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Library (c) 2003 J.B. Hare Sacred Books of the East Index

Table of Contents
Index of Translators
Transliteration Tables
Available reprints


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50

The Sacred Books of the East (SBE) series, comprising fifty volumes, was issued by the Oxford University Press between 1879 and 1910. It has translations of key sacred texts of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, and Islam. The series was edited by the famous linguist and scholar of comparative religion, Max Müller. He wrote three of the volumes, and collaborated on three others. The SBE has been designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as part of the UNESCO Collection of Representative Works.

This series was the one of the inspirations for the sacred-texts website. As most of the SBE texts are in the public domain worldwide (and all of them in are public domain in the US), we have a long term project of converting the entire series to etexts. This page is a progress report on this project, and a way of centralizing known bibliographic information on the SBE.

NEW: The SBE is complete

As of September 2008, we have now reached a key milestone, completing and posting substantial etexts of all of the original 49 volumes of the SBE. This has been a ten-year project. The first volumes, the Upanishads (SBE 1 and 15), were originally scanned in 1997, two years before the inception of sacred-texts. All of these etexts, with the exception of volume 25, were prepared at sacred-texts, or by volunteers. At this point, future work on this project will involve bringing the older etexts up to current standards, and the completion of SBE 50, the General Index.

The difficulties of turning these books into etexts were enormous, and required great care and diligence. These volumes represent some of the most difficult work in the field of etext preparation. Two of the main problems are the use of italics in transliteration and the extensive footnotes. Optical character recognition (OCR) software can produce an approximate transcript of this specialized typography, but stock HTML cannot is not equipped to display it. We had to invent a software technology (STML, Sacred Texts Markup Language) to produce the HTML versions of these texts, in addition to proofing them.

The SBE texts suffer from the usual disease of Victorian scholarly texts; they are replete with extensive (and often superfluous) introductory matter and footnotes. The footnotes in a typical SBE volume can comprise from one-half to two-thirds of the bulk of the text. The scholarly apparatus is set in a smaller typeface and it proved very difficult to OCR and proofread.

However, there are compelling reasons to revisit these books. In some cases these are the only available translations of a particular text, or the principal reference version, or sourced from a rare manuscript. Case in point, nobody has attempted to retranslate the Satapatha Brahmana since Eggeling's comprehensive five-part SBE translation.

The original Oxford University Press printing was of very high quality. Not only is the typography exquisite, they were proofed to perfection; some have zero typographical errors, after thorough proofing using modern software.

Today these first editions are very rare. However, these books have been reprinted most notably by Dover Publications, and the Indian firm of Motilal Banarsidass.

A very few of the more important volumes have been reproduced by Dover publications. The Dover versions are inexpensive but very high quality trade paperbacks, with those almost indestructible Dover bindings. Unfortunately, some of the SBE reprints in the Dover line are now out of print; they are extensively available used, however.

A list of available SBE reprints (mostly from Dover) is available here.

The Indian publishing firm of Motilal Banarsidass has reprinted the entire set in hardcover (ISBN 8120801016). This is the version found at most large public and academic libraries. These are printed on substandard paper and the binding is often sloppy. Inverted signatures are not rare; and I have one which was bound with the cover upside down! They are however, cheap and available, particularly if purchased used.

The Banarsidass SBE lists for 9000 Rs or approximately US $200, with separate volumes priced at 200 Rs, or about US $4.50. I was quoted US $495.95 for the set if you order it direct from Motilal Banarsidass and have it shipped to the US. So that might be your best bet if you want the whole set. These are the prices listed on their website, and presumably reflect the retail price in India.

Be prepared to pay a lot more if you order the Motilal Banarsidass SBE set through a bookstore in the US. A US list price of US $2,250 is not unheard of! The books are not available through normal channels and must be shipped from India; the size of the set (as well as its specialized nature) makes it unreasonable for American or European distributors or bookstores to keep it in stock. Used sets have been listed from US $600 to US $1,250. Individual used volumes can run anywhere from US $10 up on the used book sites.

In spite of all these difficulties, the translations are uniformly of high quality and are essential for scholars of religion. For this reason, we feel that it is important that this material be published on the Internet.

Transliteration Tables

Tables of the transliteration used in the Sacred Books of the East are included at the end of each of the printed books, but omitted from the etexts.

The following are images of these tables:

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Page 2 70,357 bytes
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Table of Contents of the Sacred Books of the East

An asterisk indicates the text was scanned at Dover editions (that we know of) are noted.

