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

Kālāma Sutta and the premise of free thinking

Monday, September 20, 2021

Tipiṭaka or the ‘Three Baskets’ forms the canon of the teachings of the Buddha written in Pāli. The second ‘Basket’, Sutta Piṭaka, contains five Nikāyas or ‘collections’ of thousands of discourses attributed to the Buddha and his disciples. The Aṅguttara...

The art of small things (3): Surah headings in Qur’an manuscripts from Southeast Asia

Monday, August 9, 2021

Some of the most impressive examples of Islamic calligraphy from the Malay world are the headings of the surahs or chapters set within the elaborate illuminated frames sited at the beginning or end of Qur’an manuscripts. Shown below is the...

Glorious chariots in Thai manuscript paintings

Monday, July 26, 2021

Chariots figure prominently in South and Southeast Asian art and architectural decoration. Borrowed from the Sanskrit word ratha, the chariot is called rot (รถ) in Thai and has a special importance in religious traditions in Thailand, especially those related to...

George III's maps and views: 32,000 images released on Flickr Commons

Thursday, July 15, 2021

In October 2020 we released 17,000 images of maps and views from George III’s Topographical Collection on the images-sharing site Flickr Commons, which seems to have kept you busy. Well, from today, you can find an additional 32,000 images, comprising...

More blog posts


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


Stunning publication on illustrated Buddhist manuscripts from Southeast Asia.


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