The systematic arrangement of texts of a library or a manuscript repository is known as cataloguing. It is also the first stage of research in manuscript studies.It is interesting to note that while for books the colon classification and Dewey decimal classification system are used in libraries, custodians often adopt their own systems for manuscripts. In printed / electronic form, manuscripts can be arranged in alphabetical order according to subject, title, author, place, language and script. On the shelf, it can be organized by object and place.

      The Anukramanikas (indices) and Nighantus (etymology) give some idea of indexing and classifications. TheKosas (Metrical Dictionaries) have a system of classification of words in alphabetical order. The anthologies in Sanskrit literature provide different methods of subject wise classification. The catalogues can be provided to the scholars in printed form and / or in electronic format through the intranet and / or the internet.

      • Card index

      Generally, custodians use cards indices and the minimum fields required for standard card indexing are:

      1. Title 7. Substance
      2. Author 8. Status
      3. Collection of manuscripts 9. Language
      4. Commentary 10. Script
      5. Commentator 11. No. of folios
      6. Condition of manuscript 12. Subject


      • Accession Register

      The master record of every bibliographic item in the library is called an accession register. We can use it as Alphabetical Register and list the items by title, author or subject. It is also known as a Tabular Catalogue due to the table-catalogued form in a printed catalogue. The standard fields including Call No.; Class No. and initial letters of author's name are:

      1. Title 11.

      Size of manuscript

      2. Author 12.


      3. Commentary 13.

      Status (Com/Incom.)

      4. Commentator 14.


      5. Language 15.

      Missing Portion

      6. Script 16.

      Condition of manuscript

      7. Date of manuscript 17.


      8. Scribe 18.

      Name of repository with address


      Bundle No. and Manuscript No.


      Call No.

      10. No. of Folio 20.

      Class No.

      21. Remarks    
      • Triennial Catalogue

      A report collected once every three years is a triennial catalogue. For example, the one at Government Oriental Manuscript Library and Research Centre, Chennai.

      • Descriptive Catalogue

      A Descriptive Catalogue furnishes such a detailed description of the manuscript. It has three parts – a) Physical Description, b) Catalogue Description, c) Publication. A scholar requires these three parts when he/she takes up any manuscript for research or critical editing, but when a cataloguer prepares the catalogue upon direct consultation with the manuscript, the catalogue description is not necessary. The cataloguer may also give information of copies of a manuscript available in other repositories.

      • Physical Description


      The name of repository or institution


      No. of Folios


      Serial No. or Record No.


      Missing Folios




      No. of Syllables (aksaras)


      Other Title


      No. of lines in a page




      No. of letters in a line


      Joint Author


      No. of Granthas










      Scribe & Place


      /Reviser of commentary




      Beginning Line




      Ending Line


      Status: Complete/Incomplete




      Condition of manuscript


      Post Colophon









      • Catalogue Description
      1. Title of the catalogue 6. Volume
      2. Cataloguer/Editor 7. Part No.
      3. Special Collection 8. Bundle No.
      4. Year 9. Manuscript No.
      5. Serial No. 10. Library Acc. No.
      • ​Publication Details
      1. Title 6. Language
      2. Editor 7. Publisher
      3. Translator 8. Place
      4. Translation 9. Year

      The cataloguer must write the information in Roman script with diacritical marks or in the original script like Devanagari, including regional languages. It should be written in Pratipadika (mula) or without vibhaktyanta in the standardized catalogue format for greater comprehension i.e. 'Gitagovinda' not Gitagovindah or Gitagovindam or Gitagovindamu or Gitagovind etc. If any variation comes in regional or national languages, the remarks field should be used. The regional variations of pronunciation and writing of letters such as ba/va, sha/sa, ta/tha etc. should be avoided. The National Mission for Manuscripts has standardized the cataloguing format of fields and subjects, diacritical marks in Roman, Arabic/Persian scripts and developed the National Electronic Catalogue of Manuscripts .

      Record No.

      The serial number of manuscripts of the repository that starts from 1 to the total number of manuscripts.

      Date of data collection

      The date, when data was collected or recorded in this prescribed format.