Volume Title Translator year published
1 * The Upanishads, Part 1 of 2
Chandogya Upanishad. Talavakara (Kena) Upanishad. Aitareya Upanishad. Kausitaki Upanishad. Vajasaneyi (Isa) Upanishad. Dover edition in print.
Max Müller 1879
2 * The Sacred Laws of the Aryas, part 1 of 2
The sacred laws of the Aryas as taught in the school of Apastamba, Gautama, Vâsishtha, and Baudhâyana. pt. I. Apastamba and Gautama. (The Dharma Sutras)
Georg Bühler 1879
3 * The Sacred Books of China, part 1 of 6.
Part I of The Texts of Confucianism.
The Shû king. The religions portions of the Shih king. The Hsiâo king.
James Legge 1879
4 * The Zend-Avesta, part 1 of 3
The Vendîdâd.
James Darmesteter 1880
5 * Pahlavi Texts, part 1 of 5
The Bundahis, Bahman Yast, and Shayast La-Shayast.
E. W. West 1880
6 * The Qur'an, Part 1 of 2: Chapters I-XVI E. H. Palmer 1880
7 * The Institutes of Visnu Julius Jolly 1880
8 * The Bhagavadgita With the Sanatsugâtiya and the Anugitâ Kâshinâth Trimbak Telang 1882
9 * The Qur'an, part. 2 of 2: Chapters XVII-CXIV E. H. Palmer 1880
10 * The Dhammapada and The Sutta-Nipâta,.
a collection of discourses; being one of the canonical books of the Buddhists, translated from Pâli; and The Dhammapada, a collection of verses, translated from Pâli
F. Max Müller (Dhammapada) V. Fausböll (Sutta-Nipata) 1881
11 * Buddhist Suttas
The Mahâ-parinibbâna Suttanta, The Dhamma-kakka-ppavattana Sutta, The Tevigga Suttanta, The Âkankheyya Sutta, The Ketokhila Sutta, The Mahâ-Sudassana Suttanta, The Sabbâsava Sutta. Out of print Dover edition [1969].
T. W. Rhys Davids 1881
12 * The Satapatha-Brahmana, part 1 of 5. Books I and II
according to the text of the Mâdhyandina school.
Julius Eggeling 1882
13 * Vinaya Texts, part 1 of 3
The Patimokkha. The Mahavagga, I-IV.
T. W. Rhys Davids and Hermann Oldenberg 1881
14 * The Sacred Laws of the Aryas, part 2 of 2.
The sacred laws of the Aryas as taught in the school of Apastamba, Gautama, Vâsishtha, and Baudhâyana. pt. II. Vâsishtha and Baudhâyana.
Georg Bühler 1882
15 * The Upanishads, part 2 of 2
Katha Upanishad. Mundaka Upanishad. Taittiriya Upanishad. Brhadaranyaka Upanishad. Svetasvatara Upanishad. Prasña Upanishad. Maitrayani Upanishad. Dover edition in print.
Max Müller 1884
16 * The Sacred Books of China, part 2 of 6
Part II of The Texts of Confucianism.
The Yi King: (I Ching). Dover edition in print.
James Legge 1882
17 * Vinaya Texts, part 2 of 3
The Mahavagga, V-X, the Kullavagga I-II.
T. W. Rhys Davids and Hermann Oldenberg 1882
18 * Pahlavi Texts, part 2 of 5
The Dâdistân-î Dinik and the Epistles of Mânûskîhar.
E. W. West 1882
19 * The Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king,
a life of Buddha, by Asvaghosha Bodhisattva; translated from Sanskrit into Chinese by Dharmaraksha, A. D. 420
Samuel Beal 1883
20 * Vinaya Texts, part 3 of 3
The Kullavagga, IV-XII.
T. W. Rhys Davids and Hermann Oldenberg 1885
21 * The Saddharma-Pundarika or The Lotus of the True Law
Out of print Dover edition [1963].
H. Kern 1884
22 * Gaina Sûtras, part 1 of 2
translated from the Prâkrit. The Âkârânga sûtra. The Kalpa sûtra. Out of print Dover edition.
Hermann Jacobi 1884
23 * The Zend-Avesta, part 2 of 3
The Sîrôzahs, Yasts, and Nyâyis.
James Darmesteter 1883
24 * Pahlavi Texts, part 3 of 5
Dinai Mainög-i khirad, Sikand-Gümanik Vigar, Sad Dar.
E. W. West 1884
25 The Laws of Manu
Translated, with extracts from seven commentaries. Out of print Dover edition.
Georg Bühler 1886
26 * The Satapatha-Brahmana, part 2 of 5, Books III-IV
according to the text of the Mâdhyandina school.
