What is a book?

Technically, a book is simply a specific format of information. Theoretically, though, a book is a substantial collection of information. The codex format, which is the structure of modern books, allows for a lot of information to be gathered and presented together. Usually books take a while to research and write, so they often present established or developed information on a field, topic, or question. They may have developed out of a research article or articles, which come to form the chapters of the book, with an introduction and conclusion, which provide background information and a matured analysis of the information. Due to the nature of publication, the information is probably several years old before it is printed. As well, the publisher has considered the work of the author as being worthy of being published; based on the reputation, agenda, and audience of the publisher, this could be because the information is reliable, maintains the status quo, or is controversial, sensational, or appealing. 

monograph is a material in which information is presented in a single resource. It is a discrete source of information, as opposed to an ongoing source of information, like a serial. A book is the most common example of a monograph. 

primary text is original text written in the course of life. The text of a literary work, poem, diary, newspaper article, etc. are all examples of primary texts. 

secondary text is text written about and around primary texts. Commentaries, introductions, notes, discussions, etc. are secondary texts.

transcript is an exact reproduction of a primary text, including any marks, punctuation, errors, oddities. 

facsimile is a reproduction of a manuscript, book, map, piece of art, etc. which accurately replicates the scale, materials, color, condition, etc. of the original resource. A partial facsimile is a reproduction of only part of a resource. Facsimiles are used by researchers who cannot access the original resource, and by libraries and museums to allow a form of access to resources while preserving the originals.

critical edition is an authoritative, edited edition of an original text in its original language. These works are composed by a respected scholar and expert on the text, and are composed of the edited text, extensive background information, annotations, explanations, and discussions of the latest scholarship. In some cases, the critical edition presents a single, whole text. With many medieval texts which are fragmented and exist in multiple manuscripts, for example, this is impossible. Instead, a critical edition of such texts either selects a variant or combines the variant texts into a re-constructed "original" text. Research on a text should use a critical edition, if one is in existence. Critical editions provide a wealth of information, as well as an authoritative text. However, research and analysis using a critical edition should also note any limitations of a critical edition, if it is a partial or re-constructed version of a text. 

translation is a material which presents a text in a language different from that in which the text was originally written. Translations exist on a spectrum of literal to interpretive. Some translations convey each word exactly from one language into another. Some convey the same meaning, emotion, and intent, while recognizing and utilizing the structure and nature of different languages. 

Transcripts, critical editions, and translations are accompanied by editorial notes which explain the choices and reasons which the author made in presenting the material, and help the researcher understand exactly what information they are being presented with and how it was produced. 

Resources at Harvard

Harvard University Press

Harvard University Press (HUP) was established on January 13, 1913 as a division of Harvard University, and has long been a leading publisher in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.

The Harvard Oriental Series

The Harvard Oriental Series is a monographic serial founded in 1891 to provide scholarly English translations of the ancient Hindu Vedic texts. Its inaugural editor Charles Rockwell Lanman was an American scholar of Sanskrit who wrote the widely used Sanskrit Reader (1884). The series is now edited by the Wales Professor of Sanskrit in the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Harvard University, and distributed by the Harvard University Press. It has grown to an 80-plus-volume collection of text editions, translations, and studies of major texts in Hindu and Buddhist traditions. A subseries, Harvard Oriental Series Opera Minora, "aims at the swift publication of important materials that cannot be included in the mainly text-oriented Harvard Oriental Series."

Sanskrit Library, Widener Library, Room A

This room, which triples as a seminar-style classroom and meeting space, contains about 1,000 printed volumes and nearly 1,500 manuscripts of Brahmanical, Jaina, and Buddhist works in Sanskrit, Pakrit, and Pali respectively. Many of these books came from the same benefactors who helped to build the Sanskrit collection in the circulating stacks within Widener Library.

How to find?

The collection is located in Room A on the third floor of Widener Library.

How to find the collection in the library catalog:

  • Open HOLLIS, Harvard's library catalog.
  • Above the search bar, there are options for different types of searches. Select Advanced Search
  • An expanded search box will appear. At the top of the search box is the text Search for and options to search the entire system or to limit the search to only materials which Harvard holds. There are also the options to search for reserves or by barcode. Select Library Catalog. This will limit the search to only materials which Harvard holds.
  • In the expanded search box is the text Search Filters. Below this text is a row of three search boxes. The first box limits what the search will look at (e.g. author names, titles, etc.). Click the downward arrow in the first box and select Code: Library + Collection from the dropdown menu. This tells the search to look for materials in specific locations and collections.
  • The second box limits whether the search looks at everything which contains the words searched for, or whether the search only looks at things which match the search words exactly. Click the downward arrow in the second box and select contains from the drop-down menu. This tells the search to look for materials in any of the locations and collections which contain the words searched for.
  • The third box is where search words are entered. The materials in the Sanskrit Library are all cataloged with the code SAN*.  Type SAN* in the third box. (Note: Do not forget the asterick. The asterick indicates that there can be more letters after SAN. The search will retrieve any materials which have a code which starts with SAN.)
  • Select the Search button in the bottom right corner of the expanded search box. 

