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Tibetan language collections

The British Library holds about 2,700 blockprints and about 850 manuscripts in Tibetan. The majority stem 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.


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 and bstan 'gyur
  • 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'
  • parts of the Peking edition of the bka' 'gyur
  • an illuminated mid-18th century manuscript of the rNying ma rgyud 'bum from South Tibet

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.

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)
  • reprints of sDe dge and Peking bka' 'gyur and bstan 'gyur
  • Bonpo canon: bstan 'gyur (Lhasa), and bka' 'gyur (Chengdu)

The collection also includes microforms of Phug brag bka' 'gyur, dGa' ldan bstan 'gyur, Pelliot Tibétain.

Catalogues and guides

Modern printed books from India and China are included in Explore the British Library. Transliteration scheme for modern printed books: Library of Congress.

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

Location list to the texts in the microfiche edition of the Sel dkar (London) manuscript bKa' 'gyur.
Pagel, Ulrich and Gaffney, Sean.
London: British Library, 1996.

Catalogue of Tibetan manuscripts and blockprints outside the Stein Collection in the India Office Library.
Denwood, Phillip.
Unpublished typescript.

Catalogue of the Tibetan manuscripts from Tun-huang in the India Office Library.
Oxford: 1962.


Burkhard Quessel
Asian and African Studies
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7819
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7858