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

Talipot and ceremonial fans in Thai manuscript art (2)

Monday, March 13, 2023

Depictions of Talipot and ceremonial fans, like many other objects of everyday use, are very common in Thai manuscript paintings. In the first part of this blog, we looked at the origin and making of Talipot fans, called Talapat in...

Talipot and ceremonial fans in Thai manuscript art (1)

Monday, February 20, 2023

Depictions of ceremonial and Talipot fans, like many other objects of everyday use, are very common in Thai manuscript paintings. Ceremonial fans, or fans of honour and veneration, are called Phatyot (พัดยศ) in Thai, whereas Talipot fans are known as...

Alexander/Iskandar: Ancestor of Malay Kings

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Alexander the Great was born in Macedon in 356 BC, and by the age of twenty-five, he had defeated the Persian army. Over the next seven years, Alexander created an empire that stretched from Greece to Egypt and beyond the...

A book of Malay pantuns from Portugal

Monday, December 5, 2022

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to sail around the southern tip of Africa and across the Indian Ocean to reach India and then Southeast Asia. In 1511 Portuguese forces captured Melaka, the greatest Malay kingdom in Southeast Asia, and...

More blog posts


Manuscript Textiles in the Southeast Asian Collections

Researching manuscript textiles from Southeast Asia

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.

All projects

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


Stunning publication on illustrated Buddhist manuscripts from Southeast Asia.


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