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  • Librarian: Celestina Savonius-Wroth
  • Location: Herman B Wells Library E560
  • Phone: (812) 855-1336
Libraries & Subjects
last updated: 4/27/2010

Sacred Books of the World Religions: Finding Primary Sources



This guide provides an overview of ways to locate primary sources for religious studies in the Wells Library.  The list of sources is not comprehensive, but includes some of the most important texts for Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and Taoism.


You may have noticed by now that typing your query into the title or keyword search box of IUCAT sometimes retrieves bewildering results.  Here are some general search tips to make your results more accurate:

  • You will get the best results if you select 'Begins With (Browse),' instead of doing a basic IUCAT search. This option is located on the right hand side of the main search interface, under "More IUCAT Searches."
  • Try using WorldCat.  You can access it from the library homepage, and its default settings list resources available at Indiana University first.
  • Once you find a book you want, either browse the shelves around it, or browse by call number in IUCAT.  This can help you discover additional resources on the same topic.


Below you will find a list of titles, call number ranges, and suggested subject headings for finding primary sources by religious tradition. Some of the suggestions are intuitive, but others might be unexpected. In many cases you can leave special characters out of your search (though if it doesn't retrive the correct results, try it with the special characters), and you do not need to use quotation marks. Most of these books (all those whose call number begins with “B”) are located on the 4th floor of the East Tower. If you have trouble finding a book, or conducting a search, feel free to contact one of the reference librarians for assistance.   


Remember: the title and subject searches suggested below may not retrieve the desired results when using the default IUCAT interface.  Go to "Begins With (Browse)."





Anthologies of sacred texts (usually covering all religious traditions):

Call number range: BL70 - BL71

Subject: Sacred Books





Search by title:


Most Christian literature is easily found by searching with the familiar title. For example, New Testament; Old Testament; Didache; City of God.

To search for a particular book of the bible, format your title search as follows:

Bible. O.T. [name of book] or Bible. N.T. [name of book], where O.T. and N.T. indicate the Old and New testaments, respectively. (for example: Bible. N.T. Revelation.)

For most of your classes you will be using the New Revised Standard Bible (as opposed to, say, the King James). To find copies of this search for title: Bible. English. New Revised Standard.


Call number ranges:


Bibles in English: BS125 - BS198

Bibles in other languages: BS199 - BS355

Old Testament: BS825 - 1013

specific sections of the Old Testament: BS1200 - BS1830

New Testament: BS2025 - BS2970

Gnosticism: BT1390

Other early Christian writings (Augustine, etc): BR60-67


Subject searches:


To locate commentaries and translations of a particular book of the Christian bible, format your subject searches as follows: Bible. O.T. [name of book] or Bible. N.T. [name of book], where O.T. and N.T. indicate the Old and New Testaments, respectively.  For example, Bible. O.T. Exodus.





Search by title:


In the era when the Library of Congress classification system was being developed, most people referred to the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh as the Old Testament. To search for a particular book, format your title search as follows: Bible. O.T. [name of book] . For example, Bible. O.T. Deuteronomy.


To find copies of the bible in modern English translation, search for title: Bible. English. New Revised Standard.


Books of the Mishna by title: search Mishna. [specific section]; for example, Mishna. Moed


Midrash: most of these works do not have standardized titles. If you know the author, you can search by author, or you can browse subjects (Midrash) or title (Bible. O.T. [book]. Commentaries)


Talmudic literature: do a title search for Talmud; either browse, or make your search more specific by adding .[specific work]. For example, Talmud. Bava batra. English


Call number ranges:


Hebrew Bible/Tanakh: BS825 - BS1013

specific sections: BS1200 - BS1830

Rabbinical literature: BM495 - BM532

Midrash: BM510 - BM518

Talmudic literature: BM497 - BM501; BM503 - BM509

Mishna: BM497 - BM497.8


Subject searches:


Doing a subject search using the same terms you would use in a title search will turn up all the related subject headings. 





Many of the Arabic sources have not been extensively translated into English.  Here is a sampling of title searches; for a more comprehensive list, look in The Literature of Islam: a Guide to the Primary Sources in English Translation, by Paula Youngman Skreslet (Z7835 .M6 S585 2006).  There is also a recent Encyclopedia of Canonical Hadith by G.H.A. Juynboll (BP135.2 .J89 2007).


Searching by title:


English translations of the Qur'an: title search Koran. English.


