University of Chicago Library

Guide to the J. A. B. van Buitenen Papers 1946-1978

© 2012 University of Chicago Library

Descriptive Summary


Buitenen, J. A. B. van. Papers



Accession Number:



1.5 linear feet (4 boxes)


Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center
University of Chicago Library
1100 East 57th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.


J. A. B. van Buitenen was a professor of Sanskrit and Indic Studies at the University of Chicago from 1957 to 1979. The collection contains personal ephemera, professional correspondence, notebooks, notes and typescripts for articles and books, photographs, and materials relating to van Buitenen's time as a professor at the University. Most of the materials date between 1955 and 1973, with some undated material.

Information on Use


The collection is open for research.


When quoting material from this collection, the preferred citation is: Buitenen, J. A. B. van. Papers, [Box #, Folder #], Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library

Biographical Note

Johannes Adrianus Bernardus "Hans" van Buitenen (b. May 21, 1928, d. September 21, 1979) was a Dutch-born scholar of Sanskrit and Indian religion and literature. He was researcher and professor of Sanskrit and Indic Studies at the University of Chicago from 1957 until his death in 1979.

Van Buitenen was born and educated in The Hague, Netherlands. He concentrated in Classics at Gymnasium, while also studying French, German, and English. He received his university education at the University of Utrecht, concentrating in Indo-Iranian and Indonesian Letters. In May of 1948 he attained Candidacy in Indo-Iranian Letters, cum laude, with Candidacy in Indonesian letters following in September of that year. In July of 1951 he completed the Doctoral examination in Indo-Iranian Letters, specializing in Vedic Sanskrit with secondary competencies in Pali, Modern Persian, and Old and Modern Javanese. He received his doctorate in 1953, with a thesis entitled Ramanuja on the Baghavadgita. An assistantship to the chair of Indo-European Philology at Utrecht followed.

In 1952, van Buitenen married Cornelia Maria Krapels; they had two children, Hans, Jr. and Jeanette. They were divorced in the mid-1970s and van Buitenen later married Georgette Meredith.

Between 1954 and 1956, van Buitenen spent 18 months at Deccan College in Poona, India, as a sub-editor of a Sanskrit dictionary. During his time there, he was able to witness the enactment of a Vajapeya sacrifice, one of the Soma Vedic sacrifices. Van Buitenen intended to produce a book of photographs and a documentary film of the sacrifice; while there is evidence of an educational film being shown at American universities in the early 1960s, the book project did not come to fruition.

In 1957 van Buitenen came to the University of Chicago, first as a research associate, then as assistant professor of Sanskrit and Indic Studies. In 1964 he was promoted to Professor, and in 1966 became Chair of the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, a position he held for ten years. During his tenure at Chicago, he continued to work overseas, as a Reader of Indian philosophy at Utrecht (1959-1961), and in collaborations on a Pali Dictionary with the Royal Danish Academy in 1960. He spent time in India in 1965, as a Fullbright fellow, and again in 1967-1968 as a senior fellow at the American Institute of Indic Studies in New Delhi. In June 1979, the University created an endowed chair for van Buitenen, and he was named George V. Bobrinskoy Distinguished Service Professor.

Van Buitenen's published works include Tales of ancient India, translated from the Sanskrit (University of Chicago Press, 1959), The Maitrayaniya Upanisad; a Critical Essay, with Text, Translation, and Commentary ('s-Gravenhage, Mouton, 1962), The Pravargya, an ancient Indian iconic ritual (Poona, Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute, 1968), Two plays of ancient India: The little clay cart, The minister's seal; translated from Sanskrit and Prakrit (Columbia University Press, 1968), A Source Book of Advaita Vedānta (with Eliot Deutsch, University Press of Hawaii, 1971), The Mahābhārata (University of Chicago press, 1973), Classical Hindu Mythology : a Reader in the Sanskrit Puränas (with Cornelia Dimmitt, Temple University Press, 1978).

Van Buitenen died on September 21, 1979 in Champaign, Illinois, following a short illness.

