Collection History

The history of Cornell University’s South Asia Collection dates from 1868 when Cornell’s President Andrew D. White went to Europe armed with formidable lists of books and apparatus to be collected.  He made large purchases of scientific and literary works.  One of the most important of his acquisitions was the library of one of the founders of historical linguistics, Franz Bopp (1791-1867). 

Fully one-third of Bopp’s approximately five thousand volume collection was comprised of Indological subject matter.  Since the beginning, Cornell University has continued to build on the initial strength of the Bopp library, acquiring complete collections of most of the important serials and monographs in this field.

Today, with material from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal, the South Asia Collection is the fourth largest in the United States and the largest intershelved collection combining both Indic and Western languages.

Collections in rural sociology, anthropology, communications, education, regional planning and art history are also noteworthy among the South Asia Collection. 

The holdings include the Gandhi Memorial Library, which Cornell received as a gift in 1949.  The South Asia Collection has grown steadily with gifts from the government of India and individuals in this country, as well as substantial library acquisitions.