Some collections of Hadith:

Abu Dawud: Sunan. English

Al-Bukhari: J¯ami‘ al-·sa·h¯i·h. English & Arabic

Muslim Ibn al-Hajjaj: Sahih Muslim

al-Tirmidhi (our library does not own his works in translation; his works in Arabic can be found by doing an author search for Tirmidh¯i, Mu·hammad ibn ‘¯Isá, d. 892.)

al-Nasa’i (our library does not own his works in translation; his works in Arabic can be found by doing an author search for Nas¯a’¯i, A·hmad ibn Shu‘ayb)

Ibn Majah (our library does not own his works in translation; his works in Arabic can be located by doing an author search for Ibn M¯ajah, Mu·hammad ibn Yaz¯id)

Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadih: Arba‘¯un al-Nawaw¯iyah. English & Arabic


Ibn Arabi’s Bezels of Wisdom: Fu·s¯u·s al-·hikam. English


Call number ranges:


Qur'an: BP100 - BP129.83

Hadith: BP135 - BP136.9

Other Islamic literature: BP165.5 - BP167.5

Sufi literature: BP188.4 - BP189.65


Subject headings include: Koran; Hadith; Islam Doctrines; Islamic Philosophy; Sufism Doctrine; Sufi Literature; etc.





Search by title:


In most cases, you want to search for the title followed by .English.  However, there are likely also English translations not explicitly classified as such, so it is worthwhile to also do a simple title search.


You can browse all the titles associated with the Vedas by doing a title search for Vedas. Or you can search for a particular text:

Vedas. *Rgveda (this is the Rig Veda)

Vedas. Yajurveda.

Vedas. Samaveda.

Vedas. Atharvaveda.


To find the Brahmanas, either browse all Brahmana titles, or search for a specific book.  For example, Brahmanas. Aitareyabrahmana. English

This is also the best way to brows the Puranas: Purana .English, or Purana .[specific book]. English.


The Upanishads, Mahabharata, Bhagavad-Gita, and Ramayana call all be found by doing a title search for the book followed by .English (for example, Ramayana. English).


The Brahma (Vedanta) Sutras are listed as Brahmasutra or Brahmasutra. English.


Call number ranges:


Vedic texts: BL1112.2 - BL1137.5

Brahmanas: BL1116 - BL1118.56

Upanishads: BL1120 - BL1125.3

Mahabharata: BL1138 - BL1138.8

Bhagavad-Gita: BL1138.6 - BL1138.8

Ramayana: BL1139 - BL1139.5

Brahma Sutras: BL132 .V3


Subject headings:


In most cases, searching using the same terms you use for title searches will work well.  The exceptions are the Ramayana (subject: Valmiki Ramayana) and the Brahma Sutras (subject: B¯adar¯aya·na. Brahmas¯utra. or Vedanta Early Works to 1800).





Search by title:


Though the title of the Dao de Jing has been transliterated in numerous ways, doing a title search for Dao De Jing will retrieve them all.


Zhuanghi's Inner Chapters can been found by doing a title search for Nanhua jing. English.


Call number ranges:


Dao de Jing: BL1900 .L25 - BL1900 .L35

Works by Zhuangzi: BL1900 .C46 - BL1900 .C576


Subject Headings:


Try searching Taoism Sacred Books. To find commentary on the Dao de Jing, use the subject heading Laozi. Dao de jing.  For the Zhuangzi, search for Zhuangzi. Nanhua jing.





Search by title:


You can search by the English title (for example, Diamond Sutra), and one of the results will point you to the correct (transliterated) title.  Here is a list of title searches; adding .English is optional.


Dhammapada: Tipi·taka. Suttapi·taka. Khuddakanik¯aya. Dhammapada. English

Jataka: Tipi·taka. Suttapi·taka. Khuddakanik¯aya. J¯ataka. English

Diamond Sutra: Tripitaka. Sutrapitaka. Prajnaparamita. Vajracchedika. English

Heart Sutra: Tripitaka. Sutrapitaka. Prajñaparamita. H*rdaya. English

Lotus Sutra: Tripitaka. Sutrapitaka. Saddharmapundarikasutra. English

Hevajra Tantra: Tripi·taka. S¯utrapi·taka. Tantra. Hevajratantrar¯aj¯a.


Call number ranges:


Collections of Buddhist texts: BL1010 - BL1030; BQ1138

Tripitaka (canonical literature): BQ1100 - BQ3340

Dhammapada: BQ1372 - BQ1383

Jakata: BQ1460 - BQ1470

Diamond Sutra: BQ1992 .E5

Heart Sutra: BQ1967

Lotus Sutra: BQ2052 .E5


Subject headings:


You can do a subject search with any of the titles listed above; to find all tantras, for example, simply remove the last specific element of the Hevajra Tantra: Tripi·taka. S¯utrapi·taka. Tantra. However, this will return a very long list, and most of the titles will be in transliterated Sanskrit.

To find more general works, try a subject search for Buddhism Sacred Books or Mahayana Buddhism Sacred Books. You can also search by series: for example, Teachings of the Buddha or Pali Text Society translation.




(site created by Laura DeLancey, 2010)

last updated: 4/27/2010