Scope Note

The collection is divided into four series: Series I, Personal; Series II, Professional, Series III, Audio-Visual; and Series IV, Restricted. The collection contains personal ephemera, professional correspondence, notebooks, notes and typescripts for articles and books, photographs - including an album of a Vedic ritual - and materials relating to van Buitenen's time as a professor at the University. Most of the materials date between 1955 and 1973, with some undated material.

Series I, Personal, contains personal correspondence in chronological order (all from 1968), booklets and other collected ephemera, including van Buitenen's secondary school examination grades, two small drawings, and two play scripts in Dutch.

Series II, Professional, contains papers related to van Buitenen's scholarly research, writing, and work as a university professor. The series begins with professional correspondence arranged chronologically, followed by a copy of van Buitenen's C.V. from the late 1960s and other collected ephemera. The collection of van Buitenen's own work begins with notes and materials relating to a photo series and educational film documenting a Vedic sacrifice, followed by notes and typescripts for articles, chapters, and books, arranged chronologically (when individual items could not be dated, they are arranged by the date of publication of the final article or book). Undated notes and manuscripts follow, along with four undated notebooks. The series ends with material related to van Buitenen's time as a teacher, including notes for two lectures and a file of student work.

Series III, Audio-Visual, contains miscellaneous undated photographs, including a six-photograph series of shots of Rewa palace. It also contains an album of photos of the Vajapeya ritual van Buitenen witnessed in 1955, accompanied by handwritten notes, found in the album, on Indian music.

Series IV contains of recommendation for applicants for jobs in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations. This material is restricted is now open for reseach.

Related Resources

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Subject Headings


Series I: Personal

Box 1    Folder 1

Personal Correspondence and Ephemera

Series II: Professional

Box 1   Folder 2

Professional Correspondence

Box 1   Folder 3

Curriculum Vitae and Ephemera

Box 1   Folder 4

Yamada, "Vijnaptimatrata of Vasubandhu" Typescript

Box 1   Folder 5

Vajapeya Sacrifice Photographs (notes)

Box 1   Folder 6

Vajapeya Sacrifice Film Notes

Box 1   Folder 7

Notes on Bhaskara's Brahmasutrabhasya

Box 1   Folder 8

"Sanskrit as a Culture" – Notes

Box 1   Folder 9

"Yamuna's 'Agama Pramanyana'" Typescript

Box 1   Folder 10

The Samaveda in the Pravargya Ritual (offprints)

Box 1   Folder 11

Notes on a Translation of Vamana Purana

Box 1   Folder 12

Encyclopedia Britannica typescripts (van Buitenen)

Box 1   Folder 13

Encyclopedia Britannica typescripts (other authors)

Box 1   Folder 14

"The Hermit and the Harlot" (partial translation)

Box 1   Folder 15

"Mahabharata" Prospectus and Notes (Intro and Book I)

Box 2    Folder 1

"Mahabharata" Book I Typescripts (Five Indras and Draupadi)

Box 2    Folder 2

"Mahabharata" Galley Notes and German translation (Deussen)

Box 2    Folder 3

"Introduction to Readings in Classical Hindu Mythology" Typescript

Box 2    Folder 4

"Intro to Vedanta" typescript and notes

Box 2    Folder 5

Notes for "Baron and Brahmin in Upanisads"

Box 2    Folder 6

Notes for "Sacrifice, Daksina, and Mendicancy"

Box 2    Folder 7

Miscellaneous Notes

Box 2    Folder 8


Box 2    Folder 9


Box 2    Folder 10

Lecture on Veda in Bhagavadgita (Dutch)

Box 2    Folder 11

Lecture Notes on "Civilization of India

Box 2    Folder 12

Report to the American Institute of Indian Studies

Box 2    Folder 13

Annual Report – University of Chicago Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations

Box 2    Folder 14

Student File (James Fitzgerald)

Series III: Audio-Visual

Box 3    Folder 1


Box 3    Folder 2

Vajapeya Sacrifice Photo Album and Notes

Series IV: Professional Recommendations

Box 4    Folder 1

Letters of Recommendation (Job Applicants)