Thanjavur Saraswati Mahal library: A rare library in Tamil Nadu

The Thanjavur Maharaja Serfoji’s Sarasvati Mahal Library, or the Sarasvati Mahal, has more than 69,000 printed books, 49,000 manuscripts (25,000 in palm leaves and the rest in paper), and 1,200 Modi documents.

The library has existed from the 17th century, but its present size is due to the efforts of Maratha ruler Serfoji II (1777 – 1832) (the library was renamed in his honour). The library’s catalogue reads like a reader’s dream come true.

Texts on philosophy, religion and literature share shelves with texts on food, medicine, rearing elephants, horses and falcons, improving fruit yield, fortune telling and even water divining.

Books in European languages were purchased by Serfoji II. Most of them have notes written by the king on the margins and are kept in the cupboards originally made for them. The entire book collection of the library numbers 5,000, including the older works of the 16th century from Serfoji’s time when ‘s’ was printed as ‘f’.

The collection includes fiction and non-fiction books. Some are coffee table books on subjects like the sartorial fashions in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, methods of Chinese torture, costumes and occupations in Turkey and China, and so on.

Read more in The Hindu
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