      Institution/Personal Collection
      • Refers to the entity responsible for making the resource available Institute refers to a University, library, Trust, NGO, Govt. organization, temple, mosque or any other organization managed by more than one person.
      • Personal collection refers to an individual or private collection.

      The complete postal address of the institution or individual that owns the manuscript


      A name given to the resource or text or object

      • This refers to ‘shirshaka' or ‘pustak ka naam' such as ‘ Ramcaritamanasa', ‘ Raghuvamsa' . The title should be as per written in the manuscript without vibhaktyanta or regional variations in pronunciations.
      • It is found either at the beginning of the text or in the colophon, inter colophon or post colophon.
      • If not available at the beginning or end of the colophon, the name may be written within brackets or in the remarks column after comparison with other texts.
      • If there are no means available to find out the name of the text then fill in ‘unknown'.
      • If the text comes with a commentary, the title of the commentary shall be included. e.g. 'Bhagavadgitatikasahita '. If the text contains only a commentary, the title should be Bhagavadgitati ka or the name of commentary.
      • Alternative titles or parallel titles, if any, must also be noted.
      • One data sheet should be filled in for one manuscript title, although the manuscript may be in more than one folio. If a manuscript is available in more than one volume then separate forms may be filled up for each volume.
      • If there is one volume with more than one title in it, then separate forms may be used for each title.
      • If the title is not available, a few lines from the beginning and end of the text each should be included in ‘Remarks'
      Parallel Title

      An alternative or parallel name given to the resource or text or object

      • The other title may be written in brackets if the name is mentioned in the text, otherwise it should be mentioned in the Remarks such as the other title of Gitagovinda is Astapadi
      • The person primarily responsible for creating the intellectual content of the text.
      • The name of the author may be found at the beginning or the end or in the colophon of the text.
      • If the name is not found then ‘unknown' may be written.
      • No name must be written even if the cataloguer can identify the author on his/her own.
      • Cataloguer can write the history or any information about the author in ‘Remarks'.
      • Identification of the author can be made with the help of key words like kriti, rachita, virachita, etc.
      Joint Author

      This refers to person/s jointly responsible for creating the intellectual content of the manuscript, usually the son or successor of the first author who completes the text either simultaneously or later.


      Refers to the notes explaining or interpreting a written text/document:

      •  The different names for a commentary are ‘ tika', ‘tippana' ‘tippanika', ‘avachuri', ‘bhashya', ‘vritti', ‘bhasha tika', etc.
      • A text may contain more than one commentary and, if so, these must be mentioned.
      • The commemtary can be identified and distinguished from the mula (primary text) by the symbol (pratika) ' iti '.

      The person primarily responsible for interpreting the intellectual content of a text; Author of the commentary; also known as ‘ tikakara',‘tikakarta', ‘bhasyakarta' ‘vrttikara'


      Language (systems of meaning) in which the text is written.

      • There may be several different languages used in a single manuscript, such as Hindi or Gujarati with a Bengali commentary and the script for all these languages may be the same.

      Refers to the recognized signs and characters used to represent the units of language in a systematic fashion, such as Newari, Grantha and Brahmi.Many Indian languages have the same name as their script like Oriya, Telugu and Tamil.

