Narthang Canon

The Narthang Canon at Columbia



The Snar-thang edition of the Buddhist Canon was received as a gift to Columbia University in 1955 from Mr. And Mrs. L. Horch. They in turn had acquired this set from Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947) during his expedition to Central Asia between 1925 and 1928.

Some consider the Snar-thang edition to be textually the most reliable of all editions, printed between 1730 and 1732, and based on the earliest Tibetan Canon, the so-called "Old Snar-thang" compiled in the 13th century and indexed by the great scholar Bu-ston in the early 14th century.

Columbia's copy, however, is far from ideal as a scholarly tool. While textually accurate, its printing is legible but far from clear, probably having been produced from blocks that were either not carefully cleaned, or which were worn from heavy use. The paper is a traditional Tibetan hand-made variety, which though durable is of uneven thickness and color.

The folios of this edition average about 7.5 by 30 inches, and are wrapped in red and yellow cloths and placed between two painted pine boards. As the old cloths were in very poor condition and of no intrinsic value, they have recently been replaced by cloths generously provided by Jigme Lhundrup Rinpoche, Office of the Auditors General of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India.

A more legible edition of the text is available electronically via the Core Text Collections of the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC database), which have been purchased by Columbia University and can be accessed with UNI login.


Due to space considerations, the full set of the rare print edition is stored in a climate-controlled offsite (RECAP) facility.  Individual volumes can be requested for onsite reading access in the Rare Books and Manuscript Library (RBML), located on the sixth floor of the Butler Library.  For volume-level information, see outlines provided in the TBRC database.  An RBML online finding aid is also being developed and will soon be posted here.

CLIO record for the Narthang Kanjur (Snar-thang bka' 'gyur)

CLIO record for the Narthang Tanjur (Snar-thang bstan 'gyur)

For more information, please contact the Tibetan Studies Librarian ( ; or the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at (212) 854-5153 or