Tibetan Block Prints

By Archives & Special Collections, SOAS Library|25th November 2015|Collections & Research|0 comments

This month’s blog highlights SOAS Library’s rare collection of Tibetan Block prints, which until recently were not available to researchers visiting us here in Archives and Special Collections.

Towards the end of last year Charles Manson, Subject Librarian for Tibet, Bodleian Libraries Oriental Section in Oxford, had been cataloguing some Tibetan texts for SOAS Library under the direction of Peter McCormack, then Assistant Director (Acquisitions and Bibliographic Services). We mentioned to Peter and Charles that we had a number (over 500 as it turned out) of uncatalogued Tibetan Block Prints (TBPs) and it would be great if Charles’ expertise could be used to make the TBPs available. A brief proposal was submitted to John Robinson, Director of Library and Information Services, and he agreed to fund their cataloguing.

Charles completed his cataloguing this summer and whilst there is still some further work to be done (for example on the provenance of the TBPs) the collection is now available by prior arrangement. An overview of the collection can be found on the SOAS Archive Catalogue, and a PDF listing the title, medium, extent and order reference of each TBP is attached to said overview.

The collection itself was acquired through donation and purchase between the 1930s and 1970s with many TBPs having been printed after the Tibetan diaspora. The collection principally contains xylographs but there are also a small number of printed reproductions of manuscripts, in particular Bon-po texts. Amongst the xylographs there are a few collected works (gsung ‘bum), most notably 13 volumes for Tsongkapa (1357-1419), 11 volumes for Khedrup Je (1385-1438) and 9 volumes for Gyaltsab Darma Rinchen (1364-1432). The most common languages amongst the TBPs are Tibetan, Sanskrit and Mongolian with scripts including dbu can, dbu med and Uighur.

The image of yoga positions below is taken from TBP 82789 (Rgya dkar nad rgya ser ka smi ra bal bod hor gyi yi ge dang deb ris rnam grangs mang ba bzhugs so). However, it is only one of a handful of TBPs which include illustrations.

Rgya dkar nad rgya ser ka smi ra bal bod hor gyi yi ge dang deb ris rnam grangs mang ba bzhugs so (Reference: TBP 82789). © SOAS

For information on our opening hours and access conditions please visit the SOAS Archives webpages. As mentioned above Tibetan Block prints are currently only made available by prior arrangement. If you do wish to consult any of them please email docenquiry@soas.ac.uk prior to visiting us.

For further information on Tibetan resources online, visit the pages of the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Centre.

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About Archives & Special Collections, SOAS Library

Broadly speaking, our collections reflect the British interaction with Africa, Asia and the Middle East over the last 250 years, and include archives of missionary societies, NGOs and campaign groups, and business organisations, as well as papers of individuals, including diplomats, campaigners, and academics. If you have any questions, or comments, please get in touch! email: docenquiry@soas.ac.uk tel: 020 7898 4180

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