Julius Eggeling 1885
27 * The Sacred Books of China, part 3 of 6
Part III of the texts of Confucianism.
The Lî Kî, part 1 of 2.
James Legge 1885
28 * The Sacred Books of China, part 4 of 6
Part IV of the texts of Confucianism.
The Lî Kî, part 2 of 2.
James Legge 1885
29 * The Grihya-sutras; rules of Vedic domestic ceremonies. part 1 of 2
Sankhyayana-Grihya-sutra. Asvalayana-Grihya-sutra. Paraskara-Grihya-sutra. Khadia-Grihya-sutra.
Hermann Oldenberg 1886
30 * The Grihya-sutras; rules of Vedic domestic ceremonies. part 2 of 2
Gobhila, Hiranyakesin, Apastamba (Olderberg); Yajña Paribhashasutras (Müller).
Hermann Oldenberg, Max Müller 1892
31 * The Zend-Avesta, part 3 of 3
The Yasna, Visparad, Afrînagân, Gâhs, and miscellaneous fragments
L. H. Mills 1887
32 * Vedic Hymns, part 1 of 2
Hymns to the Maruts, Rudra, Vâyu, and Vâta., with a bibliographical list of the more important publications on the Rig-veda.
Max Müller 1891
33 * The Minor Law-Books: Narada and Brihaspati. (Part 1 of 1).
Julius Jolly 1889
34 * The Vedanta-Sutras, part 1 of 3.
commentary by Sankaracharya, part 1 of 2. Adhyâya I-II (Pâda I-II).
G. Thibaut 1890
35 * The Questions of King Milinda, part 1 of 2
Milindapañha. Out of print Dover edition [1963].
T. W. Rhys Davids 1890
36 * The Questions of King Milinda, part 2 of 2
Milindapañha. Out of print Dover edition [1963].
T. W. Rhys Davids 1894
37 * Pahlavi Texts, part 4 of 5: Contents of the Nasks. E. W. West 1892
38 * The Vedanta-Sutras, part 2 of 3.
commentary by Sankaracharya, part 1 of 2. Adhyâya II (Pâda III-IV)-IV.
G. Thibaut 1896
39 * The Texts of Taoism, Part 1 of 2.
The Sacred Books of China, part 5 of 6
Also: The Tâo teh king (Tao te Ching): The writings of Kwang-tze, books I-XVII. Dover edition in print.
James Legge 1891
40 * The Texts of Taoism, Part 2 of 2.
The Texts of Taoism, Part 2 of 2.
Includes The Writings of Kwang Tse, books XVII-XXXIII, The Thâi-shang tractate of actions and their retributions, other Taoist texts, and the Index to vols. 39 and 40. Dover edition in print.
James Legge 1891
41 * The Satapatha-Brahmana, part 3 of 5. Books V, VI, VII.
according to the text of the Mâdhyandina school.
Julius Eggeling 1894
42 * Hymns of the Atharva-Veda
Togther With Extracts From the Ritual Books and the Commentaries.
M. Bloomfield 1897
43 * The Satapatha-Brahmana, part 4 of 5, Books VII, IX, X.
according to the text of the Mâdhyandina school.
Julius Eggeling 1897
44 * The Satapatha-Brahmana, part 5 of 5. Books XI, XII, XIII, XIV.
according to the text of the Mâdhyandina school.
Julius Eggeling 1900
45 * Gaina Sûtras, part 2 of 2
translated from Prâkrit. The Uttarâdhyayana Sûtra, The Sûtrakritânga Sûtra. Out of print Dover edition.
Hermann Jacobi 1895
46 * Vedic Hymns, part 2 of 2
Hymns to Agni (Mandalas I-V).
Hermann Oldenberg 1897
47 * Pahlavi Texts, part 5 of 5
Marvels of Zoroastrianism
E. W. West 1897
48 * The Vedanta-Sutras, vol 3 of 3.
with the commentary of Râmânuja.
G. Thibaut 1904
49 * Buddhist Mahâyâna Texts
pt. 1. The Buddha-karita of Asvaghosha, translated from the Sanskrit by E. B. Cowell.
pt. 2. The larger Sukhâvatî-vyûha, the smaller Sukhâvatî-vyûha, the Vagrakkedikâ, the larger Pragñâ-pâramitâ-hridaya-sûtra, the smaller Pragñâ-pâramitâ-hridaya-sûtra, translated by F. Max Müller. The Amitâyur dhyâna-sûtra, translated by J. Takakusu. Dover edition in print.
E. B. Cowell, F. Max Müller and J. Takakusu. 1894
50 * General index
to the names and subject-matter of the sacred books of the East.
J.M. Winternitz, with a preface by A. A. Macdonell 1910

