Log on to download rare books on Pune

The next time you search for a rare edition of a book on Pune, the University of California Library or the Toronto Library might be of help. Limited and rare editions of old books on Pune and Maharashtra are available for download from website archive.org. A host for the Open Library project, the website has digitised and uploaded over a million books and allows access to full-text downloadable versions. The system is run by Internet Archive, a not-for-profit San Francisco organisation.

A book published in 1921, Poona in Bygone Days, emerges amongst the titles the website has. Contributed by the University of California Library, the book has old pictures of the city and gives in-depth commentary on the city. Several such books, from the History of the Maratha People written by Kincaid in 1870 and digitised by the University of Toronto, to a paper by the Royal Asiatic Society, 1900 titled Introduction to the Peishwa's Diaries contributed by the University of California Library are part of the archives. The project gets contributions from over 25 libraries across the globe.

Says historian Ninand Bedekar, "I found a copy of The Book of Bombay, 1883 written by James Douglas, online. I think it's one of the few copies available. This project has enabled us to access such rare books on Pune and Maharashtra."

In fact, the Thomas Fisher Rare book library, University of Toronto has over 600 titles on Pune and its history. "These books were either bought by Americans or the British when they were here. They were eventually taken to their countries. The good thing is that they digitised them and made them available online. This has ensured these books are conserved for posterity," said Bedekar.

While digitisation has begun in a few libraries in Pune like the Bharat Ithihaas Sanshodhan Mandal (BISM) and the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute library, a lot of old books are still inaccessible to public. "The only commendable work as far as digitisation in the country is the project by the National Mission for Manuscripts. It has put a lot of books online and digitised old records," says Mandar Lavate, a history researcher at the BISM.

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