Adventures at the National Library

If you follow the steps, it all seems to work out.


  1. Two passport sized photos
  2. Application form duly filled out, signed AND stamped by your institution (Fulbright)
  3. Official joining letter from affiliating University in India.

Daily routing once you have membership entering the library:

  • Entering the Library grounds? Sign in.
  • Entering the Library building? Sign and bag check.
  • Entering a room? Sign in.
  • Viewing a material once you enter a room? Sign in and fill out form.
  • Photocopies of material? Fill out form, get materials, pay for it at the cash counter, which is open some very strange hours
  • Bringing a Laptop?  No big deal right? Wrong.

Each department (Reading Room, Rare Books, Microfilm etc) that you wish to bring your laptop in, you have to write a formal letter to the Director General of the Library for permission. Four letters later, after much signing and dating: success!

Cameras? Out of the question.

Luckily, with Desh and a very helpful Library staff (once you cleared the bureaucratic hurdles), things went fairly smoothly. I was able to go down to the Rare Books section, enter the through the two very impressive steel bank vaults and see the original copies of Hicky’s Gazette along with other cool items.

The Microfilm department staff (called the Reprography department, or some sort of strange name) have been great, and very efficient so far at making hard copies, though they do not have the equipment to scan documents. I’m currently working on digitizing the missing sections from Hicky’s Gazette myself.

The Library has the only microfilmed copies of Hyde legal Notebooks, which span some 20 odd years of his legal career at the Supreme Court in Calcutta, from the 1770s to the 1790s and compose the only legal records available from that time in West Bengal. (Hicky’s libel cases feature in his notebooks).

The Library also has an old newspaper section on Esplanade, whose collection dates to around 1830-1840, with the newspaper, Friend of India being the first. It’s housed in a dubious old government building. But once you enter, it has the musty old smell and look that I’ve grown accustomed to.

All in all, a bureaucratic, but certainly pleasant experience.