Staff Reporter

United Theological College has a collection of

5,000 palm leaf manuscripts

BANGALORE: Rare palm-leaf collections, manuscripts and books at the United Theological College here have been digitised and microfilmed with financial assistance from the U.S. Consulate-General.

This leading theological institution in the country was established in Bangalore in 1910, and its library attracts a large number of researchers from India and abroad.

The exercise to digitise and microfilm the manuscripts was started in October 2006 under the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Presentation given by the U.S. Department of State for preserving historic sites and manuscripts, museum collections and traditional forms of expression such as music, dance and language.

The college received $35,000 to digitise and microfilm invaluable documents of the past.

Rare books

“Nearly one lakh pages of rare books and manuscripts apart from 5,000 palm leaves have been digitised under the programme,” principal of the college O.V. Jathanna told The Hindu.

“Some of the original material available in the library archive was getting old and had become brittle. Theological and secular scholars involved in research in sociology, ethnography and history have been using the library facilities, and digitising will help in providing better access to the materials.”

The collection at the theological college includes 5,000 palm leaf manuscripts that are over 200 years old in several Indian languages. A release from the U.S. Consulate-General said that the palm leaves bear testimony to the country’s cultural heritage.

Information on folk literature, native medicinal formulae, religious writings, astrological texts, astronomical facts, records of cultural practices, traditional systems of medicine, veterinary, agricultural science, crafts and skills are available in the palm leaf collection.

Among the rare books digitised under the project are the first printed Bible in India that dates back to 18th Century.

This Tamil version was printed at Tranquebar, present-day Tharangambadi. According to the Head of the Department of Communication Studies Sham P. Thomas, the library archive has been enriched by contributions by individuals and organisations.

Historical records

The college library has about 75,000 books, 672 periodical titles, 420 microfilms of historical records and 23,023 microfiches which include the Indian Census from 1872.

Some of the treasures in the archives are Martin Luther’s Commentary on the Galatians in Latin, printed in Basel in 1523 and Bartholomew Ziegenbalg’s Grammatica Damulica, Hale (1716).