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

Asia and Africa

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 free Discovery and 1-2-1 Sessions 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

Beautiful Burmese Barges and Boats

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A recently digitised Burmese manuscript in the British Library (Or. 14005) contains images of different types of royal barges and boats, illuminated in red and gold. The barges are carved and decorated elaborately with figures of mythical creatures such as...

Pawukon, Javanese calendrical manuscripts

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Today’s guest blog on the Javanese Manuscripts from Yogyakarta Digitisation Project is by Prof. Ann Kumar of the Australian National University The highly complex Javanese calendar has evolved over many centuries. The year dating system used is the Indian Shaka...

Buddhism Illuminated through Southeast Asian Manuscript Art (2)

Friday, November 9, 2018

Buddhism Illuminated: Manuscript Art from Southeast Asia is a lavishly-illustrated book published earlier this year by the British Library in collaboration with Washington University Press. The book aims to share many years of research on the British Library’s unique collection...

The Javanese 'Chronicle of the Kingdoms': Babad Kraton

Friday, November 2, 2018

Today’s guest blog for the Javanese Manuscripts from Yogykarta Digitisation Project is by Prof. Merle Ricklefs of the Australian National University Despite the simple opening frames, devoid of colours and gold, this Javanese manuscript of Babad Kraton, ‘Chronicle of the...

More blog posts

External links

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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

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Raffle's Ark Redrawn book

An exquisite illustrated catalogue of the 123 colourful natural history drawings of the Raffles Family Collection.

£20

The Book of the British Library

As well as holding some of the world's most prized cultural treasures, the British Library is the repository of the nation's collective memory.

£25.00