Click here to skip to content

Asian and African Studies

Asian and African Studies (AAS) is responsible for the British Library's collections of manuscripts, printed books, periodicals and electronic resources from Asia, the Middle East and Africa. We also offer guidance in using the British Library's collections for the study of these areas.

The collections

These collections constitute one of the world’s finest resources for the study of Asia, the Middle East and Africa. They include:

  • more than 65,000 manuscripts (plus thousands more fragments in the Stein, Genizah and other collections)
  • over 900,000 printed books in the languages of Asia, the Middle East and Africa
  • over 120,000 volumes of periodicals and newspapers

The language collections cover over 500 languages or language groups, ranging from Chinese, spoken by one-third of the world’s population, to languages of New Guinea spoken by only a few hundred people. The department is also responsible for several hundred thousand printed books in western languages published in these regions.

The British Library also has, and continues to collect, extensive holdings of relevant scholarship published in the UK and internationally. Other resources relevant to Asian and African Studies include sound recordings, maps and sheet music.

The collections held in Asian and African Studies have their origins in the collections of the British Museum (founded in 1753), and in the Library of the East India Company and its successor, the India Office. They have grown continually, through purchase, donation, copyright legislation and exchange. Today, the British Library continues actively to acquire material from these regions.

Further information on the collections

See the following pages for

See also the pages for the 

Alternatively, search by region or language.

Related resources

In 2010 the department changed its name from Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections to Asian and African Studies. Responsibility for the following areas has now passed to other areas of the British Library:



Asian and African Studies enquiries
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7873
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7641

E-mail: Ask the Asian and African Studies Reference Team