National Library of India
|National Library of India|
|Director||Kishore Krishna Banerjee|
|Location||Belvedere Estate, Alipore, Kolkata, India
The National Library of India (Bengali: ভারতের জাতীয় গ্রন্থাগার) at Belvedere, Kolkata, is the largest library in India by volume and India's library of public record. It is under the Department of Culture, Ministry of Tourism & Culture, Government of India. The library is designated to collect, disseminate and preserve the printed material produced in India. The library is situated on the scenic 30 acre (120,000 m²) Belvedere Estate, in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). The Library is the largest in India, with a collection in excess of 2.2 million books. It is India's only Category 6 library and is one of the four depository libraries in the country where publishers are required, under The Delivery of Books And Newspapers (Public Libraries) Act, 1954, "to supply books published in India, by Indians abroad or any title that might be of interest to Indians". It is also India's sole repository library where all books, publications and official documents in its custody have to be stored in perpetuity.
- Acquisition and conservation of all significant national production of printed material, excluding ephemera.
- Collection of printed material concerning the country, no matter where it is published, and as a corollary, the acquisition of photographic records of such material that is not available with in the country
- Acquisition and conservation of foreign material required by the country.
- Rendering of bibliographical and documents services of current and retrospective material, both general and specialised.
- Acting as a referral centre purveying full and accurate knowledge.
The Calcutta Public Library 
The history of the National Library began with the formation of Calcutta Public Library in 1836. That was a non-governmental institution and was run on a proprietary basis. People contributing 300 in subscription became the proprietors. Prince Dwarkanath Tagore was the first proprietor of that Library. 300 at that time was a significant amount, so poor students and others were allowed free use the library for some period of time.
Lord Metcalfe, the Governor General at that time, transferred 4,675 volumes from the library of the College of Fort William, Calcutta to the Calcutta Public Library. This and donations of books from individuals formed the nucleus of the library. Both Indian and foreign books, especially British, were purchased for the library. Donations were regularly made by individuals as well as by the government.
The Calcutta Public Library had a unique position as the first public library in this part of the world. Such a well-organized and efficiently run library was rare even in Europe during the first half of the 19th century. Because of the efforts of the Calcutta Public Library, the present National Library has many extremely rare books and journals in its collection.
The Imperial Library 
Built after the model of the Town Hall at Ypres. A fine example of the Public Buildings in Calcutta (Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries).The Imperial Library was formed in 1891 by combining a number of Secretariat libraries in Calcutta. Of those, the most important and interesting was the library of the Home Department, which contained many books formerly belonging to the library of East India College, Fort William and the library of the East India Board in London. But the use of the library was restricted to the superior officers of the Government.
Amalgamation of The Calcutta Public Library and Imperial Library 
In 1903, Lord Curzon, the Governor-General of India, conceived the idea of opening a library for the use of the public. He noticed both the libraries—Imperial Library and Calcutta Public Library were under-utilized because of limited access and lack of amenities. He decided to amalgamate the rich collection of both of these libraries.
The new amalgamated library, called Imperial Library, was formally opened to the public on 30 January 1903 at Metcalfe Hall, Kolkata. Metcalfe Hall had earlier been the residence of the Governor-Generals Wellington, Cornwallis and Warren Hastings.
|“||"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."||”|
— The Gazette of India
Declaring the Imperial Library as 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 then Union Minister of Education, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. B. S. Kesavan was appointed the first Librarian of the National Library.
In 2010, the Ministry of Culture, the owner of the library, decided to get the library building restored by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). While taking stock of the library building, the conservation engineers discovered a previously unknown room. The ground-floor room, about 1000 sq. ft. in size, seems to have no opening of any kind. The ASI archaeologists tried to search the first floor area (that forms the ceiling of the room) for a trap door, but found nothing. Since the building is of historical and cultural importance, ASI decided to bore a hole through the wall instead of breaking it. There was speculations about the room being a punishment room used by Warren Hastings and other British officials, or a place to store treasure. After six months of study, it was determined to be not a room at all, but merely "a block stuffed with mud, perhaps constructed by the British architects to strengthen the base of the building."
