Rare books reach end of chapter in PU

While experts have already declared this book as ‘irreversibly damaged’, the 17th Century original manuscript of ‘Kadambari Katha in Gurmukhi’ is a pile of faded, torn and brittle pages. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as the university’s envious rich collection of around 20,000 old and rare books, dating back to 17th century and 1,492 original manuscripts (many of which are donated by the alumni), is deteriorating.

‘At least 30 manuscripts and as many rare books are badly damaged and need immediate restoration. Some are damaged beyond repair,’ says Assistant Archivist Mritunjay Kumar, who was appointed recently for conservation of rare books.

Experts feel that same fate awaits rest of the collection, especially in the absence of a conservation laboratory.
University’s only ray of hope now is a grant of Rs 2 lakh’ promised by MP Pawan Bansal more than six months ago’ for installation of machinery for conservation work.

‘We are regularly corresponding with the MP for the grant and expect it soon,’ says PU Chief Librarian Dr V.K. Anand.

‘I have personally evaluated all such books. It’s a treasure for the research scholars, but we can’t display them or issue them, for they will get damaged,’ he adds.

‘The conservation process involves fumigation, de-acidification and incubation. As this requires separate machinery, the process can take place only in a specialised laboratory,’ adds Mritunjay. Priceless books and manuscripts are much sought after by the research scholars, especially those visiting from other countries.
Treasure on shelf The library has 1,492 manuscripts in Persian, Urdu, Sanskrit, Hindi, Punjabi and Sharda languages and scripts, covering Persian court etiquette, Hindu religious scriptures, writings of Sikh gurus, documents of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s court, etc.

There are books that contain records of Mutiny, writings on tribes of north-eastern states and Andaman and Nicobar by English authors, report on results of scientific voyages, education records of colonial days, factory records, Sanskrit and Hindi literature and art and architecture by medieval travellers.

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