The Asiatic Society
( Founded in 1784 )




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Library Organisation

Robert Home, the artist, volunteered his services to look after the Library in the early days and was in fact the first unofficial Librarian. When the Library-cum-Museum building was erected, the question of appointment of staff for maintenance came up. In 1808 it was decided to appoint a Librarian for the management of the Library. Mr. W. L. Gibsons was appointed the first regular Librarian to work under the direction and control of the Society. He was followed by Alexander Csoma de Koros (1833), Heramba Nath Thakor (Assistant Librarian 1833), Dr. L. Burlini, Kissori Chand Mitra (1846), Dr Esward Roer (1843), Raja Rajendralal Mitra (1847), Gaurdas Bysack (1856), Lalgopal Datta (1865), Kristodhar Datta (Acting, 1865), Pratap Chandra Ghosh (1868), Balai Dutta, Sarasi Kumar Saraswati and others. The Librarian used to hold concurrently the post of the Assistant Secretary of the Society. With the passage of time the popularity of the Library increased and the authorities felt the need for framing regulations for the management of the Library. The new regulations came into force in January 1820 and were subsequently revised a number of times according to the need. The Society possesses a magnificent library. It has many rare and valuable manuscripts and books. The first inventory of this collection was made in 1833. The society then possessed only about 1000 volumes each in the European and Oriental sections. In 1925 there were about 50,000 volumes of books and manuscripts. And now, there are about 2,50,000 volumes of books, periodicals, pamphlets, manuscripts, xylographs, besides works of art, coins and copper plates, sculptures, rock edict and other antiquarian objects. In his presidential address in 1925 Sir R. N. Mookherji said: “It is not the number of volumes in the Library but the worth of the collection to scholars in prosecution of research which makes the value of the Library and we can confidently say that no other library, at any rare in Asia, contains as rich a store of Eastern knowledge and learning as the Asiatic Society Library. Since the establishment of the Library much has been done and is being done to improve conditions and to enrich collections, so as to render Society’s unique Library of greater utility to all members and inquisitive readers. In spite of best efforts, the Library is deficient in many ways. There are many basic books, especially in modern Indian and other Asian Languages, that the Society ought to have, but having no means to buy them, cannot acquire. To obviate these difficulties and to keep the Centre of Research current with all materials, the Society decided in 1927, at the instance of the then Treasurer Dr. S. L. Hora, to create a permanent Library Endowment Fund to which a sum of approximately three thousand rupees was subscribed by members of the Council for Library; purposes alone, and an appeal had been issued to the general body of members for liberal donations. In addition, the Council realised from the early days that to bring the scholars and the books together there should be catalogues of the collection of books and manuscripts and they undertook compilation and publication of catalogues of books, manuscripts, periodicals, curiosities and bibliographies, which still continue.

The Society made its first modest attempt to publish a catalogue of its collection, in 1833, for the books in European Languages only, edited by L. Burline, followed by the catalogues prepared by E. Roer (1843), R. L. Mitra (1856), Walter Arnold Sion (1884), H. B. Perie (1910) and others, and the last catalogue was published in 1934. Publication of short catalogues for books in Asian Languages is now in progress. So far catalogues of Arabic and Persian books prepared by Muliar Rahman in 1958-1967, Hindi books by G. N. Bhattacharji in 1967, and Bengali books by S. Chaudhuri in 1968, have been published. The Bengali catalogue includes an index to articles of most of the Bengali periodicals in the Library of the Society. Kemp’s Catalogue of scientific periodicals available in Calcutta Libraries (1918) is invaluable. The time has come now for making a new catalogue of the entire collection according to subjects. The Reading Room of the Society is on the first floor of the new building. The Library is kept open on week days. The Library is organised into four sections:
(a) Printed Materials (Books and Periodicals),
(b) Manuscripts, Arts, Antiquities and Archival Records,
(c) Reprography and
(d) Conservation and Binding.


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