This search will retrieve all the materials in the Sanskrit Library.

How to access?

For Harvard Library users with a HarvardKey, many items in the Sanskrit Library are accessible via Scan & Deliver, but please be aware that this depends on the durability of the item; as well, only up to 2 chapters of a particular item may be scanned. For more extensive scans for which copyright is not a concern, another option is to order a reproduction.

The collection is non-circulating but is accessible to students, faculty, and staff in the Department of South Asian Studies. Access can also be granted to visiting scholars upon request. Contact the department administrator in the Department of South Asian Studies to inquire.

To apply for access, visiting scholars must submit a brief description of their research project, the time required for its completion, and the reason why the use of the Sanskrit Library collection is essential for it to the Department of South Asian Studies Chair. Physical access to the library is via authorized ID card. Once permission for access is granted by the Chair, authorization arrangements are made with the Widener Library security services. During their first visit, an individual should make an appointment with the Curator of Sanskrit Library for an introduction to the arrangement and use of the collection. Those with short-term ID authorization who wish to continue access to the library beyond the original allotted time must apply to the Chair for renewal. New ID authorization or renewals of prior authorization will ordinarily not be provided during the summer break; however, those with access during the spring term may seek permission to renew access through the summer, which must be done before the end of the spring term exam period.

Publishers of South Asian Studies Materials

Some publishers are known for publishing materials related to South Asian Studies. 

Oxford University Press

Oxford University Press, also called Clarendon Press, is a leading publisher in the scholarly world, and publishes scholarly materials on a wide range of topics, including South Asian Studies.

Cambridge University Press

Cambridge University Press is a leading publisher in the scholarly world, and publishes scholarly materials on a wide range of topics, including South Asian Studies.

Columbia University Press

A university press based in New York City, and affiliated with Columbia University.


W. Kohlhammer Verlag GmbH, or Kohlhammer Verlag, is a German publishing house headquartered in Stuttgart.

Greenwood Publishing Group

Also known as ABC-Clio/Greenwood, this is an educational and academic publisher which is today part of ABC-Clio.

Adam Matthew Digital

An academic publisher based in the United Kingdom and the United States. It has been an independent subsidiary of Sage Publications since 2012. The company specializes in online primary source databases and curated collections for the humanities and social sciences.

Gale Cengage

Gale is an American educational publishing company based in Farmington Hills, Michigan, west of Detroit. It has been a division of Cengage since 2007.

British Online Archives 

One of the United Kingdom’s leading academic publishers. Their goal is to provide university students and researchers around the world with access to unique collections of primary source documents in the Humanities and Social Sciences.


Harrassowitz is a leading supplier of scholarly monographs, research materials and literary texts published throughout Europe in all languages.

Harper Collins Publishers India

Although it publishes many popular press titles, this publishing house also publishes English language material for purposes of education.

Modern Humanities Research Association

The Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA) is a United Kingdom–based international organization that publishes advanced study and research in the humanities, including language research.


Brill is a Dutch international academic publisher founded in 1683 in Leiden, Netherlands. Brill today publishes 275 journals and around 1200 new books and reference works each year. In addition, Brill provides of primary source materials online and on microform for researchers in the humanities and social sciences. Brill publishes in the fields of Languages, Linguistics, Literature, and Cultural Studies. Among other works and series, Brill includes The Groningen Oriental Studies, which publishes scholarly works in the field of classical Indology since 1986. The series is published under the auspices of the J. Gonda Foundation (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences). It focuses on philological works, critical editions of texts in Sanskrit and New Indo-Aryan languages, as well as text-related studies. From 2013 onwards the series will be merged with the Gonda Indological Studies (GIS), which focuses on monographs and collected volumes on topics such as the (cultural) history, material culture, literature, languages, philosophy and religions of South Asia. In the Supplement to the Groningen Oriental Studies (GOSS) appears the critical edition and study of the Skandapurāṇa.

De Gruyter

A German scholarly publishing house specializing in academic literature. It was originally known as Mouton Publishers and based in The Hague. That imprint specialized in the field of linguistics and published academic journals, research monographs, reference works, multimedia publications, and bibliographies.

Princeton University Press

A university press based in New Jersey, and affiliated with Princeton University.

Women Unlimited

A non-profit trust, Women Unlimited is an associate of Kali for Women, India’s first and oldest feminist press, estd. 1984. They publish scholarly and academic books in the social sciences; fiction; general interest non-fiction; autobiography and memoirs; books for young adults; pamphlets and monographs; and activist material. They explore new issues, anticipate trends, develop new perspectives and offer the best of feminist scholarship, activist material and creative writing, in India and South Asia.

Vikas Publishing House

a leading name in higher education publishing in India, Vikas Publishing House specializes in the publication of academic and reference books in the areas of engineering, management, computer science, education and humanities.

Yale University Press

A university press based in Connecticut, and affiliated with Yale University.