Adventurers in Siam

This week, I have turned some of my attention to a different task. Over the preceding few weeks, one of our volunteers, Ian Scholey, has been identifying some print blocks that are part of the Collections. When I first asked him to undertake this, I thought it might quite a long time, as I did not know the provenance of the material and thought that each print block might be from a different publication. However, we discovered that all 28 print blocks belong to “Adventurers in Siam in the Seventeenth Century” by E.W. Hutchinson and represent a complete set of the plates in the book.

Plate II: Ancient Ayudhya, as Reconstructed by a Modern Artist

The book was first published in 1940 by the Royal Asiatic Society and these print blocks must belong to that edition. The book was reprinted in 1985 by DD Books, by arrangement with the Society, with a foreward by Dennis Duncanson, the Vice-President of the Society at the time. Copies of the reprinted book are still available for sale at the Society for those interested in the history of Thailand.

Plate X: Monseigneur Pallu

Once Ian had identified each of the blocks, it became my job to catalogue and package them appropriately. Within the collections are both papers and photographs (Photos.28) belonging to Edward Walter Hutchinson. The papers had been previously catalogued by past volunteer, Shao Peng Kao, in 2016. So, I added the print blocks to this catalogue and updated the record on to Archives Hub.  As you might be able to see from the photographs (though I must apologise, they are not the easiest material from which to get a clear image),  there is some deterioration due to longterm chemical reaction with the metal surfaces. Therefore, I created bespoke packages for each block to try to help further deterioration of the engraved surface before housing them near the other Hutchinson material.

The print blocks packaged.

It is very satisfying to see a completed task, knowing the material is cared for and accessible to researchers. And I am very grateful to the volunteers and placement students who aid this process. As I am sitting writing this blog post another volunteer, Roger Parsons, is cataloguing our oversize books and a placement student from Sussex University, Imogen Holmes, is working with our glass slide collection. Imogen has already added four more glass slide collections to our catalogue and is working to house and catalogue further collections in the coming weeks. And while I am writing of completed catalogues, those of you who have been following the blog post over the last few weeks, will know that I have been working to clean and catalogue the manuscript volumes of the Statistical Surveys undertaken by Francis Buchanan-Hamilton. Good news! This week, I also completed this task and the catalogue is now available on Archives Hub.

FBH/7 – Statistical Survey of the District of Gorakhpur

If this blog post has whet your appetite to see, or learn more, about our Collections, then please do come to our Collections Open Evening at 6.30 pm on Tuesday 17 March when, not only will some of our Collections be out on display (including some of the glass slides with which Imogen  has been working) but there will also be a few short talks in which you can learn more about some of the specific work that has been undertaken. The evening will feature:

  • Rebekah Harbord who will talk about the conservation of fragile Indo-Persian miniature paintings of Laylá and Majnūn, believed to date from the mid-sixteenth to mid-seventeenth century.
  • Arantza Dobbels who will discuss the conservation of several maps, drawn by Indian artists in the 1830s, depicting the sacred island of Sivasamudram and the bridge over the Kaveri river.
  • Sonetra Seng who will describe her work cataloguing and arranging photographs and other materials from the Society’s H.G. Quaritch Wales collections, which document Hindu and Buddhist antiquities from South East Asia.

If you would like to attend, please can you confirm by emailing Amy Riach at ar@royalasiaticsociety.org, so we can be aware of expected numbers.

Before this event, the Society is hosting another lecture. On Thursday 12 March, 6.30 pm, Christopher de Bellaigue will lecture on “The Islamic Enlightenment”. Copies of his book will also be available for sale. We hope that you will be able to join us for this event.