"Incalculable Benefits" for Research:
The Official Publications of India


The Official Publications of India University of Chicago faculty and students will soon enjoy immediate access to more than 23,500 volumes about the British rule of India. The University of Chicago Library has arranged for the British Library's duplicate set of the Official Publications of India to be deposited on campus, in the Regenstein Library's South Asia collection. Beginning their sea voyage from Liverpool, England, the books are expected to reach their new Chicago home in April 1998.

The Official Publications of India includes the pre-1947 publications of the Government of India and of other governments within the territories now comprising the Republics of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar (Burma). Published by the British during the Raj, the books and serials in the Official Publications chronicle the colonial rule of South Asia in minute detail. Among the topics covered are land tenure, ethnographies, trade statistics, archaeological surveys, crises such as plagues and famines, artisans and their trades, listings of civil and military employees, regional gazetteers, and legislative accounts. These documents are essential for the understanding nineteenth- and twentieth-century India.

A few specific titles may whet the appetite: Observations on the general and medical management of Indian jails; and on the treatment of some of the principal diseases which infest them (1845); Monthly accounts relating to the sea-borne trade and navigation of British India [confidential edition] (1917-1944); Administration report of the Municipal Commissioner for the City of Bombay (1866-1949); Reports of the Indian Law Commission upon slavery in India (1841); Sword practice for Indian Cavalry (1909); Report on the supply of wooden sleepers from Australia (1906). The set also includes what will be the 500,000th volume added to the Library's Southern Asia collection. That book is a beautifully aquatinted imprint titled A report of the Committee appointed ... May, 1844, to inquire into the practicability of providing Calcutta with the wet docks capable of containing ... the shipping frequenting the port (1846).

All of the publications come to the University Library on a long-term deposit from the British Library (BL) arranged by James Nye, Bibliographer for Southern Asia. The British Library's historical collections on India are world-renowned. In 1982, an administrative reorganization joined the former India Office Library and Records with the main British Library. This reorganization resulted in duplicate holdings of the Official Publications of India. While these books are available in British, South Asian, and Australian libraries, they are rarely found in the United States. Only about twenty percent of the titles to be deposited are found anywhere in the U.S. at present. With the move to the BL's new facility at St. Pancras already begun and the discovery that they have less space than they had hoped, BL administrators are anxious to reduce the duplication in their collections. That fact linked with the British Library's vision of service to an international community of scholars prompted this deposit arrangement.

Professor Dipesh Chakrabarty, of the University of Chicago's Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, said, "These materials will confer incalculable benefits on teaching and research in South Asian studies and in British Imperial history, not only in this University but in the North American region as a whole." He went on to add, "Scholars and students of Indian history in India, Australia and the UK have for some time now enjoyed the advantage of having these publications available in hard copies in libraries in their own countries. This deposit by the British Library will bring the same advantages to researchers in North America."

Why did the British Library choose Chicago? The University of Chicago's South Asia program is widely recognized as an academic leader in the United States. The University's Library collections on South Asia are only surpassed in this country by the Library of Congress.

As a part of this collaboration with the British Library, the University will improve access to the Official Publications of India by preparing a site on the World Wide Web. The University will be aided in this work by a recent grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation via the Association of Research Libraries' Global Resources Program. Under that grant the Library will digitize selected volumes of the Official Publications, making these essential imprints easier for scholars throughout the world to locate and use. More information on the project is available at http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/su/southasia/arl-w.html.

A grant of $10,000 from the Metropolitan Life Foundation will pay the packing and shipping expenses for the volumes. This award, made in October, was part of a broader program of grants by MetLife awarded in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of independence for India and Pakistan.

The collection will be located on the fifth floor of Regenstein Library. Cataloging records for the publications will appear in the Library's online catalog beginning this summer. In the interim, a provisional catalog of the Official Publications of India is available on the Library's web pages at www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/su/southasia/official.html

For more information, contact James Nye, Bibliographer for Southern Asia, at jnye@midway.uchicago.edu or 702-8430.

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