      Date of creation of manuscript by the scribe/writer

      • It must be distinguished from the date of authorship of the text itself. Here, date refers to when a particular manuscript was put to writing.
      • It may available in the post colophon ( uttara pushpika ), although it may also appear in the beginning of the manuscript.
      • The date may appear in several ways – sometimes in Arabic numerals and sometimes through symbols of deities or nature such as, Indu -1, Yama - 2, Bhuvana - 3, Veda – 4, Bana – 5, etc. and counted from right to left side for decoding the date.
      • If the date is not found, ‘Not available' must be written.
      • Sometimes you may have to derive the date of a text on the basis of comparisons with other versions of the text or carefully studying the script or dating of the material on which it is written.
      • The Amarakosa and other kosas are helpful to decode the date of manuscripts. In many south Indian manuscripts, date is decoded by Katapayadi system like, kadinava, Tadinava, Padipancha and Yadyashta.
      • Bharatiya Prachina Lipimala (G.S.Ojha), Pandulivijnana (Satyendra), Indian Epigraphy (D. C. Sircar) may be consulted for decoding the dates. Some conversions are given below:
      1. Kaliyuga samvat – 3101 or 3100 = A.D
      2. Veeranirvana samvat – 487 = A.D
      3. Maurya samvat – 320 = A.D
      4. Caitradi Vikram samvat – 57 = A.D
      5. Shaka samvat + 78 = A.D.
      6. Kalichuri samvat + 248 = A.D.
      7. Gupta samvat + 320 = A.D.
      8. Gangeya samvat + 570 = A.D.
      9. Harsha samvat + 606 = A.D.
      10. Kollam samvat + 824 = A.D.
      11. Newar samvat + 878 = A.D.
      12. Chalukya Vikram samvat + 1075 = A.D.
      13. Lakshmana Sena samvat + 1118 = A.D.
      14. Shahur san + 599 = A.D.
      15. Uttari Phasali san + 592 = A.D.
      16. Dakshini Phasali san + 590 = A.D.
      17. Bangali san + 593 = A.D.
      18. Magi san + 638 = A.D.
      19. Ilahi san + 1555 = A.D.
      20. Rajyabhisheka samvat + 1674 = A.D.
      21. Hizari san + 622 = A.D.

      This refers to the person who has written the copy of the manuscript.

      • The scribe is usually different from the author; he is the person who copies a particular manuscript.
      • Name of the scribe is usually given in the post colophon or uttara pushpika .
      • The name of scribe/writer, his place, father's name, his genealogy and profession should be mentioned in the format.
      • The scribe just copies the text as he reads or understands from the copy codex or exemplar.
      • The words like Lekhaka, pustakavachaka , etc. are used for scribes (types of scribes are Pustakalekhaka, Kayasthalekhaka and Shasanalekhaka)
      • The scribe advises readers on how to use and handle the codex or manuscript and to protect it from oil, water, mouse, natural disaster, fire, humidity and insects, etc. (PHOTO)
      • Indian scribes often write interesting verses at the end of a manuscript. Given below are two examples:

      “ My back and waist and neck are strained, my fist is balled, my head's turned down. With difficulty this has been written! With care one should protect it.”

      Reviser/ Translator
      • Revisor is the person who prepares new, edited version of a text Sometimes the reviser reconstructs the text from one language or script to another language or script. Such revision is much often noted in Buddhist and Islamic texts.
      • Translator is the person who translates the language from one to another such as from Tibetan to Sanskrit.

      Refers to the topic/theme of the manuscript

      • Can be expressed in keywords or phrases that describe the content of the manuscript.
      • It might also include classification data, for example, Library of Congress Classification and Dewey Decimal numbers or controlled vocabularies.
      • For subject headings and sub-headings, Indian terminology of the concerned languages should be used, for instance, Veda, Kavya, Natya, Fiqh, Itihasa, Darsana, Tantra, Jyotisa and Nujum.
      • The English terminology can be used along with Indian Terminology such as Vedas> Rigvedasamhita> Vedic literature , where ‘Veda' is the broad subject category, ‘Rigvedasamhita' is the specific branch of study and ‘Vedic literature' is the English equivalent.
      • The classified string of subjects is extremely effective for retrieval purposes.
      • NMM subject list and classifications should be followed in subject classification
      Beginning Line

      The starting lines or some stanzas of the text

      • It should be written in Roman script with diacritical marks or in Devanagari.
      • The small texts of a Stotra may be noted. e.g.: Aum namo ganeśāya, namo arihantānam, siddham or any auspicious symbols or any mangala sloka of iṣṭadeva.
      • If the starting portion of first folio is missing, the starting text of the available portion may be noted.
      Ending Line

      The ending lines or stanzas of the text before colophon

      • It should be written in Roman script with diacritical marks or in Devanagari/Arabic

      It is the anukramanika , the list of chapters and sections of the treatise including key words or phrases that describe the content of the resource.

      This refers to the declaration of ending the text.

