Cataloguing the Gerald Tibbetts Collection

This week I have been busy finishing off the cataloguing of the Gerald Tibbetts papers that we have recently acquired. Tibbetts was renowned for his interest in early Arab navigation in the Indian Ocean and acted as a consultant on the Sindbad Voyage project. This was an attempt by the explorer Tim Severin to recreate the fictional voyage of Sindbad the sailor in the publication: ‘The book of one thousand and one nights’ and creating a replica of an early Arab trading ship. Alongside this work, Tibbetts was also a qualified Librarian and worked at Libraries across the world in countries such as Singapore, Sudan and Nigeria. My colleague Edward Weech recently wrote a fascinating piece about this collection and the challenges a Librarian faces when cataloguing Arabic books. The link to this can be found here:

This was an interesting collection to catalogue and posed cataloguing challenges which an archivist is all too familiar with. For instance, several publications that Tibbetts had contributed to were donated as part of this collection. As we already hold collections for our journals and pamphlets which are catalogued in a separate cataloguing system, a decision needed to be made around where these publications would be best suited. However, as several of these publications bore detailed annotations written by Tibbetts it was deemed appropriate to keep these with the rest of the papers in providing a detailed representation of the work that Tibbetts was involved in. It was evident when cataloguing this collection, the passion that Tibbetts had for exploring the history of Arab navigation and how it inspired the work he carried out throughout his career.


                    An example of one of the annotated publications.

The next stage that I am looking forward to is the cataloguing of the maritime maps that Tibbetts had created. This will involve examining how to store these maps securely due to their vast size and fragile nature and considering how these will be made accessible to future researchers.

         Part of one of the maps that Tibbetts had created.

The Gerald Tibbetts collection is now available to view on Archives Hub with all our other catalogued archival collections:

Book Launch: The Extraordinary Epoch of Nanasaheb Peshwa

The Society is pleased to announce the virtual book launch of Uday S. Kulkarni’s book: ‘The Extraordinary Epoch of Nanasaheb Peshwa’ on the 1st December at 2pm (UK time).


The mid-eighteenth century began with the Marathas as the paramount power in India, and in the next two decades, they rose in power and prestige. In this period when Nanasaheb Peshwa was at the helm, the Maratha power reached its zenith. However, this was not the entire story and the events of the mid-eighteenth century were pivotal in determining the course of the next five decades. The rise of the Europeans in the south and the east added a new dimension, so that this epoch eventually emerged as the crossroad of Indian history. With over 40 colour pictures on art plates and 27 maps and art illustrations, this book narrates that engrossing story.

If you are interested in attending this book launch, please email Matty Bradley at by the 30th November. We look forward to seeing you there!

Collections Evening:

Next Wednesday, 25th November, at 5.30pm, the Society will host its first ever online Collections Evening. This event was originally scheduled to be held at the Society in March, and was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. While we will miss the opportunity to welcome you to our premises at Stephenson Way, we are delighted that the online format will make it easier for people to attend from outside London and, indeed, from beyond the UK.

As with similar occasions in the past, the Collections Evening will feature a series of short talks, each of which will provide a rare opportunity to hear in detail about efforts to conserve, catalogue, and understand some of the Society’s historic treasures.

We are pleased that each of the speakers who missed the opportunity to present in March will be able to join us for this exciting occasion. Rebekah Harbord 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 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. Meanwhile, Sonetra Seng 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.

We hope you will be able to join us for what promises to be a very enjoyable and stimulating occasion. If you would like to attend, please email Matty Bradley at and we will provide the Zoom link and password. The number of attendees is limited, so please register by Monday 23rd November. An example of a previous Collections Evening (held in the pre-Zoom days) is available online here: