GUWAHATI, Aug 21 � A repository of information and wisdom of eras long gone by continues to draw in people from today�s knowledge society. And as time goes by, its highly regarded items will only gain in value.
The collection of rare books in the Directorate of Library Services Assam at Ambari here houses some of the most difficult-to-obtain books and journals in the State. Most of the books are no longer in circulation, and therefore, difficult to acquire. The authors of some were forgotten with the passage of time, while some others went on to earn distinction in different fields.
According to official sources, the rare books section contains more than 2,370 titles in English, which include books on Assam written during the colonial period. Assamese books currently available to the reading public number nearly 900.
A book with an intrepid sounding name is Hill Tracts between Assam and Burmah and the Upper Brahmaputra. Written by Lt R Wilcox, it was published way back in 1825. It shares shelf space with other works such as the Report on the Manufacture of Tea and on the Extent and Product of the Tea Plantation in Assam, printed in 1839.
Like its protagonist, who travelled well beyond the horizon, Gulliver�s Travels managed to find its way to the exceptional book collection. The first edition of Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World (in four parts) by Lemuel Gulliver, printed in 1726, was presented to the Shillong Public Library by the �Raja of Hill Tipperah� through CW McMinn of the Indian Civil Service. After Meghalaya became a separate State, it moved to its present location.
A wide range of books in Assamese, no longer available in bookshops, offers insights into the way authors in the past perceived their subjects. Lakshminath Bezbaroa�s Nomal, Hem Baruah�s Asamiya Byakaran, Debakar Sarma�s Anka Path and Ram Sarasawti�s Geet Govinda are only a few of the priceless works in the rare books section, said an official.
Although not many lay people visit the rare books section, researchers from this region as well as abroad find it an interesting destination. Those acquainted with the facility agree on the need to create a digital database of the extraordinary books as their conditions will naturally deteriorate with age.