      • Usually contains names of author and scribe, often with a short biographical note informing us about their native place, parentage, name of the guru and so on.
      • Three types of colophon: inter-text colophon, text colophon and post colophon. Inter-text colophon comes in the end of a chapter (iti prathamo’dhyāya samāptaḥ), text colophon comes at the end of a text (iti samāpto’yaṃ granthaḥ). Generally, the author composes these two colophons and the scribe writes the post colophon ( uttara puspika ).
      • The names of a text and author and date of composition are available in first two colophons and sometimes in the third.
      • The third post colophon is very important for the study of history of a text and manuscript - it describes the composer, scribe, for what purpose he writes, date of writing or copying the manuscript, any praise of patron, dedications to patron, whether writing by order of a king or royal person, handling of manuscript, sometimes conservation and preservation of manuscript, etc. Bundle No./ Manuscript No.
      Bundle No./ Manuscript No.
      • A string or number used to uniquely identify the two or more manuscripts/resources bound as one.
      • In one bundle having two or more manuscripts, the bundle name will be same for each manuscript in the bundle but the manuscript numbers will vary. If, for example, bundle no. 1 contains 3 manuscripts, then the manuscript no.s will be denoted as 1.1, 1.2, and 1.3.
      • The number of bundle and manuscript should be followed like 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, and not 1.a, 1.b, 1.c.
      • The Bundle No. and Manuscript No. should be identified and separated by dot ( . ) only, not by any slash (/) or any other divider
      No. of Folios

      Refers to the number of the folios within a manuscript

      • Blank folios should be included in the tally and noted in Remarks.
      • One folio is counted for both 1a and 1b (obverse and reverse) sides
      • Number of folios in a manuscript can be different from its pagination. For instance, a manuscript may have folios numbered from 1 to 50 and if folios 4-8 are missing, then the number of folios in the manuscript is 45.
      Size of manuscript

      Height x Width, measured in centimeters

      No. of Granthas

      It refers to total number of syllables in the text.

      • Though many metres are used in the text, Anustup is the standardized metre with 32 syllables for granthamana.
      • Granthamana = Number of syllables in a line x Number of approximate lines in a page x total Number of folios divided by 32.

      Refers to the substance or adharapatala that the manuscript is made of including ivory, palm leaf, birch-bark, wood, gold, silver, paper, tortoise shell, agaru-bark, sanchi-pat, tula-pat, etc.

      Refers to pictures or diagrams that may accompany the text. Mention must be made of:

      • Total number of illustrations
      • Size of each illustration
      • Detailed descriptions of illustrations
      • If something is drawn on one side of a folio and whether there appears text on the other side.
      • If any folio or a part of folio is blank
      • If space is left for an illustration on a folio, but it is not filled in
      • One must note the border, margins, cover illustrations
      • Name of the painter/patron is sometimes found below the illustration
      Status: (Complete / Incomplete)
      • If the text is complete ‘Com' or ‘Complete' shall be written
      • If incomplete fill in ‘Inc' or ‘Incomplete'
      • If one chapter of a text in a bundle is complete, it is complete, but write the name of text with chapter in bracket.
      • If some folios are missing in the middle but beginning and ending exist, it is incomplete.
      Missing Portion

      Refers to missing text, if at all. Indicate missing folios, if possible, like this - 1-3, 9-11,19-23.


      Refers to the condition of the manuscript—‘good', ‘bad', ‘ worm infected' ‘fungus', and ‘stuck folio ', ‘brittle'; ‘illustration/script illegible'.

      Source of Catalogue

      This refers to the source on which the cataloguing is based. Not applicable in case a primary text itself is used.

      • The details of the manuscript, if it is available elsewhere.
      • If it is published or unpublished.
      • Material of the cover of the manuscript – ivory, skin, wood etc.
      • Whether there is anything written accompanying the text like notes
      • The cataloguer can use this column for giving extra information
      • If a number of grammatical mistakes/errors occur in the text, or the text is error-free, it should be mentioned here.
      • The calligraphy, type of ink used in the text, special size or shape of manuscript, if any i.e.. gandi, kacchapi, musti, samputaphalaka, chedapati, scroll; the style of writing i.e. tripatha, caturpatha, suksmaksari, sunda and ornamentation of the text should be mentioned.
      • Details of illustrated manuscripts should be documented – colour, illustrations, style.

      If the text is printed or litho-typed:

      • If the text is printed with critical edition or popular edition or vulgate edition or student edition, then refer to the title, editor, translator, language, publisher, place of publication and year of publication.
      • The bibliography of the text may be given.

      History of cataloguing