Penn’s global collections encompass hundreds of languages and scripts across a broad range of subject areas, preserving the rich cultural and scholarly record from Africa, East Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and South Asia. Initially prompted by 19th-century Orientalist linguistic interests in select languages such as Arabic, Sanskrit, and Chinese, historical collection strengths in archaeology, anthropology, history, literature, and religious studies have broadened to include design, performance, political science, international business, traditional medicine, and indigenous peoples from around the globe. Recent emphasis on underrepresented voices in global collections has privileged the histories, perspectives, personal narratives, and cultural contributions of those who often have remained overlooked. Incorporating materials of visual culture, audio/visual recording, chapbooks, personal documents, and other forms of popular dissemination more equitably presents contributions from all strata of societies around the world.

Anchor Collections

Collage of Hindi film, books, and DVDs.

Hindi & Bollywood Film

The Van Pelt Video Collection is home to more than 1,200 Hindi-language films as well as scholarly and popular books about Hindi and Bollywood film culture.

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Berendt-Brinton Linguistic Collection

The Berendt-Brinton Linguistic Collection is an important repository of Indigenous language materials and other documents, primarily from colonial-era Central America.

Korean fiction.

Korean Contemporary Fiction

The Penn Libraries actively collects contemporary literature from South Korea for study and enjoyment by international students, language learners, and researchers at Penn: a community that continues to grow as Penn's Korean Studies Program and the newly established James Joo-Jin Center for Korean Studies flourish. Upper-level Korean language classes at Penn, in particular, make use of our fiction collection for their coursework every year. As the Penn Libraries expands the global voices represented in its collections, our coverage of contemporary Korean materials will continue to grow.

Three Swahili-language textbooks sitting on a wooden table.

Swahili-Language Materials

While Malagasy has become the most-enrolled African language taught at Penn (with enrollments higher than Ancient Greek, Russian, or Hindi) since 2013, the Penn Libraries have strong collections in other African languages.

Title page detail from Abu Isa al-Tirmidhi, Kitab Shamail al-Mustafa (Fez, Morocco, 1865)

Fez Lithographs Collection

This collection of over 170 titles documents the earliest printing in Morocco. The bulk of the collection dates from 1865 to 1936, covering most of the span of Moroccan lithographic printing from its beginning in the city of Fez to its end during the French Protectorate.

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Arthur Tress Collection of Japanese Illustrated Books

The Arthur Tress Collection of Japanese Illustrated Books includes over 1,400 titles dating from the late 17th century through the 1930s. Genres in the collection include popular illustrated books, such as novels, guidebooks, and theater books; deluxe limited-edition poetry, erotica, and artist-centered books; exquisite editions of books on kimono design; and many others. There are examples of every book genre produced and printed in Japan.

Collage of Manuscripts from the Collection.

South Asian Manuscript Collection

Penn Libraries holds more than 3,000 manuscripts from South Asia, making it one of the largest collections of its kind in the Americas. Predominantly Indic in provenance, the manuscripts are chiefly Sanskrit works written in Devanāgarī script. Though generally informed by traditional Hindu learning, the collection nevertheless remains thematically comprehensive and contains significant Buddhist and Jain texts. (Note: this collection is often referred to as the Collection of Indic Manuscripts.)

Close up of two books sitting on a bench.

Central American Political and Social History

The Penn Libraries Latin American Collection includes a substantial collection of ephemera, books, and audiovisual materials from Central America, focusing on sources for political and social history.

A person holds up a large Japanese flag. Only their feet are visible behind it.

Japanese Women Photographers Collection

The Penn Libraries is actively growing our Japanese Women Photographers Collection, reflecting a vast range of artistic and social visions by Japanese women who may or may not have had a visible platform during their active years as photographers.