Henry Otley Beyer (1883–1966) was born in Edgewood, Iowa, and was a graduate of Denver University, where he studied chemistry. In 1905 he arrived in the Philippines and, while working as a teacher, studied the Ifugaos of the Banaue Valley of northern Luzon. In 1908–09 he carried out research in Asia, North Africa and Europe and undertook graduate studies in anthropology at Harvard University. In 1909 he returned to the Philippines and was appointed ethnologist in the Bureau of Science. He carried out fieldwork among the Ifugaos, Igorots, Apayaos, Kalingas and other peoples. In 1914 he joined the staff of the University of the Philippines and set up the Department of Anthropology. He became Professor of Anthropology in 1924 and held the position until his retirement in 1954. He continued to live in the Philippines until his death.

Beyer was the pioneer of anthropology in the Philippines and also made major contributions in the fields of folklore, customary law, archaeology, art and geology. Among his many publications were the Philippine ethnographic series (141 vols, 1912–22), Philippine tektites (1933–34) and Philippine folktales, beliefs, popular customs and traditions (3 vols, 1941–43).

Beyer was an omnivorous collector. In addition to books, pamphlets, maps, manuscripts and photographs, he collected archaeological and ethnographic specimens, Philippine pottery, Chinese glazed wares and tektites.


The Otley Beyer Collection was purchased in 1972 from William Beyer, the son of Beyer.


Printed Materials

The Otley Beyer Collection contains about 1800 books and 2000 pamphlets written in English, Spanish, French, German and Dutch. The subject matter is very broad and includes dictionaries, encyclopaedias, bibliographies, government publications, censuses, technical reports, novels, novenas and other devotional works, and books on archaeology, anthropology, history, literature, folklore, voyages, travel, politics, foreign relations, law, immigration, medicine, geology, the Catholic Church and Buddhism. While many works were published in or relate to the Philippines, there are also books dealing with the United States, China, Japan, India, Malaya and the East Indies.

A strength of the collection are works by leading political figures in the Philippines including T.H. Pardo de Tavera (1857–1925), Pedro A. Paterno (1858–1911), José Rizal (1861–1896), Isabelo de los Reyes (1864–1938), Sergio Osmena (1878–1961), Manuel Quezon (1878–1944), Eulogio B. Rodriguez (1883–1964) and José P. Laurel (1891–1959). There is a considerable quantity of Japanese propaganda material issued during World War II. The collection also has a good representation of writings by anthropologists and linguists such as Edward Winslow Gifford, Felix Keesing, Cecilio Lopez, Richard Pittman, Paul Rivet, Otto Scheerer, William Henry Scott and Wilhelm G. Solheim.

In addition to the publications in European languages, there are about 600 volumes in Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Tagalog and other Asian languages. The great majority of these works are in Japanese and they were mostly published during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines (1942–45). They deal particularly with Japan’s role in South-East Asia, the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere, Japanese nationalism, military campaigns and the Japanese economy. There are a number of edicts and other documents issued by the Japanese Army in the Philippines. Other subjects include the Philippine constitution and laws, Philippine languages, the economies of China, India and South-East Asia, and foreign relations.

The collection also contains issues of 64 Philippine newspapers and a number of serials. They include La Independencia (1898–99), Philippines Free Press (1925–41), Philippine Magazine (1928–41), Sunday Tribune Magazine (1932–41).


At the core of the Otley Beyer Collection are 195 volumes of typescripts compiled by Beyer and his associates, mostly in the period 1912–30, on the ethnography of the Philippines. They provide a valuable record of Philippine life in the early twentieth century, before US influences became pervasive. The most substantial series are Bisaya ethnography, the Ifugao people, Ilokos ethnography, Moro ethnography, Philippine customary law and Tagalog ethnography. There are also volumes on archaeological surveys in Rizal Province and Philippine tektites.

In addition to the bound volumes, there are drafts of Beyer’s books, articles and addresses and a huge quantity of manuscripts, theses and published papers by students and colleagues.


The Otley Beyer Collection contains about 140 printed and manuscript maps. They date from 1894 to 1963 and include copies of a few older maps. They mostly relate to the Philippines and comprise maps issued by the United States Army Map Service (1944–52), provincial maps, road maps, development plans, ethnographic maps, language maps, geological maps and maps of tektite sites. A map of the archaeological survey in Rizal Province was made by Beyer in 1929. There are also a number of maps of Indo-China, Malaya, Indonesia and other Asian countries.

Map of East India Islands, Dutch colonies, with Thailand, French colonies, Indochina and Malay Peninsula.

Malay Archipelago, 1:8,500,000, 1942, H. Otley Beyer Map Collection, National Library of Australia, Item 31, https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-580711626/view


The collection contains hundreds of photographs, most of them small and unidentified. There are a large number of photographs of archaeological excavations, weapons, tools, pottery, ceramics and sherds. Others depict temples, old forts, houses, villages, street scenes and landscapes, as well as Ifugao villagers, wedding and funeral ceremonies, dances and parades. There are also group photographs of students and academic staff.

Personal Papers

The papers of Beyer include correspondence (1907–64), notebooks, programs, newspaper cuttings and photographs. In addition, there are his extensive files on the University of the Philippines, the Pacific Science Congress, the National Research Council of the Philippines, the Philippines Geological Society, the Philippines Anthropological Association and other learned bodies.


The books and pamphlets in Western languages in the Otley Beyer Collection are kept together in the Asian Collections. They have been catalogued individually and the call numbers have the prefixes BEY and BEY pam. The serials, newspapers and books in Japanese and other Asian languages have been catalogued and mostly integrated in the general and Asian collections, although a number have been retained as a collection.

The manuscripts and personal papers are held in the Manuscripts Collection at MS 4877. A finding aid is available online at https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-347396638/findingaid.The manuscripts and papers have been microfilmed and the microfiche is held at Mc G 1255.

Apart from some maps filed with the manuscripts, the maps are held together as a formed collection within the Maps Collection. The maps have been described in a finding aid and digitised: https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-579978728/findingaid.

Some photographs are among the personal papers, but the bulk of them are held in the Pictures Collection at PIC P1030. A small number have been individually catalogued and digitised but all are listed in the Otley Beyer collection of photographs finding guide.


Andrew Gosling, An American in Manila: Otley Beyer and his collection at the National Library of Australia, National Library of Australia News, vol. 7 (10), July 1997, pp. 6–8.

Evelyn Guerrero, The Beyer Collection with reference to the Philippine ethnographic series, MA thesis, The Australian National University, Canberra, 1980, MS 6494.

Dennis Shoesmith, The H. Otley Beyer Collection in the National Library of Australia, Canberra, ANU historical journal, vol. 9, December 1972, pp. 38–9.

Mario D. Zamora (ed.), Studies in Philippine anthropology, in honor of H. Otley Beyer, Alemar-Phoenix, Quezon City, 1967.

First posted 2008 (revised 2019)