogues into our online catalogue Explore Archives and Manuscripts. Until the re-cataloguing is complete readers will need to consult the printed catalogues below in conjunction with the online catalogue to find manuscripts.

Most of the manuscripts in the Myanmar (Burma) Collection (with shelf marks 'Egerton MS', 'Grenville', 'Stowe Or', 'Sloane MS', 'Add MS', and 'Or') are included in San San May's comprehensive handlist. Earliest of these are also described in Pe Maung Tin's article on the British Museum collection (which was subsequently transferred to the British Library).

Manuscripts in the India Office Collections include the Mandalay Manuscripts Collection (shelf mark 'IO Man/Pali'), the Burney Parabaiks (shelf mark 'Mss Bur/Parabaik'), and the India Office Library manuscripts (shelf marks 'Mss Burmese', 'Mss Shan', and 'Mss Man/Bur').

Some manuscripts in Shan, Mon and Ahom can also be found in the Thai, Lao and Cambodian Collection. Within it, the Soren Egerod Collection includes many manuscripts in Khuen. Most of these are catalogued on Explore Archives and Manuscripts. Marrison's catalogue describes items acquired before 1968.

Printed Books

Printed books written in Burmese or Pali in Burmese script are discoverable in the Explore the British Library using the Library of Congress romanisation rules. There are also printed catalogues that list books acquired up to 1960 and parts of the India Office Collection.

  • Barnett, L. D., A catalogue of the Burmese books in the British Museum (London: Oxford University Press, 1913).
  • Raper, T. C. H., ed., Catalogue of the Pali printed books in the India Office Library, rev. by M. J. C. O’Keefe (London: The British Library, 1983).
  • Whitbread, Kenneth, Catalogue of Burmese printed books in the India Office Library (London: H.M.S.O., 1969).

Books in Shan, Karen and Mon have been catalogued using the Burmese Library of Congress romanisation rules. New books in Shan will henceforth be catalogued with the 2012 Library of Congress romanisation rules for Shan. For books in Pali it may be worth consulting the Library of Congress romanisation rules for Pali.

Newspapers and Periodicals

Early newspapers in Burmese as well as periodicals have been catalogued in Explore the British Library using the Library of Congress romanisation rules.