Where to Catalogue the Inscription from Kedah?

The main focus for my cataloguing on to Archives Hub in the last few weeks has been material associated with Societies that are, or have been, allied with the Royal Asiatic Society. This morning I finished the catalogue for the Royal Asiatic Society China. This was founded as the Shanghai Literary and Scientific Society, in 1857, and  became affiliated to the Royal Asiatic Society the following year, becoming the Royal Asiatic Society (North China Branch). This material I catalogued was collated in the interaction of the two Societies; the closure of the North China Branch in 1952 and subsequent questions regarding it closure; and in its reopening in 2006 and subsequent contact with the Royal Asiatic Society.

Letter from Joseph Edkins, Secretary, Shanghai Literary and Scientific Society, to Professor Horace Hayman Wilson concerning the formation of the Society, dated 2 December 1857.


Letter from D.E.J. Abraham, Vice-President, Royal Asiatic Society North China Branch, to The Secretary, Royal Asiatic Society, to announce the closure of the North China Branch and the gift of its possessions to the People’s Government of China, dated 19 November 1952.

My next Society to catalogue is the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. This was founded at the Raffles Library, Singapore, in November 1877, as the Straits Asiatic Society. It applied for incorporation with the Royal Asiatic Society which was enacted the following year when it was renamed as the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. In 1964, it became the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. The Society has  published a Journal since 1878. Most of the material consists of correspondence between the Malaysian Branch and this Society, but the oldest item is connected to the Journal of the Malaysian Branch. And it is this item which creates my dilemma!

In 1940, Horace Geoffrey Quaritch Wales wrote an article in the then Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society entitled, “Archaeological Researches on Ancient Colonization in Malaya” in which he details his excavation in Kedah, Malaysia, under the auspices of the Greater India Research Committee. The article is 85 pages long and is followed by 15 figures and 89 plates. Plate 8 is of a clay tablet found at Kedah Site 2, which is inscribed on three faces with Buddhist text.

Plate 8, Journal of Malayan Branch of Royal Asiatic Society, 1940

The item I need to catalogue is this:

It is a plaster cast of the clay tablet showing the inscriptions on Plate 8, hence why it had originally been put with the Malaysian Branch’s material. But in looking up the article in order to catalogue the cast accurately,  and discovering the article was written by Quaritch Wales leads me to consider whether it is more appropriate to catalogue the cast with our large collection of Quaritch Wales’ material rather than with the Malaysian Branch material.  Currently we have working with Sonetra Seng, a SOAS Alphawood intern. For the last few weeks she has been identifying and cataloguing the glass slides belonging to Quaritch Wales. I showed her the plaster cast and, guess what, she showed me the glass slide of the plate. And working through further plates in the article, she could identify other glass slides and photographs that she had seen in her time with us. So, I have decided, that it would be better to catalogue this with the Quaritch Wales collection which also contains other objects from his excavations of Kedah. So when, I have finished this blog post I will look to update the catalogue for the  Papers of Horace Geoffrey Quaritch Wales to include this item and to find a home for it with his other things.

We have two events next week. on Tuesday 10 December, 6.30 pm, Dr George Mak from Hong Kong Baptist University will lecture on “”The Mandarin Union Version after One Hundred Years: A Reflection on the History and Impact of a Classic Chinese Biblical Translation”. And on Thursday 12 December 6.30 pm, Dr Peter Coles from Goldsmith University will launch his new book on “Silk, Syrup and Shade: 4000 years of Mulberry Migrations”. All are welcome to attend either or both of these events.