Sep 272013

This is the first in a series of guest posts written by some of SUNCAT’s Contributing Libraries. The posts provide an overview of the library, focusing on their serials and the specialist collections they hold. SUNCAT wishes to thank Kathy Lazenbatt for writing the post below, telling us about the Royal Asiatic Society and its journal collections.

Royal Asiatic Society: Background

The Royal Asiatic Society was the first British organisation dedicated to the study of Asia. It was founded in 1823, at a time when Europeans were beginning to learn Asian languages in a systematic way, and were excited about gaining a real knowledge of Asian cultures, history and religions.  The Society helped to encourage an exchange of cultural understanding with Asia, a process which is still on-going today.  In Britain it was at the heart of that process, fulfilling a national role in Asian studies, and collaborating with organisations and scholars worldwide.

Current activities 

Today the RAS provides an independent forum for professional scholars and those with a general interest in Asia.  To fulfil its aims the Society:

  • runs a historic library of books, manuscripts, art works and photographs
  • publishes a journal with Cambridge University Press
  • publishes four or five Asian studies books a year
  • holds two monthly lectures, one presented by students
  • hosts a variety of other talks and events on Asian topics

Members of the public are very welcome to attend events and use the library free of charge.

Journals collections

The library collections span all of Asia, from Turkey to Japan, though as a result of the long British association with India, the collections relating to South Asia are particularly strong.  Out of the library’s 569 journal titles, 116 relate to India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka or Afghanistan.  The Society does not deal with contemporary material like modern politics and economics, but has a historical focus.  It is a good source of 19th and early 20th century journals on Asia, some of which are rare in the UK.

Cover of the Journal of Indian Art and Industry Vol. XII 1909.

Plate 28 ‘Portraits of ladies of Rajputana and Malwa wearing jewellery’ from the Journal of Indian Art and Industry Vol. XII 1909.

The library obtains all its journals on an exchange basis, which means that it does not hold some of the mainstream titles in Asian studies, but on the other hand it has many journals from small institutions, especially in Asia, which are not widely available.

One group of journals for which we receive many enquiries, are the journals of other similar societies in Asia, e.g.  the Asiatic Society in Calcutta, Madras Literary Society, Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka,  the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society,  the Mythic Society of Bangalore, the Bihar and Orissa Research Society and the Burma Research Society.  All of these are independent societies, some affiliated to the RAS in London.  Most of them were started in the 19th century and are still going strong, though one or two no longer exist.  The RAS library is one of the few in the UK that holds their journals and has more titles and more complete runs than most other libraries.

Opening hours and contact

More information about the library and how to access it can be found here, and the staff will happily answer any enquiries sent to

Kathy Lazenbatt (Librarian, RAS)

 September 27, 2013  Posted by at 8:51 am Contributing Libraries Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »