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Southeast Asian Rare Books and Manuscripts in the Asian Reading Room at the Library of Congress

This guide lists rare books and manuscripts in various Southeast Asian languages (e.g., Balinese, Burmese, Javanese, Khmer, Lao, Thai, Vietnamese) open for research in the Asian Reading Room of the Library of Congress.


The Southeast Asian Rare Book Collection includes over 1,850 items on topics such as history, religion, language, medicine, astrology and politics. The works are in a number of languages and scripts. Most of these works are manuscripts, but the collection also includes rare and early books, newspapers, government documents, colonial-era works, posters, letters, miniature books, and other formats outside the Western definition of a book. Beyond the Asian Reading Room, rare materials from Southeast Asia can be found in other reading rooms of the Library, and especially at the Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room, Geography and Map Reading Room and the Manuscript Reading Room.

This guide provides basic information about Southeast Asian rare books and manuscripts at the Asian Reading Room. In particular, it contains lists of manuscripts in Balinese, Batak, Bugis, Burmese, Hmong, Javanese, Khmer, Lao, Malay, and Thai languages; Pali language manuscripts in Burmese, Khmer, Thai, and Thai-Khom scripts; and Vietnamese texts in Chữ Nôm script. It also concurrently lists rare books, including a large number of Christian missionary works, and some related works in European languages, where available on each page. The Christian works include many, but not all, of the rare works in minority languages such as Chin, Hiligayon, Hmong, Iloko, Karen, Khün, Kinaray-a, Mon, Pangasinan, and Shan. Other languages in the collection include: Bengali, English, French, Hindi, Iban, Japanese, Latin, Madurese, Pampangan, Spanish, Urdu and Waray/Bisaya. Nearly all of these titles are catalogued. The lists contain links to each title's record in the Library of Congress Online Public Access Catalog where available.

There are more items in the Southeast Asian Rare Book Collection that are not listed in this guide. If you have any questions about the Southeast Asian Rare Book Collection, please contact Asian Reading Room reference librarians using our Ask a Librarian service. Please note rare materials are available by appointment only. For more information, please see the Asian Reading Room’s Rare Book Policy. To schedule an appointment or to ask questions about the collection (including uncatalogued items or items not listed in this guide), please contact reference staff through the Ask a Librarian service.

About the Asian Division

The Asian Reading Room provides public access to more than 4 million items in approximately 200 languages and dialects from across Asia, including Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Thai, Tibetan, Urdu, Vietnamese, and many others. In the reading room, researchers can use the Asian Division’s collections of printed materials, microform, and databases and confer with reference librarians to answer research questions about the countries of East, South, and Southeast Asia.