With a history going back 200 years, MLS and its patrons have played an important role in our understanding of south Indian history, art, architecture, anthropology and natural resources. It was only in 1830, the society became associated with the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland.
Most of the early members were Europeans and the first Indian to be admitted was Kavali Lakshmayya who worked with Colin Mackenzie. MLS was housed in Connemara Library until 1905 when it moved to the current building in the Department of Public Instruction complex in Nungambakkam.
The oldest book in the library is Aristotle’s Opera Omnia in Greek and Latin published in 1619. Apart from first editions of several books, MLS has original documents and surveys of the Ganges Canal plain (1854) and Buckingham Canal project (1898).