South Asia Collection


South Asia material has been collected by the Yale University Library since the late 1840s, when Professor Edward Salisbury began teaching Sanskrit. In 1854, William Dwight Whitney received the first Edward E. Salisbury Professorship of Sanskrit and Comparative Philology. The Library’s South Asia Collection contains parts of Salisbury’s and Whitney’s personal collections.

The Yale South Asia Collection also owes a debt of gratitude to the American Oriental Society, founded at Yale in 1842, for bringing the University’s attention to the Indian subcontinent. The American Oriental Society’s library is located in the Sterling Memorial Library, and includes a large Sanskrit collection, plus many long runs of government documents and journals from all over South Asia.

The Yale University Library also briefly participated early on in the PL480 program, from approximately 1960 until the mid to late 1970s.

In 1999, the Yale University South Asia Committee (which later became the South Asian Studies Council) was established.  At the same time, Yale Library rejoined what is now called the Library of Congress South Asia Cooperative Acquisitions Program (SACAP), and works with both the New Delhi and Islamabad Field Offices, along with smaller book vendors across the subcontinent. 

Departments/disciplines/programs/subject areas supported

The South Asia Collection supports the South Asian Studies Council, which is located within the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies. The Council faculty specialize in all periods and many regions of South Asia with particular expertise in languages, literatures, religions, economics, political science, women and gender, art and architecture, and history. Faculty members within the Council teach in several professional schools at Yale, including Architecture, Art, the School of Management, and the School of the Environment.

The South Asia Collection also supports the research of the Yale Himalaya Initiative. This Initiative focuses on the Himalayan regions of Nepal, India, Bhutan, Pakistan, and China, as well as the Tibetan cultural areas that traverse the borders of all those states. Like the South Asian Studies Council, the Himalaya Initiative’s scope spans the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and professional disciplines. It draws upon the expertise of faculty members in departments of the Arts and Sciences (Anthropology, History, History of Art, Political Science, Religious Studies), Yale’s professional schools (Environment, Law, Management), and other University centers, including the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, and the Global Health Initiative of the Jackson School for Global Affairs. 


The South Asia Collection supports the strengths of the South Asian Studies Council and the Himalaya Initiative, and collects most heavily in classical literature, modern history, political science, anthropology, art history, religious studies, forestry and environmental studies, statistics and census data (paper and electronic), and women’s studies and LGBTQ material.

Formats collected

The South Asia Collection actively collects academic monographs, literature, serials, and art books.  While DVDs and music recordings are purchased more actively from Afghanistan and Pakistan, they are usually only purchased on demand for the rest of South Asia. GIS data sets are purchased on an ad hoc basis, and usually in conjunction with other relevant collecting areas within Marx Science and Social Science Library and the Map Collection.

Materials currently not collected are:  children’s books, cookbooks, paper maps, archival collections, or ephemera. The Collection will occasionally purchase microform collections or databases, especially of newspapers, serials, or archival material.

Languages collected

Approximately 60-75% of new titles are in English. After that, the majority of new titles are in Sanskrit, Hindi, Tamil, and Urdu. Some material is collected in Pali, Prakrit, Pushto, Nepali, Bengali, and Oriya.

Chronological and geographical focus

The South Asia Collection purchases material from and about Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Himalayan region, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. The bulk of the material, however, relates to India. Material from Afghanistan, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka is collected only minimally. The strongest focus of the collection is in the northern Himalayan region. The one exception to this would be any material published in Sanskrit or Pali, which is collected from all across South Asia.

The collection comprises material about three major time periods/themes: classic religious texts (approx.  1000 BCE - 1000 CE); the late British Empire to post-Independence (approx. 1850 - 1950 CE); and modern environmental/political/social issues (approx. 1990 CE - present). 

Collaborations within Yale

The South Asia Collection occasionally collaborates with other collections with a strong international focus, such as:

  • Religious Studies
  • Southeast Asia Collection
  • East Asia Collection
  • Near East Collection

Likewise, South Asia occasionally engages in collaborative collection development on expensive items with:

  • Arts Library (Art History/Architecture)
  • Divinity Library (Missionaries in South Asia)
  • Map Collection (GIS data sets)
  • Humanities Collections and Research Education (materials about the former British Empire, and religious studies)
  • Marx Science and Social Science Library (anthropology, data/statistics, GIS data sets, government documents, and LGBTQ/Women’s Studies)

External collaborations

The Yale Library South Asia Collection is a dues-paying member of SAMP (South Asia Microform Project:, run by the Center for Research Libraries. Through this, Yale receives access to large microform collections of newspapers, serials, monographs, and archival material. As a SAMP member, the Yale Library South Asia Collection representative is able to vote annually as to how SAMP should spend its budget for the next fiscal year, and which projects should be started or continued.

The South Asia Collection also participates in the biannual SACAP Cooperative Collection Development Workshop ( This is an ongoing conversation between multiple institutions, all members of CONSALD (South Asia Librarians’ professional society) to talk about ways that we may be able to think about a more holistic national collection. The changes that come from this workshop are minimal.

Subject Librarian

Brent Bianchi
Librarian for South & Southeast Asian Studies
South Asia Collection
Department of Area Studies and Humanities Research Support (DASHRS)
(203) 432-5561