The National Library receives books and periodicals in almost all Indian languages. These are received under the Delivery of Books and Newspapers (Public Libraries) Act 1954. Language divisions acquire, process and provide reading materials in all major Indian languages. Hindi, Kashmiri, Punjabi, Sindhi, Telugu and Urdu language divisions maintain their own stacks. Other language books are stacked in the Stack division. Language divisions are also responsible for answering reference queries. The library has separate Indian language divisions for Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. Sanskrit language division also collects and processes Pali and Prakrit books. English books published in India are collected under D.B. Act.
Assamese Language Collection 
In 1963, a separate division was established in the National Library to collect and process Assamese books. At present the division has 12,000 books. This collection has some works published between 1840 and 1900. Some of the important publications are Asamiya Larar Mitra by Anandaram Dhekial Phukan (1849), Larabodh Byakaran by Dharmeswar Goswami (1884), Prakrit Bhugol by Lambodara Datta (1884) and several volumes of Sri Sankardev's Kirattan, Gunamala, Srimad Bhagavad, Bargit, Rukmini Haran Nat, and Ankiyanat. Volumes of the periodical Arunodoi (1846–1853, 1856–1858) are also available in the collection.
Bengali Language Collection 
The library has 85,000 books in its Bengali collection. The collection contains very rare and valuable books as well as periodicals published from the last quarter of the 18th century. Early Bengali plays and novels are well represented. The collection has many rare items such as the manuscripts of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, Jibanananda Das and Bishnu Dey. 154 letters of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose written to his nephew Sri Asok Nath Bose and letters to Sarat Chandra Bose are also available in the collection. The collection has the complete set of Rabindranath Tagore’s works, except a few of his early works. This includes 190 first editions of Tagore’s works. Some of the rare and important works in this collection are: A Grammar of the Bengal Language (1778) by Nathaniel Brassey Halhed, which is the earliest printed book in Bengali, Henry Forster’s A Vocabulary in Two parts, English and Bangalee (1799), William Carey’s Dialogues, Intended to Facilitate the Acquiring of the Bengali Language ( 1801), Ramram Basu’s Raja Pratapaditya Charitra (1801), Mrityunjay Vidyalankar’s Batris Simhansan (1802), Ramayana translated by Krittibas Ojha and published in five volumes, Mahabharat translated by Kashiram Das (1802), Chandicharan Munshi’s Tota Itihas (1805), Jayanarayan Ghosal’s Sri Karunanidhanavilasa (1814), William Carey’s Dictionary of the Bengali Language, 2 volumes (1815–1825). There are 400 titles of Bengali periodicals including many rare 19th century periodicals such as Digdarshan (1818) first Bengali monthly and the first issue of Samachar Darpan (1831) – the first Bengali weekly.
Gujarati Language Collection 
The library has 37,000 Gujarati books. 1100 of them are titles published prior to 1900. This collection also has 30 albums of paintings by Kanu Desai published between 1936 and 1956. Ancient Jaina miniature paintings are well reproduced in Sri Jaina Chitravali, Sri Jaina Chitra Patavali and other valuable books edited by Sarabhai Nawab. The authentic editions of the poetic works of medieval Gujarati poets such as Narsinh Mehta, Mirabai, Premanand and Symal Bhat are also part of the holdings. The rare titles include Robert Drummond’s Illustrations of Grammatical Parts Guzerattee, Maratta and English Languages (1808), translations of Aesop’s Fables by Bapushastri Pandya Raykaval (1818), Edalji Patel's Suratani Tavarikh (1890) and Jnana Chakra—a Gujarati encyclopaedia in 9 volumes (1867).
