Digital Collections

The East Asia Department of the Berlin State Library has started to digitise selected parts of its holdings. The project is co-funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and encompasses five sections with materials in original languages: the Tibetan text collection of Waddell, one of the pioneers of Tibetology, the Manchu collection, the old Japan collection (Libri japonici), the old China collection (Libri sinici) and the collection of the German Sinologist Hänisch. As a sixth part about 4000 titles of western language sources related to East and Southeast Asia published until 1912 will be digitised. Parts of the collections will be made searchable down to the chapter level. First results of the Western material can already be browsed and searched in the viewing environment of the "Digital collections" of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin.

In 2013 important steps were made towards a virtual reconstruction of the old East Asia Collection of the Prussian State Library. Supported by a grant from the Commissary for Culture and Media (BKM) of the German Federal Government and in cooperation with the Biblioteka Jagiellońska in Krakow, Poland, the East Asia collection, which due to the war is nowadays housed at Krakow, was digitised in almost its entirety. Currently the collection is catalogued and the titles will then be presented in the Digital Collections of the State Library of Berlin.

The East Asia collection of the Berlin State Library includes five series of altogether 64 prints of so called "battle copper engravings". The copper plates to these prints were produced by order of the Qianlong emperor (1736-1795) of the Qing dynasty to illustrate and glorify his military campaigns. They are unique from the perspective of art history and represent an important document of self-portrayal of Manju power in the Chinese empire.

from the late Qing Period: The Berlin collection of 181 mongolian manuscript maps digitised here are accompanied by the descriptions taken from volume one of the Verzeichnis der Orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland reproduced with kind permission of the Franz Steiner Verlag.

The Digital Library of Lao Manuscripts (DLLM) makes images of almost 12,000 texts from throughout Laos easily accessible for study, together with related information and resources. Collaborating institutions are the National Library of Laos, the University of Passau, and the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz. The project is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

The Digital Library of Northern Thai Manuscripts (DLNTM) is designed as a resource for the study of traditional literature from this region. At present, the digital library contains images of over 4,200 manuscripts which can be searched and viewed online or freely downloaded, and to which more manuscripts will be added. Collaborating institutions are the University of Pennsylvania, Chiang Mai University, the National Library of Laos, and Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. The project is funded by the Henry Luce Foundation and the German Federal Foreign Office.


Among its nearly 280.000 volumes the Library of the South Asia Institute of the University of Heidelberg also holds some rare publications from the 18th to the early 20th century. Selected titles are presented in the Digital Collections of Heidelberg University Library and made publicly available via CrossAsia. Apart from historical travel narratives another focus lies on the digitization of works by German Indologists.

Günther-Dietz Sontheimer (1934-1992), since 1977 professor of Religious History of South Asia at the South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg, where he also taught traditional law, Marathi language and Marathi literature, made more than 22,000 slides during his thirty years of research. His slide collection has been digitized and is now accessible through the image database HeidICON. The digitization was funded by the Cluster of Excellence ”Asia and Europe in a Global Context – Shifting Asymmetries in Cultural Flows“.

The Hiteshranjan Sanyal Memorial Archive contains a large collection of textual and visual materials focusing mainly on colonial Bengal. In 1993 the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC) started the microfilming and digitization of early Bengali journals from the colonial period. This unique collection also includes rare Bengali books as well as Assamese journals and books. Based on a Memorandum of Understanding between the CSSSC and the South Asia Institute at Heidelberg University, parts of this collection are now presented in the Digital Collections of Heidelberg University Library and made available on CrossAsia Repository.