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South Asian Studies collection

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Penn has acquired materials related to the study of South Asia since the early 1800s, and now has one of the premier South Asia collections in the United States. Our goal is to support research and teaching about South Asia from antiquity to the present day, with particular emphases on the humanities and social sciences. We collect a wide range of materials, including primary and secondary sources in both Western and South Asian languages. Given the interdisciplinary reach of the collection, holdings can be found in libraries across campus, with the majority housed in Van Pelt Library Center, Fisher Fine Arts Library, the Museum Library, and the off-site LIBRA storage facility.

Collection description

The South Asia collection is disciplinarily broad and comprehensive, though it demonstrates long-standing strengths in Sanskrit linguistics and belles-lettres; numismatics and epigraphy; art history; architecture; film; colonial literature; and folk narratives. In addition to substantial English-language holdings, it comprises more than 125,000 titles in South Asian languages, with particularly strong representation of Hindi, Urdu, Bangla, Tamil, and Sanskrit. Apart from print media, the Library actively acquires video (both documentary and popular cinema) and sound recordings (with emphasis on Hindustani, Carnatic, tribal, and devotional music). Numerous maps, photos, manuscripts, and ephemeral items round out the collection. 

Special collections

The Kislak Center houses a sizable number of manuscripts, images, rare books, correspondences, comics, and ephemera related to the history and study of South Asia. Noteworthy among these are the collections of Indic manuscripts (primarily in Sanskrit); colonial-era travelogues, postcards, photo albums, and correspondences; historical cookbooks; the photo slides of Mary Binney Wheeler; and Indian cinema pressbooks. Additionally, Penn serves as the North American repository for the AIIS photo archive, a unique collection of more than 115,000 images of South Asian architecture, painting, and sculpture.    

Links to special collections will go here if they exist.
Links to policies will go here if they exist.

Doing research


Bibliotheca Indica  |  Empire Online  |  India, Raj & Empire  |  Index Islamicus  |  Indiastat

Reference works

Major journals

Other e-resources

South Asia Literary Recordings Project  |  Archaeological Survey of India Online Collection  |  Indian National Library Catalogue


The South Asian Studies librarian provides in-class and in-library workshops and instruction, as well as individual consultations. Contact Jef directly to schedule a session. 

To obtain materials not in Penn's collection, patrons may request the item by one of the following methods: