English Language Collection

The National Library has an invaluable collection of books in the English language, because of the systematic development by Calcutta Public Library and the Imperial Library. Way back in 1848, an attempt was made to acquire journals issued by the foreign learned institutions. Serious works were purchased in larger numbers than light literature. The same policy has been pursued in recent times.

Although the library has English books and other reading materials in almost all subjects, the collection is especially rich in the humanities, British and Indian history and literature



by Edmond Fry
One of the Old Books in English

 Foreign Languages Collections

One of the aims of the National Library is to collect all the books published on India, anywhere in the world and in any language. At the same time it collects reading materials on other subjects in different languages for the use of the country.

The Imperial Library had a good number of Arabic and Persian works and a few other foreign language books. In 1985 the European Languages Division was reorganized and five separate divisions were formed. These are East Asian Languages Division, Germanic Languages Division, Romance Languages Division, Slavonic Languages Division,West Asian and African Languages Division


The foreign language works are mainly acquired through purchase, gift and exchange. The divisions mentioned are responsible for collection development, collection organisation and information dissemination to the readers in the respective languages. They also maintain their own stacks and provide reading facilities.


East Asian Languages Collection

A separate division collects, processes and preserves Chinese and other East Asian languages. At present the collection has 15,000 Chinese books and one thousand each in Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, Nepali and Thai languages.


Germanic Languages Collection

The Germanic Languages division was formed in the library in the year 1985. The division has books in German, Dutch, Norwegian, and Swedish. But the largest number of books is in German. The division has book exchange agreements with seven Germanic language-speaking countries.

Berliner Zeitung, a newspaper published from former East Germany is available in this collection.


A Book of Indian Poems Translated into German


Romance Languages Collection

Romance Languages division came into existence in 1985, along with other foreign languages divisions. Although the collection includes books and other materials in languages belonging to the Romance group, the largest number of books is in French, about 5000. About 2000 Romanian and a handful of books in Italian and Spanish are also available.


Slavonic Languages Collection

The collection has books in Slavonic languages, spoken in Russia, Poland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, former Yugoslavia and other countries and peoples of the region. It deals with reading materials in 28 languages. But the largest collection is in the Russian language. At present the division has 65,000 books.


West Asian and African Languages Collection

The Buhar Library may be considered the nucleus of West Asian and African languages collection. The division has a handful of books in other West Asian languages such as Hebrew and Amharic. The largest number of books is in Persian and Arabic, approximately 12,000 in Arabic and 12,000 in Persian. The collection includes the lexicons compiled and prepared by Indians authors of the past and edited by the ‘native’ scholars of the College of Fort William and European orientalists of the said college. The division also holds a large numbers of historical works published under the Bibliotheca Indica series of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in the 19th century.
A large number of Arabic and Persian books and manuscripts can also be found in Sir Abdur Rahim Collection, Hidayat Husain Collection, Zakaria Collection and Imambara Collection.
Sir Jadunath Sarkar Collection also has 200 Persian manuscripts. These manuscripts relate mainly to the later Mughal period (1659-1837) and the early years of British rule.


An Illustrated Page from a Persian Manuscript: Mahatyam Ekadashi