Next Collections Evening 23 March

On Thursday 23 March, the Society will hold its next Collections Evening. In addition to giving people a chance to see some of our collections at close hand, Collections Evenings show how they are being researched, catalogued, and conserved. This year’s event is especially exciting as it shows how work with the Society’s collections has been able to flourish in the aftermath of the pandemic, when access to the collections was restricted for long periods of time. It will also be a particularly notable occasion because it forms part of the year-long programme of events celebrating and reflecting on the Society’s bicentenary.

RAS Exhibit: Intertextual and Material Culture of the Śāṅgadharapaddhati. December 2022 to February 2023. Ruth Westoby.

We are planning to host three presentations at this year’s Collections Evening. One will be from Ruth Westoby, who will speak on ‘Anthologising Yoga: The Śārṅgadharapaddhati’. Ruth is a doctoral candidate at SOAS, where she is preparing a thesis on the yogic body in early haṭha yoga, and has been researching the Society’s manuscript of the 1363 CE Śārṅgadharapaddhati (RAS Tod 32), as part of a CHASE-AHRC doctoral training programme placement. In this presentation Ruth will survey the yoga portions of the text and share preliminary research enquiries. Attendees can enjoy a preview of some of the ideas and materials featured in Ruth’s research by visiting the Society’s Reading Room, where Ruth has curated a display in our exhibition case (discussed in a previous blog post here).

Lhasa dignitaries with attendants. Photo.86/2 041

Evgenia North has been volunteering at the Society since late 2022 to digitize some of our photographic collections. Evgenia is an experienced graphics designer and we are very fortunate that she has been lending her expertise to make more of our collections available online via the Society’s Digital Library. Some of the first collections Evgenia has digitized can already be seen online here, including the Fleming Mackenzie collection of photographs of Tibet, dating from the late 1930s. Attendees will also have the opportunity to hear the remarkable story of how Evgenia discovered previously unidentified photographs by the famous photographer Antoin Sevruguin.

RAS Turkish 47

We also hope to welcome Dr Funda San (Yildiz Technical University), who recently completed a year-long project to examine the Society’s Turkish manuscript collection. Funda has already contributed some vital corrections and insights to improve our understanding of the Society’s Turkish collections, including a commentary on the paintings in RAS Turkish 47,  an early copy of the Kulliyat (collected poems) of Ali-Shir Nava’I (here). We are looking forward to hearing more of what Funda learned about the Society’s collection, and how this might inform future scholarship.

If you would like to attend the event in-person or online, please email Matty Bradley at The event will start at 6.30pm, but those attending in-person will have the opportunity to see some of the Society’s collections in the Reading Room from 6pm.

‘Aja’ib al-Makhluqat (RAS Persian 178), a Persian version of Qazwini’s Arabic original

In other news, we regret that planned train strikes mean we have postponed the event scheduled for next Thursday, 16 March: the award of the RAS Medal to Robert Irwin and his lecture on ‘Tales from the Mamluk Crypt: Predecessors of Modern Horror’. We apologise for the inconvenience, but look forward to announcing a new date for this occasion as soon as possible. In the meantime, readers can enjoy Robert’s review of Wonders and Rarities: The Marvelous Book That Traveled the World and Mapped the Cosmos in the new issue of the Literary Review, which also features Robert Bickers’ review of Chinese Dreams in Romantic England: The Life and Times of Thomas Manning.