Heritage of India Series

Association Press / YMCA Publishing House (Calcutta, India)
Series dates: 1915-1971
Size:¬†4.75″ x 7.25″ (paper), 5″ x 7.5″ (cloth)

Oxford University Press (London, UK)
Series dates: 1918-1938
Size:¬†4.75″ x 7.25″ (paper), 5″ x 7.5″ (cloth)

According to one source (John F. Riddick, The History of British India: A Chronology, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006 p. 155), the origins of the Heritage of India Series and its publisher, Association Press (later, YMCA Publishing House) are Indian missionary educational activities around 1912:

“18-21 Dec. 1912. The India National (Missionary) Conference convened at Calcutta. One of Its principal conclusions recognized the need of good Christian literature in both English and the vernaculars. The Conference established a committee consisting of Rev. John N. Farquhar (1861-1929), Rev. C.F. Andrews (1871-1940) and ten others. By 1914 the Committee proposed three series: The Quest of India Series, The Indian Religious Life Series, and The Heritage of India Series. This literature aimed at embracing the standards of high accuracy, sympathy and faithfulness to Christian principles.”

The publishing house was “funded with grants from International YMCA.” (YMCA Year Book and Official Rosters, National Councils of the Young Men’s Christian Associations of Canada and the United States of America, 1951).

Oxford University Press, with its strong presence in India, co-published the series in the UK until 1938. Earlier copies of the series tend to have the Association Press imprint (until around 1935) when the name is changed to the YMCA Publishing House.

Heritage of India Series titles were first issued in 1915, most likely in India. By 1918, copies were being advertised and reviewed in England:

The Times Literary Supplement¬†(Thursday, March 21, 1918): “…a library planned so that every educated Indian, as well as European, whether rich or poor, may share in the wisdom and beauty of India’s past.”

An advertisement in The Times Literary Supplement (Thursday, May 02, 1918) announces the first title in the series published in England (Asoka, by James M. Macphail). The last mention of the series in the Times Literary Supplement is in  1933. The Oxford University Press seems to end its publication of the series in 1938. Association Press / YMCA Publishing House continued to publish the series up to at least 1971

The series seems to have been available in both cloth and paperback formats. After the Association Press / YMCA Publishing House stopped publishing the series in or around 1971, selected titles were reprinted by other publishers:

1976: Arnaldo Forni (Bologna, Italy)
1978: Oriental Books Reprint Corp. (New Delhi, India)
1980: Sanskrit Book Depot (Calcutta, India)
1981: Motilal Banarsidass (Delhi, India)
1985: Pioneer Book Services (Madras, India)
1988: Asian Education Service India/South Asia Books (New Delhi, India)

…and so on.

This copy of E.P. Rice’s Kanarese Literature appears to be a 1921 second edition in the series, the first being published in the initial year for the series, 1915. Jackets are common to the series, printed on yellow paper. The spine contains only the title and author. The front of the jacket includes the series name and a lotus design as a series colophon (signed “TNS” or “TAS”). The front jacket flap includes select titles in the Heritage of India Series and The Religious Life of India series, as well as the Calcutta and London (Oxford) publishers.

The back of the book’s jacket is blank; the rear flap lists select titles from The Religious Quest of India Series and press titles not in the three series.

Pale orange cloth bindings include gold typography on the spine (title, author) and the series colophon printed in black on the front cover.

The initial page of printing in the book consists of a categorized catalog of titles in the series. Nine titles are available, and a long list of titles in preparation and proposed follows, continuing on the next page.

Facing the second page of proposed and forthcoming series titles is an editorial preface explaining the ideas behind the series.

There is no half-title page. An illustration, on heavier glossy paper, faces the title page. The title page includes the series name, title, author, publisher’s imprint and year of publication.

On the reverse of the copyright page: “The right to translation is reserved.” The dedication for the book follows.

“Printed at the Wesleyan Mission Press, Mysore City.” It’s not clear if UK copies were printed in the UK, by Oxford, or if Oxford distributed Indian copies in the UK.


It seems that both paper-bound and cloth-bound versions of series titles were available throughout the 50 or so years the series was available. Oxford no longer seems to offer the series after 1938, but titles continue to be issued by Association Press / YMCA Publishing House until at least 1971.

A paperbound title, Indian Painting by Percy Brown, is an example of a post-WW2 paperbound title in the series. It has a 1947 date, the initial edition of the title issued in the series in 1917. The grey card cover includes the title and author, series name and colophon. An illustration is glued to the cover (suggesting that paperbound titles had unique covers for each title).

The rear of the jacket lists 22 titles with a preface linking back to the series origins in Indian missionary efforts: “This is a series of cheap books planned and written by a group of Christian men, in order that every educated Indian, whether rich or poor, may be able to find his way into the treasures of Indian literature, philosophy, art and biography.”

The first page of the book is the title page, including the series name, title, edition, imprint and year of publication.

“Printed in India at the Swee Saraswaty Press Ltd., Calcutta.” A list of 21 titles in the series follows.

Editions and years, from 1917 to this copy, 1947.

The series editorial preface follows a list of illustrations in the book:

Preface to the 2nd edition: