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South Asian Studies -- Collections

South Asia Reading Room
5th Floor, West End
Van Pelt Library
3420 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

The South Asia Collection is responsible for the acquisition of South Asian materials and for reference assistance for topics relating to South Asia in order to support the South Asian Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania. The Library is a member of the South Asia Microform Project and the South Asia Consortium - EAST (SACEAST).

The South Asia Reading Room is located in the Van Pelt Library, Fifth Floor, West End. The normal hours of operation are from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. For access to the South Asia Art Archive, also located in the South Asia Reading Room, please see or contact Jef Pierce, South Asian Studies Librarian, 215-898-7146.

Collection Description

The Library acquires books on South Asia and South Asians in a number of academic disciplines primarily in the Social Sciences and the Humanities. For a description of our overall collection development policy regarding South Asia, see our Collection Development page.

Books are acquired from the countries of South Asia and from Western countries, primarily the U.S., England, and Germany.


The Library receives a large number of serial and periodical publications from South Asia. For the most part, they are housed in Van Pelt, but they are also to be found in the Museum and Fine Arts Libraries as well as the Biddle Law Library. For a comprehensive listing of titles from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal, that are acquired by the Library of Congress and distributed to libraries throughout the country, there is a searchable Serials database located at the University of Chicago.

The library also receives a large number of serials relevant to South Asia published in the U.S. and Europe.


The Library has a large number of materials related to South Asia on microform and readers should not neglect this important format. This material includes primary research material, literary works, manuscripts, and many other types of materials. This material is housed in the Microform Reading Room located on the first floor, Van Pelt Library. Most microforms are cataloged and can be found in Voyager.

South Asia Microform Project (SAMP)

The Library is also a member of the South Asia Microform Project which has been microfilming important research and literary materials on South Asia for over 30 years. These materials are held at the Center for Research Libraries in Chicago. They have been cataloged and can be found on RLIN/Eureka. If you wish to borrow a title from the SAMP collection, contact the Interlibrary Loan Office and also inform them that it is a SAMP item.

Manuscript Collections at Penn

The Library has a large number of manuscript materials including the largest collection of Sanskrit manuscripts in the U.S. A complete microfiche set of the manuscripts is also available in the Microtext Reading Room of the Van Pelt Library (call number Microfiche965). There is also a microfiche copy of the catalog compiled by Stephan Levitt (call number Microfiche 129).

A number of these manuscripts have been scanned and placed online. More titles will constantly be added to the online collection. There are several manuscript collections relating to the history of India under British Rule.