The Csoma Collection

Alexander Csoma de Kőrös (Bust
by Barnabás Holló, Palace of the Academy)
The Tibetan manuscripts and block-prints of the founder of Tibetan studies, Alexander Csoma de Kőrös (1784–1842), were acquired by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1885, thanks to his biographer, Theodore Duka (1825–1908). Csoma gave these works to S. C. Malan (1812–1894), secretary of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1839. Upon Duka's request, Malan annotated and sent the library of 40 items to the Academy. The collection was first introduced to the public by Louis Ligeti in an article in Tou'ng Pao in 1933. He stated that the 40 items were actually 36 books. In 1942, the first cataloguer of the collection, Lajos Gyula Nagy added two other items to the small collection. József Terjék, the next curator of Tibetan manuscripts, gave a detailed analysis of the works in his Csoma de Kőrös Documents in the Collections of the Academy Library (in Hungarian, 1976). On the basis of formal criteria, he divided the small collection into two parts: the most precious items are the so-called Alexander books, written by scholarly lamas in answer to Csoma's questions, the other part contained works purchased or copied. In thematic terms, the Csoma library includes various fields of Tibetan scholarship: works in Buddhist philosophy, Tantra, Tibetan linguistics, poetry, chronology and history of Buddhism. The Csoma Collection also includes the works and correspondence of Alexander Csoma de Kőrös supplemented by those letters and paper cuts which relate to his life and works. This collection also goes back to the donations of Theodore Duka but has been growing ever since.

In 2006 a grant from the National Cultural Fund made the online cataloguing of the Csoma and Duka bequests possible within ALEPH, the online catalogue of the Library; they are searchable in two sub-bases: Rare Books – Old Books, Manuscripts of the Oriental Collection.

A special web page is dedicated to Alexander Csoma de Kőrös and his legacy.

The small Csoma collection forms the core of the largest special material of the Oriental Collection, the Tibetan manuscripts and block-prints now amounting to some 6,000 items. The catalogue of this enormous corpus was compiled by Gergely Orosz.

Csoma's tomb in Darjeeling (Oil painting with
the lines of Count István Széchenyi, Department
of Manuscripts & Rare Books, K 211)
A plaque of Csoma's tomb from the Count István Széchenyi Bequest. The Hungarian inscription reads:

A poor and deserted Magyar with no funds or applause, yet driven by a patriotic resolve and perseverance … sought to find the cradle of the Magyars, but came to be overwhelmed by his pains. You, our land's mighty and rich, should follow the example of this orphan-boy and be faithful Magyars not in words but in deeds, inspired not by empty display but by a devotional fervor.

UNESCO Memory of the World Registered Heritage 2009