Photographs in the British Library of documents and manuscripts from Sir Aurel Stein's fourth Central Asian expedition
ON I September 1995, shortly before I returned to China from a visit to the British Library on a British Academy K. C. Wong Fellowship, a box containing photographs of documents and manuscripts from Sir Aurel Stein's fourth Central Asian expedition (1930-1) was rediscovered in the Oriental and India Office Collections of the British Library. Through the kindness of Frances Wood, Susan Whitfield and Graham Hutt of the British Library I was able to examine these photographs as part of our joint project on Stein's fourth Central Asian expedition. It is well known that the originals of the documents and manuscripts acquired by Stein during his fourth Central Asian expedition, mostly in Chinese, Kharosthi and Brahmi, were confiscated in China in 1931 and have since disappeared. Needless to say, these photographs have been and will probably continue to be the only basis for the study of Stein's palaeographic finds from that ill-fated expedition. Before his final departure from China, Stein had taken pains to have these documents and manuscripts photographed and thereby preserved them from total loss. He had also done all he could before his death to publish these photographs in Europe for the benefit of Central Asian scholarship, but for various reasons most of them have not been seen to date. The opportunity to publish these photographs here will therefore benefit academics as well as fulfilhng Stein's unrealized expectations. I have the honour to be entrusted with preparing introductory notes on these photographs to provide background material for further studies. My notes are offered here in a preliminary form and my detailed report will be published later.