We have manuscripts dating back to the 17th century, early printed books, newspapers and periodicals, and modern research-level publications in the humanities and social sciences.

Collection guides

Readers at desks in the Asian and African Reading Room

Asian & African Studies Reading Room

  • Find information on the shelves
  • Access online databases and electronic books and journals
  • Order collection items to the Reading Room via our catalogues

If you need help, just ask our Information Specialists at the Reference Enquiry desk or contact the Asian & African Studies Reference Team.

We offer a range of free Reader sessions and 1-2-1 consultations to help you make the best use of the Library's collections.

You’ll need a Reader Pass

Mon: 10.00 – 17.00
Tue – Sat: 09.30 – 17.00
Sun & English Public Holidays: closed

Opening hours for all Reading Rooms

Blog posts

Batik designs in a Javanese manuscript: Serat Damar Wulan

Monday, November 28, 2022

Serat Damar Wulan (MSS Jav 89) is probably the earliest surviving fully illustrated Javanese manuscript, and is full of lively and humorous scenes of everyday life in late 18th-century Java. In this guest blog Dr Fiona Kerlogue examines the clothes...

Three northern Thai manuscripts from Carl Bock’s collection

Monday, November 21, 2022

A currently ongoing initiative to add provenance details to catalogue records of manuscripts in the British Library’s Thai, Lao and Cambodian collections has brought to light that three palm leaf manuscripts were previously part of Carl Bock’s collection of Southeast...

Manuscript Textiles in the Southeast Asian collections

Monday, November 7, 2022

A Chevening Fellowship is currently being hosted for twelve months by the Library’s Asian and African Collections department with the aim of researching and cataloguing manuscript textiles in the Southeast Asian collections. The Library holds about 3000 manuscripts from Southeast...

Verhandelingen: a rare 1816 issue of a periodical printed in Java

Monday, October 17, 2022

The Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen, or Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences, was established in Batavia in 1778. Founded by the botanist Jacob Radermacher, the Bataviaasch Genootschap is the oldest learned society in Asia founded by Europeans. After...

More blog posts

Projects

Bollinger Singapore Digitisation Project

Making Singapore related material at the British Library available online.

Raffles Family Collection

Introducing the Raffles Family Collection at the British Library.

Javanese Manuscripts from Yogyakarta Digitisation Project

Digitising Javanese manuscripts from Yogyakarta

All projects

External links

The British Library is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

South East Asia Library Group

Scholars and librarians concerned with library provision for South-East Asian studies

Southeast Asia Digital Library

Provides researchers with a wide variety of materials

Shop

Stunning publication on illustrated Buddhist manuscripts from Southeast Asia.

£50

Exhibition catalogue for the Buddhism exhibition at the British Library, 2019.

£25