Hindi Language Division 
Hindi is the official languages of India. The collection building of Hindi books has been continuing since the time of the Imperial Library, and a separate division was established in 1960. At present 80,000 Hindi books are in the library collection. The collection has rare works published during the last decades of the 18th Century. Many of the publications published by Lulloo Lal, the first printer, publisher and writer of Kolkata, are represented in this collection. The following rare books published by Lulloo Lal are in the library: Braja Bhasha Grammar (1811), Lataife Hindi (1821), Rajaniti (1827), and Prem Sagur (1842). In addition, the library has The Oriental Linguist with an Extensive Vocabulary English and Hindoostanee and Hindoostanee and English by John B. Gilchrist (1798), Hindi-Roman Orthoepigraphical Ultimatum by John B. Gilchrist (1804), Rajneeti by Narayana Pandit (1809), Sudamacaritra by Haldhara Dasa (1819), Raga Kalpadruma (1843), Baital Pachisi by Duncan Forbes (1861), Dictionary of Hindee and English by J. T. Thompson (1862), Yavan Bhasa ka Vyakaran by Hooper William (1874), Siva Simha Saroja by Siva Simha Senagar (1878), Hindi Pradipa edited by Balkrishna Bhatt (1877–1909), Brief Account of the Solar System in Hindi (1940), and a microfilm copy of Bal Bodhini (1874–77)--a monthly journal for women edited by Bharatendu Harishchandra. There are also about 1200 rare first issues of important journals.
Kannada Language Collection 
A separate Kannada division was set up in 1963 in the National Library. In 1960, the library purchased the personal collection of H. Channakeshava Ayyangar. It consists of 1300 books published between the last two decades of the 19th century and the first three decades of the 20th century. An important contribution toward building the collection was the efforts of G. P. Rajarathnam, a noted Kannada author. Immediately after the enactment of the D.B. Act, Rajaratnam toured the erstwhile Mysore state to create awareness among the publishers about the Act. He collected about 1500 books without any expense to the library. The Kannada collection in the library is particularly useful for the study of the cultural history of Karnataka. At present there are 32,000 Kannada books in the library.
Kashmiri Language Collection 
The Kashmiri division was formed in 1983. Currently the library has 500 Kashmiri books. Some of the important items in this collection are Muhammad Yusuf Teng’s Shirin Qalm (2 volumes), Wiyur edited by Ghulam Muhammad Rafiq, Ghulam Nabi Khyal’s Akah Nandun, Nurnama (sayings of Sheikh Noor-ud-din Wali) and compiled by Muhammad Amin Kaim, Fazil and Kashmiri’s Krishna Lila.
Malayalam Language Collection 
The Malayalam division was established as a separate division in 1963, with around 5000 books. Now the collection has 34,500 books. The earliest printed book, Centum Adagia Malabarica, a Latin translation of Malayalam proverbs, dates back to 1791. The Latin translations are printed alongside the Malayalam originals. Rare and old books include Robert Drummond’s Grammar of the Malabar Language (1799), Dr Gundart’s Malayalam-English Dictionary (1872) Vartamanapustakam by Parammachkal Govarnnodoracchan, Appu Nedungadi’s Kundalata and Oyyarathu Chandu Menon’s Indulekha (1889). Apart from these, many works representing earlier periods are part of this collection. A few of these are Ramacaritam (earliest known Malayalam work), works of Niranam (a 15th century poet), Cherusseri Namboothiri’s Krishnagatha (16th century), Vadakkan Pattukal (Ballads of North Malabar), Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan’s Adhyatama Ramayana, Ramapurathu Warrier’s Kucelavrtam, and Kunchan Nambiar’s Tullol.
Marathi Language Collection 
The Marathi division was established in 1963 with a collection of 8900 volumes. The division now has 37,000 books in its collection. In 1954 the National Library purchased the library of the Bengal Nagpur Railway Indian Institute, Kharagpur, which had a good number of Marathi books. Sir Jadunath Sarkar collection also has about 350 Marathi books, mostly on the history of the Marathas. The division has many rare and old Marathi publications. These include William Carey's A Grammar of the Mahratta Language (1805) and Dictionary of the Maharatta Language (1810), Simhasana Battisi (1814), Raghuji Bhonsalyaci Vanshavali (1815), Vans Kennedy's A Dictionary of Maratta Language (1824), Nava Karar (1850), A Short Account of Railways by K. Bhatwadekar (1854), Charles Hutton's algebra as Bijaganit (1856), Tukaram’s Abhangachi Gatha (1869) edited by Vishnu Parashuram Pandit and Shankar Pandurang Pandit, Itihasaprisiddha Purushanche va Striyanche Povade edited by H. A. Acworth (1891).
