A catalogue of Tibetan Manuscripts at the Bodleian Libraries

About us

The Collections

Karchak is an online catalogue for manuscript and archival descriptions. The name comes from the Tibetan word for catalogue or table of contents (dkar chag).

We have used the phrase "Tibetan manuscripts" to describe manuscripts, xylographs (blockbooks) and archival materials in the Tibetan language but also manuscripts and archival materials about the Tibet Region.

The Bodleian’s Tibetan Collection includes scriptural, commentary, meditation and ritual texts, as well as medical and astronomical manuscripts. Several of the works are illuminated. The principal acquisitions and donations date from 1806 (Captain Samuel Turner’s materials from his Panchen Lama embassy); an 1859 donation by Rev. S.C.Malan of Csoma de Korös’s items; 102 works from the Schlagintweit brothers’ expeditions (purchased 1885); 131 volumes collected by Lieutenant Colonel Waddell (medical officer during the Younghusband invasion of Tibet) and donated by the Indian Government in 1905; Tibetan works from F.W.Thomas (1957); Tibetan works and translations from W.Y. Evans-Wentz and Lama Kazi Dawa Samdup (received 1965); and more recently the Michael Aris (2001), Hugh Richardson (2002), and John Stapleton Driver collections (2016).

Karchak is not a digital library but links will be provided if digital copies become available on line. Printed books in Tibetan and about Tibet are in the Bodleian's SOLO online catalogue.

History & Methodology

The main catalogue before Karchak has been a PDF scan of a typewritten descriptive catalogue created by John Stapleton Driver in the 1970s, and revised by David Barrett in the 1990s, with an idiosyncratic transliteration system.

This online catalogue is based on an open source TEI/XML metadata standard which incorporates established library standards for description (LC Transliteration before 2015, Wylie transliteration since 2015 and LC Subject Headings). Karchak records also include Tibetan script for titles of works.

A large number of entries were created using "legacy data", the intellectual content of predated or historic catalogues, hand-lists and annotated card catalogues. Some records may however, be the result of research carried out by contemporary librarians and academics through consultation of the physical work. Therefore, the level of codicological (physical descriptions of manuscripts) and bibliographic (content and references) detail varies and is changing over time as research proceeds. Currently (2018) work is being done on cataloguing the Driver Collection, approximately 500 manuscripts and xylographs, mostly in the Nyingma tradition.


All the TEI files are available to download from our repository on GitHub.

Contact us

We welcome contributions by holding institutions, scholars or projects creating manuscript descriptions to help us enrich the quality of the records in Karchak. The initial cataloguing work on Karchak was kindly funded by the Aris Trust, but funding for the cataloguing work continues to be problematic.

For feedback, corrections and additions to individual catalogue entries, requests for digital copies, or general queries, please use the Contact us link at the very bottom of every page.