Re-opening our Collections

In light of the easing of restrictions, the Society is pleased to announce that we will be re-opening our collections to visitors for one day a week every Thursday starting next week (15th April). Readers are reminded that they will need to book with us in advance by either emailing the Librarian Edward Weech at or the Archivist Emma Jones at We look forward to welcoming many of you back to our collections!

If travelling to the Society is not possible at present, we also undertake a reprographics service where depending on the fragility of the material, we can photograph or scan material on your behalf. Please note that there is usually a fee for this service. Also, our Digital Library remains open for business with our digitised collections continuing to grow. The image below, from the Shahnamah of Muhammad Juki, is one of the many manuscript illustrations which can be viewed on the Digital Library.


The Simurgh restores Zal to Sam, f. 16b, Shahnamah of Muhammad Juki (RAS Persian 239).

Dr Emma Flatt Lecture:

This week, the Society welcomed Dr Emma Flatt for a virtual lecture entitled ‘A Compendium of Effective and Practical Tools: The Nujūm al-ʿUlūm of ‘Ali Adil Shah’. Dr Flatt is an Associate Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and is currently teaching at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore. Dr.Flatt’s recent book entitled ‘The Courts of the Deccan Sultanate: Living well in the Persian Cosmopolis’ includes her research on this manuscript. Dr. Flatt discussed this beautifully illustrated manuscript commissioned by ‘Ali Adil Shah (1557-79), ruler of Bijapur which is now in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin. It was completed in 1570 and deals with astrology,  divination and alchemy providing a compendium of Hindu and Muslim beliefs.

If you are interested in hearing more about this publication, a review of this book by Vivek Gupta (University of Cambridge: Centre of Islamic Studies), will be published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. This will be made accessible to Fellows through FirstView in the coming weeks.

Dr Flatt’s lecture has been recorded and is available on the Society’s YouTube account: We have also posted the footage from our recent Collections Evening, which you can enjoy via the following link:



Upcoming Events:

We also have more events scheduled for later this month. On the 26th April at 6.30pm, the Society will host a virtual book launch for Suna Cagaptay’s ‘The First Capital of the Ottoman Empire: The Religious, Architectural, and Social History of Bursa’.

In this book, rooted in the author’s archaeological experience, Suna Cagaptay tells the story of the transition from a Byzantine Christian city to an Islamic Ottoman one, positing that Bursa was a multi-faith capital where we can see the religious plurality and modernity of the Ottoman world.


On the 28th April at 5pm, Dr Weipin Tsai: Royal Holloway, University of London will give an online lecture on ‘The courier firms that knitted the Qing Empire together: A brief account of China’s letter hongs from late 18th century to early 20th century’.

The efficient operation of private letter hongs was noted by British observers in the nineteenth century including Sir George Thomas Staunton, Herbert A. Giles, and Sir Robert Hart, who founded the Great Qing Imperial Postal Service. This new project on the history of Chinese private letter hongs is now online at, a website devoted to the long history of letter exchange and letter writing by Chinese people, from the early nineteenth century to the first half of the twentieth century. The site contains many original letters and other resources to help visitors learn more about this fascinating aspect of China’s communications history.

To sign-up for either of these events, please email Matty Bradley at and the Zoom link and password will be provided. We look forward to seeing many of you there!