Odia Language Collection 
A separate Odia division was established in 1973. The Imperial Library had only 133 books; later the collection was increased to 425 books. Currently, the division has 19,500 books. The oldest publication available in the Oriya collection dates back to 1831. It is Rev. Amos Sutton’s Introductory Grammar of Oriya Language . Some of the other rarities in the collection are Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda, translated by Dharanidhara, Amos Sutton’s An Oriya Dictionary, 3 volumes (1841–3), Dharmapustakara Adibhaya (1842–3), and Purnachandra Odia Bhashakosha (1931–40), a lexicon of the Oriya language compiled by Gopala Chandra Praharaj.
Punjabi Language Collection 
A separate division for the acquisition and processing of Punjabi language books was established in 1974. Most of the works in this collection are of recent origin. There are a few old and rare Punjabi books, such as William Carey’s A Grammar of Punjabee Language (1812), Samuel Starkey’s A Dictionary of English Punjabee (1849), Geographical Description of the Panjab (1850), Bhai Santosh Singh’s Guru Paratap Suraj Granthavali (1882) and Gurudas Bhai’s Vars (1893).
Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit Languages Collection 
Sanskrit has a rich literature in many fields of knowledge. A separate division in the library collects and processes Sanskrit books. At present the division has over 20,000 Sanskrit books, printed in the Devanagari script. Almost all Indian language divisions possess Sanskrit works printed in their respective language scripts. The library also has a rich collection of Sanskrit works edited or translated with original scripts, in English and many other foreign languages. The collection attracts scholars from India and abroad. Apart from Sanskrit, books in Pali and Prakrit languages are also collected and processed by this division. At present the library has about 500 books in Pali and a comparable collection of books in Prakrit.
Sindhi Language Collection 
Since 1957, the library has been building a collection of Sindhi books. At present the library has 2100 Sindhi books. Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai’s Shah Jo Risalo and Shah Jo Sher are the rare items in this collection.
Tamil Language Collection 
The Tamil division was formed in 1963. The division currently has 57,000 books. Apart from this, the library has 1000 Tamil books and 300 Tamil manuscripts in the Vaiyapuri Pillai collection. There are many rare and old works among the Tamil titles. Early printed Tamil books in the library include the Tamil Bible (1723), Johann Phillip Fabricius’s A Malabar and English Dictionary (1779), a Tamil translation of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim's Progress (1793), and Caldwell’s Comparative Grammar of Dravidian languages (1850). The collection also includes standard editions of five great Sangam Classics.
Telugu Language Collection 
The Telugu division was started in the National Library in 1963. The collection has a good number of old Telugu books published since the earlier decades of the 19th century. Some of the rarities in Telugu available in this collection are William Carey’s Grammar of Telugu Language (1814), C. P. Brown’s A Vocabulary of Gentoo and English (1818), Vakyavali (1852), Catalogue of Telugu books in the British Library, London (1912) compiled by L. D. Barnett.
Urdu Language Collection 
Like Arabic and Persian, the Urdu collection was substantial since the days of Imperial Library. Special collections such as the Buhar Library, Hidayat Husain collection, Zakariya collection and Imambara collection have some Urdu books and manuscripts. In 1968 a separate Urdu division was set up formed in the library. At present it has more than 20,000 books. Some of the oldest are Uklakhi Hindee or Indian Ethics (1803), and Mir Muhamad Taki’s Kulliuat-e-Mir (1811).
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
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 reorganised 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.
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.
