Sir William Jones treasures on display in new library display case


During the summer we were delighted to receive our new library display case, crafted by Armour Systems. The display case provides a secure way for us to exhibit some of the treasures from our collections that would otherwise very rarely find their way out of the strongroom. Our purchase of the case was in part funded by the remainder of a conservation grant from the University of London Extra-Mural History of Art Society.  

An early translation by Jones

For the first display, we selected material relating to Sir William Jones, who founded the Asiatic Society of Bengal and played a hugely influential role in the development of modern philology. The display includes early examples of Jones’s translation work, including a second edition of Poems, consisting chiefly of translations from the Asiatick languages (1777), andThe Moallakat, or, Seven Arabian poems, which were suspended on the Temple at Mecca (1783). The latter volume includes a frontispiece of Jones, based on an engraving after a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds. 
Frontispiece based on a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds

In 1783 Jones travelled to India to serve as a judge, where he spent the rest of his life. We have on display a volume of letters that were sent by Jones from Calcutta to Samuel Davis, between 1785 and Jones’s death in 1794. The letters illustrate the wide scope of Jones’s interests, taking in everything from Sanskrit and Persian to astronomy, botany and natural history.  In 1830 the letters were donated to the Royal Asiatic Society by Davis’s son, John Davis, and were published by the Society the following year. 
Jones’s letters convey the breadth of his interests

We are excited by the prospect of arranging new displays in future, so feel free to pop in during library opening hours to take a look. We also welcome suggestions for displaying material that visitors may be interested in seeing. The Library is open on Tuesdays and Fridays from 10am-5pm, and Thursdays from 2pm-5pm.