Index of Translators of the Sacred Books of the East

Notes on public domain status of the SBE

All volumes of the SBE were originally published in the UK prior to the 1923 cutoff for the public domain in the US (by the 1998 US copyright law). This means that the SBE is in the public domain in the US in its entirety. Since sacred-texts is hosted in the United States by a US citizen, this site follows US copyright law, and all of the SBE texts are candiates for conversion to etext. If you are a US citizen, you can use any of the works in the SBE freely, for any purpose, without asking anyone's permission or paying anyone a fee.

The situation is a bit different in the UK and EU. UK and EU copyrights last 70 years after the death of the author. This means that as of 2005, works of authors who died prior to 1935 are now in the public domain. As can be seen from the table below, this means that the vast majority of the SBE texts are in the public domain (or will enter it in the next few years) according to the stringent UK and EU copyright laws. The remaining volumes not in the public domain in the UK and EU are those authored by Herman Jacobi, deceased 1937 (22 and 45), Junjiro Takakusu, deceased 1945 (co-author of 49) and Moriz Winternitz, deceased 1937 (vol. 50, the index).

Another point is that the Motilal Banarsidass reprints have always had a formal copyright notice. Whether this is enforceable is dubious. The Indian copyright term is 60 years, which means all of these texts will be the public domain in India as of the end of 2005 (since the last SBE author died in 1945).

Other countries typically use 50 to 100 years after the decease of the author, Canada, Australia and others use a 50 year rule. Mexico gets the award for the worst public-domain-unfriendly copyright laws worldwide. Mexico recently extended its term to 100 years, which means over two-thirds of the SBE have a restored and enforcable copyright in Mexico! Most countries use a 70 year term. So depending on what country you reside in, your rights to view some of these etexts may vary.

Name born/died Volumes
Beal, Samuel 1825-1889 19
Bloomfield, Maurice 1855-1928 42
Bühler, Georg 1837-1898 2, 14, 25
Cowell, Edward B. (Edward Byles) 1826-1903 49
Darmesteter, James 1849-1894 4, 23
Davids, T. W. Rhys (Thomas William Rhys) 1843-1922 11, 13, 17, 20, 35, 36
Eggeling, Julius 1842-1918 12, 26, 41, 43, 44
Fausböll, V. (Viggo) 1821-1908 10
Jacobi, Hermann 1850-1937 22, 45
Jolly, Julius 1849-1932 7, 33
Kern, Hendrik 1836-1917 21
Legge, James 1815-1897 3, 16, 27, 28, 39, 40
Mills, Lawrence Heyworth 1837-1918 31
Müller, F. Max (Friedrich Max) 1823-1900 1, 10, 15, 30, 32, 49
Oldenberg, Hermann 1854-1920 13, 17, 20, 29, 46
Palmer, Edward Henry 1840-1882 6, 9
Telang, Kashinath Trimbak 1850-1893 8
Takakusu, Junjiro 1866-1945 49
Thibaut, G. (George) 1848-1914 34, 38, 48
West, Edward William 1824-1905 5, 18, 24, 37, 47
Winternitz, M. (Moriz) 1863-1937 50

List of SBE reprints

Click here to search for 'Sacred Books of the East' at
Note that this may or may not produce relevant results, nor the best available deal on used copies.

This is a list of editions of SBE texts currently in print and available through By purchasing a book through these links you can help sacred-texts continue its work. Note that some of the Legge books are reprints of a series of Chinese Classics which significantly overlap the work he did for the SBE. Also, we have not actually seen some of the versions below; they may be edited or abridged versions of the SBE texts. All of the Dover versions, however, are exact reproductions of the originals. Reprints of some other SBE volumes are available in out of print Dover versions; they can often be found at used bookstores.

Volume Title Author Price Publisher
49 Buddhist Mahayana Texts (Sacred Books of the East) E. B. Cowell $12.95 Dover
4, 23, 31 The Zend Avesta of Zarathustra James Darmesteter $7.95 Holmes Pub Group
11 Buddhist Suttas: Major Scriptural Writings from Early Buddhism T. W. Rhys-Davids $27.95 Book Tree
39 Texts of Taoism, vol 1.
James Legge $10.95 Dover
40 Texts of Taoism, vol 2.
James Legge $10.95 Dover
(n/a) Confucian Analects, the Great Learning and the Doctrine of the Mean. James Legge $14.95 Dover
16 I Ching: The Sacred Books of China: The Book of Changes James Legge $7.95 Dover
39 Tao Te Ching (Dover Thrift Editions) by Lao-Tzu James Legge $1.00 Dover
(n/a) The Works of Mencius James Legge $14.95 Dover
1 The Upanishads, volume 1 F. Max Müller $11.95 Dover
15 The Upanishads, volume 2 F. Max Müller $11.95 Dover
10 Wisdom of the Buddha: The Unabridged Dhammapada (Dover Thrift Editions) F. Max Müller $1.00 Dover
8 The Anugita K.T. Telang $16.00 Wizards Bookshelf

The special contents of this page are copyright © 1997-2008 J.B. Hare., All Rights Reserved. For permission to reproduce contact the copyright holder.

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