Calcutta Public Library (CPL)

Calcutta Public Library was established in 1836. It was not a Government institution. It ran on a proprietary basis. Any subscriber paying Rs 300 at one time or in three instalments was considered a proprietor. Poor students and others were allowed to use the library free of charge for a specified period of time. The then Governor General, Lord Metcalf transferred 4,675 volumes from the library of the College of Fort William to the Calcutta Public Library. These volumes and donations of books from individuals formed the nucleus of the library. Dwarkanath Tagore was the first proprietor of Calcutta Public Library.

Both Indian and foreign books, especially from Britain, were purchased for the library. In the report of 1850 we find that the library has started collecting books in Gujarati, Marathi, Pali, Simhalese and Punjabi. Donations were regularly received from individuals and from the Government of Bengal and North Western Provinces.

Calcutta Public Library had a unique position as the first public library in this part of the country. Such a tidy and efficiently run library was rare even in Europe during the first half of the nineteenth century. Thanks to the efforts of the proprietors of Calcutta Public Library, the National Library has many rare books and journals in its collection.

The Imperial Library

The Imperial Library was founded in 1891 by combining a number of Secretariat libraries. Of these, the most important and interesting was the library of the Home Department, which contained many books formerly belonging to the libraries of East India College, Fort William, and the East India Board in London. But the use of the library was restricted to the superior officers of the Government.

 

Lord Curzon

 Metcalf Hall 

Amalgamation of CPL and Imperial Library

Lord Curzon, Governor General of India in the early years of the twentieth century, is usually credited with the idea of opening a library in Kolkata for public use. He found that the Imperial Library and Calcutta Public Library were not being used as expected because of limited access and lack of amenities. He decided to merge the collection of Calcutta Public Library with that of the Imperial Library, subject to certain terms.

The new library, called Imperial Library, was formally opened to the public on 30 January 1903 at Metcalf Hall, Kolkata. The aims and objectives of the Imperial Library were well defined in a Notification in the Gazette of India: ‘It is intended that it should be a library of reference, a working place for students and a repository of material for the future historians of India, in which, so far as possible, every work written about India, at any time, can be seen and read.’

John Macfarlane, Assistant Librarian of the British Museum, London, was appointed the first Librarian of the Imperial Library. After his death, the polyglot scholar Harinath De took over the charge of the library. J. A. Chapman succeeded him in 1911. During Chapman’s term, the library experienced remarkable growth and improvement. After his retirement, Khan Bahadur M.A. Asadulla was appointed librarian and he continued in office till July 1947.

 

 

John Macfarlane, the first Librarian 

  Harinath De, the first Indian Librian

The policy of acquisition broadly adhered to by the Imperial Library was outlined by Lord Curzon in his speech at the inauguration: ‘The general idea of the whole Library is that it should contain all the books that have been written about India in popular tongues, with such additions as are required to make it a good all-round library of standard works of reference.’

From the Imperial Library to the National Library

After Independence the Government of India changed the name of the Imperial Library to the National Library, with the enactment of the Imperial Library (Change of Name) Act, 1948, and the collection was shifted from the Esplanade to the present Belvedere Estate. On 1 February 1953, the National Library was opened to the public, inaugurated by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. B. S. Kesavan was appointed the first Librarian of the National Library.

Check out The Imperial Library (Change of Name) Act, 1948.

Website of National Library

The first official website of the National Library (www.nlindia.org) was launched on 22 January 2002 at 4.30 p.m by H. E. Sri Viren J. Shah, the then Governor of West Bengal, at the main building. The website was designed by Cyber Animatrix Pvt. Ltd. At the inauguration, H. E. Sri Shah, also released a CD ROM on the activities at the National Library. The occasion was made to co-incide with the birth centenary of Professor Nirmal Kumar Bose, the distinguished anthropologist and freedom fighter. An exhibition of his publications was also organised.

List of Directors and Librarians

Librarian’s

 1.

Mr. John Macfarlane

1901-1906

 2.

Mr. Hari Nath De

1907-1911

 3.

Mr. J. A. Chapman

1911-1930

 4.

Mr. K.M. Asadulla

1930-1947 

 5.

Mr. B.S. Kesavan

1948-1963, 1970-1971

 6.

Mr. Y. M. Mulay

1963-1967

 7.

Mr. D.R. Kalia

1967-1970

 8.

Prof. T. K. Srinivasa Iyangar

1980-1980

 9.

Smt. Kalpana Dasgupta

1983-1995

10.

Mr. T.A.V. Murthy

1986-1987

11.

Dr. R. Ramachandran

2001-2014

12.

Shri H.P. Gedam

2006-2012

Director’s

1.

Dr. R. K. Dasgupta

1977-1980

2.

Prof. Ashin Dasgupta

1984-1990

3.

Dr. D. N. Banerjee

1992-1997

4.

Dr. Ramanuj Bhattacharjee

1998

5.

Mr. Harjit Singh

1998

6.

Mr. A. R. Bandyopadhyay

1998-2000

7.

Dr. Shyamalkanti Chakravarti

2001-2003

8.

Dr. Ramanuj Bhattacharjee

2003-2004

9.

Sri K. K. Banerjee

2004

10.

 Prof. Sudhendu Mandal

2004-2007

11.

 Dr. R. Ramachandran

2007-2008

12.

 Shri K.K. Banerjee

2008-2010

13.

 Prof. Swapan Chakravorty

2010

Director General’s

 1.

Prof. Swapan Chakravorty

2010 Nov - 2013 Apr

 2.

Shri K.K. Banerjee

2013 Apr - 2013 Nov

 3.

Dr. P.Y. Rajendra Kumar

2013 Nov -

 

 

 

 

 Formal opening of the National Library
Above: ( L to R ) Dr. B. C. Roy, the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Dr. H.C. Mukherjee, Dr. S. S. Bhatnagar, Prof. Humayun Kabir and Sri B.S. Kesavan.

The then Prime Minister of India, Late Jawaharlal Nehru laid the foundation stone of the Annexe building of the Library in May 1961   

 

 

 

 The Belvedere Building

 The old Annexe