The National Library has an impressive number of rare books and other reading materials. In 1973, a separate Rare Books division was established. At present the books published prior to 1860 are considered rare books, along with limited and first editions, books distinguished by their design, illustration or history, and a few other criteria. Along with rare books, manuscripts and microfilms of the library are also stacked in this division. The division also provides reading facilities to the users who wish to consult these items. At present the division has 4700 monographs, 3000 manuscripts and 1500 microfilms
National Library has about 3600 rare and historically important manuscripts in different languages. These manuscripts are preserved separately along with other important and rare books in the Rare Books division.
Following the recommendations of the Reviewing Committee (1968), the Science and Technology division was set up in 1972. The basic function of this division is to collect and disseminate the core material in science and technology. At present the division holds about 17,000 books and monographs and 800 current print periodicals. The division provides reading facilities and has an open access stack system.
All the publications of Government of India, State Governments, Union Territories, Government Undertakings, Autonomous Bodies are collected, processed and preserved separately. A separate division for this purpose was established in 1972. The library owns a rich collection of Indian official documents from the days of the East India Company to the present. The collection also includes the documents published by the Government of Great Britain relating to India. A good collection of Myanmarese documents and few documents of Aden, Sri Lanka, Persian Gulf Political Residency are also part of this collection. At present, the division holds around 490,000 documents.
The National Library is one of the repository libraries for United Nations Organisation and its agencies. Thus all the publications of UN and its agencies are received by the library free of cost. These documents are processed and stacked separately. The library also receives publications of the governments of the United States of America, Great Britain, Canada, the Commonwealth nations, and the publications of the European Economic Committee. Almost all the volumes of the sessional sets of British Parliamentary papers since the beginning of the 19th century are available. Apart from the depositary copies, the library acquires selected foreign publications through purchase. At present the library has around 400,000 foreign official documents.
All the newspapers and periodicals in Indian languages are received and processed in their respective language divisions. But English newspapers and periodicals, both the Indian and foreign, are acquired and processed separately. A separate Serials division is responsible for acquiring and processing of English newspapers and periodicals. The library has a rich collection of late 19th and early 20th century newspapers and periodicals, but almost all of them are incomplete sets. There are catalogues for periodicals, newspapers and gazettes available in the library up to 1953.
The library has an extensive collection of maps from the 17th century onwards. Indian topographical sheets of earlier days (at scale of one inch, half-inch and quarter-inch to a mile) and maps of natural resources, population, transport and communication systems, agricultural production, soil, vegetation and the geology of India form the major part of the collection. At present the library has 85,000 printed maps, 54 cartographic manuscripts, and 280 atlases
The library has around 500 rolls of microfilms and 1000 microfiches. These are preserved in the Rare Books division. The Census of India (1872–1951) is one of the most important and rare document available in the form of microfiches.
One of the basic functions of the National Library is to conserve the printed heritage for future generations. For this purpose the library has separate divisions for physical, chemical, reprographic and digital conservation.
Physical conservation 
Books damaged by human error or by natural causes are mended, repaired and bound in the Binding division. Journals are bound by volume.
Chemical conservation 
The Laboratory division of the library, established in 1968, is taking care of the chemical treatment of books. Advanced procedures of chemical treatment are adopted to restore brittle and damaged books. The library is in the process of developing non-chemical treatment system for the preservation of printed materials. An indigenously developed fumigation chamber is being used to destroy the eggs and larvae of insects and termites. Encapsulation is another method of preservation that has been developed by the library.
Reprographic preservation 
Most of the 19th century newspapers, Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit manuscripts have already been microfilmed. 5000 rolls of microfilms are already produced so far by the Reprography division.
The scanning and archiving of rare and brittle books and other documents on compact disc has started. English books and documents published before 1900 and Indian publications preceding 1920 are considered for digitisation. 9140 selected books in Indian and English languages have already been scanned and stored—a total of over 3.2 million pages.
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- "National Library turns over a digital leaf". The Calcutta Telegraph. 29 May 2011. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
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