Cataloguing and Acquiring Collections

I am pleased to announce that another new catalogue is now available on Archives Hub. This brings the total number of archival catalogues currently available to thirty-two – of course these range in size from the tiny “Notes on Cuddapah” to the much bigger collections of the Papers of Thomas Manning and those of Brian Houghton Hodgson. The most recent addition forms part of the Institutional Records of the Society and is the catalogue for the Royal Asiatic Society Collections Acquisitions Records. The Society has always undertaken to collect material that could aid in the study and understanding of the history and culture of Asia and many donations have been given throughout its history. In the earliest days all donations were meticulously recorded by hand in the Donations Register.

Donations Register, April 1823- March 1831 (RAS COLL3/1/1/1)

We have four of these bound volumes recording donations from 1823 -1875. Many of the items presented at this time are no longer with the Society.  Donors often gave museum items which the Society, later in its history, was unable to keep and so were donated or sold to other institutions. However many are still within our collections including “A colored engraving of the Rafflesia Arnoldi” given by Sir Stamford Raffles on 18 March 1826, as recorded on this page.

Flower of Rafflesia Arnoldi , Painted and Engraved by Waddell (Head Cat. 090.014)

Besides the Donations Registers, the Acquisition Files also contain other lists such as the “Memorandum of books, drawings, maps &c. presented to the Royal Asiatic Society by Lieut.Col Doyle, 10th March 1834”.

RAS COLL3/2/1/4

The list is summarised as 187 books, 173 maps and plans, 18 Persian manuscripts and a large portfolio of drawings – a veritable treasure trove of a donation, many of which still form part of our collections. Charles (Carlo) Joseph Doyle (1787-1848) gave this extensive donation before he left to work in Jamaica. The donation included the Shahnamah Of Firdausi, Of Muhammad Juki [RAS Persian 239] currently housed at Cambridge University Library and available to be seen on our Digital Library.

Letters also form part of the Acquisition Files – ones that either accompanied donations or have been sent in thanks of a gift to the Society.

RAS COLL3/4/2/4

The above letter is from East India House to Professor H.H. Wilson, Director of the Royal Asiatic Society,  to forward a copy of “the Photographs of Drawings of Ancient Buildings at Beejapore in the Deccan”, dated 21 October, 1858. At this period East India House were quite active in providing books and journals for our collections. And donations still go on – earlier this year we took in the Books and Papers from the distinguished Chinese studies scholar, Angus C. Graham. And though our most modern records for acquisitions such as this are held within our records management system, the archive does cover some relatively recent acquisitions…

RAS COLL3/8/2/4

These letters are concerned with the beautiful table which is in the Council Room and which became part of the Collections in 2006 after the move of the Society to its current premises.

Leinster Table, Council Room

Our work in caring for the Collections, does not only consist of providing physical care and cataloguing of them. We are also active in promoting knowledge about them. And this week, on Monday 15 October, RAS Librarian, Edward Weech, lectured at the Centre for Islamic Studies in Oxford on “Systems of Religion and Morality in the collections of the Royal Asiatic Society”. In this lecture he highlighted some of our Collections and how they were viewed and used by early researchers of religion and morality, and how they can still be of use in current research. For those of you interested to find out more, Edward will be delivering a similar lecture at the Royal Asiatic Society in June 2019.

RAS Librarian, Edward Weech, at the Centre for Islamic Studies, Oxford.

The Society will be hosting two lectures next week. On Tuesday 23 October, Peter Hibbard from the Royal Asiatic Society, Shanghai will lecture on “More than a Stuffed Bird Show: The RAS Legacy in Shanghai”; and on Thursday 25th October, Professor Anna Contadini will lecture on “The Pisa Griffin and the Mari-Cha Lion: Metalwork, Art and Technology in the Medieval Islamicate Mediterranean”. Both lectures will commence at 6.30 pm and more details may be found on our website.