Tibetan Manuscript Studies: A Research Guide: New York City Area

Tibetan Manuscript Collections in the New York City Area (by institution)


Original Tibetan Studies manuscripts at Columbia University are primarily in three locations: the C.V. Starr East Asian Library (Special Collections), the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and the Burke Library.


C.V. Starr East Asian Library (Special Collections)

17th Century

Official Document from Reign Period of the Fifth Dalai Lama, by Sde srid Blo bzang sbyin pa (1678)

18th Century

Decree by the Seventh Dalai Lama (1723)

Nine Documents from Ladakh

19th Century

Includes seal imprints of 144 noble families and monasteries

  • Land Deed with Official Seal (1883)

  • Kagyu Chanting Text 1: Mgon zhung (dbyangs yig) = [Musical score for chanting in propitiation to protector deity]

20th Century

Documents and publications related to various political campaigns in Lhasa, Tibet, prior to and during the Cultural Revolution. Translations are available for several documents.

Assorted papers of Gegen Dorje Tharchin (1890-1976), founding editor of the Tibet Mirror Press in Kalimpong, India, including subscription lists, financial accounts, correspondence, photos of family and prominent figures, draft publications, etc., and an online version of the Tibet Mirror.

Records from the London headquarters office of the news and research service founded by Robert Barnett and Nick Howen in 1988, including administrative files, TIN publications, and research files on social and poitical conditions in Tibetan regions of the People's Republic of China, primarily from 1989-2001. In process.


Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML)

Tibetan ms. 1

Bhadrakalpika Sutra = Bskal pa bzang po’i mdo

Leaves 1-282? (end) (3 leaves missing)

Handwritten and illuminated in color.

c. 15th century?

The illustrations, two on the verso of each leaf, represent what are said to be “one thousand Buddhas,” though clearly the number actually present is much less than that.

(Tibetan ms. 3 in this collection is another copy of the same text, in a different hand.)

Silver ink on black-washed paper; some red and gold (on p. 150?)

Tibetan ms. 2   (housed with MS 3)

Karmasataka = Las brgya tham pa ba

2 leaves, including title

Handwritten, illustrated in color

c. 15th century?


Tibetan ms. 3  (housed with MS 2)

Bhadrakalpika Sutra = Bskal pa bzang po’i mdo

Leaves numbered 57-276, 4 missing from this range

Handwritten and illustrated in color

c. 15th century?

Silver ink on black-washed paper

The illustrations are said to be “one thousand Buddhas,” although in fact the number present is clearly much less.  Tibetan ms. In this collection is an apparently more complete copy of the same text, in a different hand.

Tibetan ms. 4

Life of Gshen-rab (Bon-po)

Leaves numbered 1-306, some missing; approx. 8.5” x 26.5” (needs verifying?)

Handwritten, illuminated in color

c. 15th century?

Gshen-rab was the legendary founder of Bon-po, the shamanistic native religion of Tibet. After Buddhism and the art of writing were introduced (7th century) athe Bon preists created their own literature largely on Buddhist models. The illustrations of the present manuscript are in a style going back to the 11th-12th centuries but the orthography is clearly much la

Tibetan ms. 5

Klu ‘bum (Bon po)

33 leaves, in the range 92-163 of volume 2 plus 226 of v. 3

c. 15th century?

Bon-po is the pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet. After the introduction of Buddhism and the art of writing (7th century), Bon generated its own literature largely on Buddhist models; this item and ms. 4 are from theis tradition.

Remarks (LH): Good condition. Silver ink on black-washed paper.

Tibetan ms. 6

Lotus sutra = Dam chos padma dkar po’i mdo

255 leaves, numbered in range 2-275


c. 15th century?

This purports to be the Lotus Sutra, one of the most famous texts of Mahayana Buddhism. Until it is examined though we cannot exclude the possibility that it is really a Bon-po imitation (?) given that it was found interleaved with two Bon-po texts (see mss 4, 5)

Remarks (LH): Good condition. Silver ink on black-washed paper.  Also some gold ink.


Burke Library

  • Tibetan Religious Literature Depot, reports, 1919-1922
  • Tibetan Forward Mission

Note: For additional Tibetan rare book holdings at Columbia University, please contact the Tibetan Studies Librarian, Dr. Lauran Hartley: lh2112@columbia.edu, phone: 212-854-9875.



Valrae Reynolds, Amy Heller, Janet Gyatso. 1986. Catalogue of the Tibetan Collection.

Reynolds, Valrae 1991. Discoveries about Tibetan manuscripts in the Newark Museum. Hand Papermaking 6 (2) 20-23.


Christianity in China: A Scholars' Guide to Resources in the Libraries and ..., by Xiaoxin Wu

He states: "The Newark Museum’s Tibetan Archive was founded with material obtained from Albert L. Shelton, MD of the Disciples of Chirst Foreign Christian Missionary Society, active in the Sino Tibetan border region, from 1904-1922. It also includes materials from Ekvall, Holton, Griebenow, and the Christian Missionary Alliance. Specifically:

  • 59 Handwritten manuscripts, collected by Shelton and 10 by Carter D Holton.
  • 12-19th century: prayer books, sutras, bios of lamas, astrological,
  • Tibetan Missionary. Tibetan Mission, Pa-an,

See the entry for  “The Newark Museum” in:

A survey of tibetan xylographs and manuscripts in institutions and private collections in the USA and Canada / Horace I Poleman, 1961.  (see Catalogs)

Xiaoxin Wu's book also mentions the following collections, all of which contain Tibetan materials:

San Jose Christian College Archives

Claremont College

Paul Stevenson Papers, Washington University, St. Louis, MO

Archives of the Billy Graham Center Wheaton IL

  • Carol Carlson, oral history 1920s-1940s