About the collection

We acquire materials on the countries of South Asia and dealing principally with the humanities and social sciences. South Asia includes:

  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • India
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka / Ceylon


The Ames Library also collects material related to Burma / Myanmar and Tibet, due to prior historical and political involvement with India. The majority of our material is in English, but we also collect in the vernacular languages of South Asia, particularly in Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telegu, and Urdu.

The book that started it all . . .

Ames Fireplace Bookplate. . . taken by Charles Lesley Ames as reading material on a trip to England in 1907, W. H. Fitchett's The Tale of the Great Mutiny so impressed its reader that he spent the rest of his life building a library on the British-Indian interaction.

In 1961, after more than 50 years of dedicated collecting, Ames gave his library to the University of Minnesota. The gift of over 25,000 titles, including manuscripts, photographs, maps, prints and drawings, immediately established the University as having one of the pre-eminent libraries for the study of South Asia in the western world.


Mr. Ames' Gift

The main focus of the collection donated by Mr. Ames is the British-Indian interaction. Particularly noteworthy are the holdings of:

  • Military and regimental histories
  • Administration of India (including many manuscripts of Viceroys and Governors-General)
  • Travel and description
  • Histories and accounts of wars and battles
  • Official publicatons


A Department of Education Title IIC grant provided funding for the cataloging of rare books, pamphlets, tracts and manuscripts in the collection.

Additional Gifts

Several others have followed Mr. Ames' example and have given their libraries to enrich the Ames Library:

  • The Abdus Salam Collection of Persian and Urdu materials
  • The Long Beach Collection of Bengali materials
  • The Trois Johnson Collection of Portuguese materials

PL480 Program

The Public Law 480 Program of the Library of Congress added over 100,000 volumes of scholarly materials from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka to the Ames Library of South Asia.

Additional materials related to South Asia are held in many other collections within the University of Minnesota Libraries. Search MNCAT, the online catalog of the University of Minnesota Libraries. You may also wish to consult the James Ford Bell Library, a division of Rare Books and Special Collections that focuses on expansion of western commerce and civilization from the 14th to 18th century.