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British Library, Oriental and India Office Collections


Postal address
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB
United Kingdom
Visiting address
Oriental and India Office Collections
on the 3rd floor
Telephone
• +44 (0)20 7412 7000
(general enquiries)
• +44 (0)20 7412 7332
(visitor services)
• +44 (0)20 7412 7873
(Oriental and India Office Collections)
Fax
• +44 (0)20 7412 7340
(visitor services)
• +44 (0)20 7412 7641
(Oriental and India Office Collections)
E-mail
reader-services-enquiries@bl.uk
(general enquiries)
oioc-enquiries@bl.uk
(Oriental and India Office Collections)
Website
www.bl.uk
(general information)
www.bl.uk/collections/
orientalandindian.html

(Oriental and India Office Collections)
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Opening hours

ritish Library building:
Monday 9.30-18.00 hrs,
Tuesday 9.30-20.00 hrs,
Wednesday-Friday 9.30-18.00 hrs,
Saturday 9.30-17.00 hrs,
Sunday and Bank Holidays 11.00-17.00 hrs.

Oriental and India Office Collections:
Monday 10.00-17.00 hrs,
Tuesday-Saturday 9.30-17.00 hrs.

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Access

he British Library is situated next to St Pancras railway station and within walking distance of King's Cross and Euston railway stations. King's Cross St Pancras, Euston and Euston Square are the nearest underground stations. Bus routes 10, 30, 73 and 91 pass the building. There are no car parking facilities for the public on site, except for users with disabilities. There is a covered area for bicycles. The nearest car parks are in Marchmont Street under the Brunswick Shopping Centre and Euro Car Parks at St Pancras station.

First-time visitors need to apply for a pass (free of charge) at the Reader Admissions Office (Monday 10.00-18.00 hrs, Tuesday-Thursday 9.30-18.00 hrs, Friday-Saturday 9.30-16.30). They will be asked to provide proof of identity (bearing their signature), complete an application form and give details of the nature of their research, and why they need to use the British Library. One should note that it may be necessary to supply a letter of recommendation or an application form endorsed by a librarian.

For details one should contact the Reader Admissions Office: reader-admissions@bl.uk.

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Mission

he British Library's mission is to foster the pursuit of knowledge for the benefit of scholarship, research and innovation, and encourage the broadest possible awareness and accessibility of the Library’s collections for the benefit of the citizen.

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Holdings

he British Library serves as the national library of the United Kingdom. As far as archival materials are concerned, its holdings include documents deriving from the India Office (headquarters of British East India Company). These consist of the India Office Records (divided into several classes) and a great number of manuscripts known as private papers (including the Mackenzie collections). All these materials, as well as manuscripts in Asian and Northeast African languages, are to be consulted in the Oriental and India Office Collections Reading Room.

Stackroom with the VOC archives of Melaka (click to enlarge)

Furthermore, the British Library keeps a number of manuscript collections in Western European languages. These have to be consulted in the Manuscripts Reading Room. Note that records concerning the British crown colonies (including the Cape of Good Hope, Ceylon and the Straits Settlements: Penang, Melaka and Singapore) are (also) to be found in the National Archives (formerly Public Record Office, PRO) at Kew Gardens in London.

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History

he immediate roots of the British Library, national library of the UK, lay in the report of the National Libraries Committee issued in 1969, followed in 1971 by a White Paper recommending the setting up of a national library for the UK ('the British Library'). In 1972 The British Library Act was passed by Parliament bringing the Library into operation with effect from 1 July 1973. Under the Act the following institutions were administratively combined to form the British Library: the library departments of the British Museum (which included the National Reference Library of Science and Invention), the National Central Library, and the National Lending Library for Science and Technology (the centre for interlibrary lending, located at Boston Spa in Yorkshire). In 1974 the British National Bibliography and the Office for Scientific and Technical Information joined the UK's new national library.

In 1982 the India Office Library and Records were transferred to the British Library from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office: these contained the entire archives of British India from the foundation of the East India Company in 1600 to independence. The following year (1983) the Library took over the British Institute of Recorded Sound, a unique institution which specialised in collecting sound recordings. Subsequently renamed the National Sound Archives (NSA), this is now the largest sound archive in the world.

The 1971 White Paper recognised that the constituent bodies of the proposed British Library (principally the British Museum Library) were seriously short of space and that rehousing the collections was a priority. In December 1974 the Library's Board agreed to examine with the Government the feasibility of siting a building on this site fronting on to Euston Road; the following year the Government paid � 6 million for this to be the site of the new British Library. The British Library was formally opened in June 1998.

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Organization

or practical purposes, the collection (both published works and manuscripts) of the British Library as a whole can be divided into the various reading rooms where materials are to be consulted.

The Oriental and India Office Collections Reading Room (3rd floor) provides access to a diverse range of material in the languages of Asia and North East Africa covering the humanities and social and political sciences. This includes the collections of the India Office Library and Records, literature and documents on India, Pakistan, Burma, Bangladesh and neighbouring countries, Iran and the Gulf states, South Africa, St Helena, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, China and Japan.

Reading room Readingroom of the Oriental and India Office

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The Manuscript Reading Room (2nd floor) provides access to the Manuscript collections (as far as these are not to be consulted in the Oriental and India Office Collections Reading Room). The collection represents the Library's holdings of material written by hand and in Western European languages, in all disciplines, from the 4th century BC to the present day.

The Maps Reading Room (3rd floor) provides access to the Library's collection of maps, atlases, globes and books on the history of cartography dating from the fifteenth century to the present. It also serves as an information point for maps throughout the British Library's collections.

The remaining reading rooms concern materials (mostly published works) classified as Humanities, Science, and Rare Books and Music.

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Activities

mong other activities, the British Library holds both permanent and temporary exhibitions, conducts tours of the building, provides services for teachers and learners, sells publications in its bookshop and participates in various cooperative programmes. For more information, see the Library's website.

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Publications

  • Baxter, I.A., 'Dutch Records from Malacca in the India Office Records', Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 56, 2 (1983).
  • Blagden, C.O., Catalogue of Manuscripts in European Languages Belonging to the Library of the India Office. Vol. I: The Mackenzie Collections, Part I: The 1822 Collection & the Private Collection (Oxford 1916).
  • Blake, D.M., Catalogue of the European Manuscripts in the Oriental and India Office Collections of the British Library (London 1998).
  • Cotton, J.S., J.H.R.T. Charpentier and E.H. Johnston, Catalogue of Manuscripts in European Languages Belonging to the Library of the India Office. Vol. I, Part II: The Mackenzie General and Miscellaneous Collections (London 1992).
  • Kaye, G.R., and E.H. Johnston, Catalogue of Manuscripts in European Languages Belonging to the Library of the India Office. Vol. II, Part II: Minor Collections and Miscellaneous Manuscripts (London 1937).
  • Moir, M., A General Guide to the India Office Records (London 1988).
  • Nickson, M.A.E., The British Library. Guide to the Catalogues and Indexes of the Department of Manuscripts (London 1978).
  • Pearson, J.D., A Guide to Manuscripts and Documents in the British Isles Relating to South and South-East Asia, Vol. I: London (London and New York 1989).
  • Verhoeven, F.R.J., 'The Lost Archives of Dutch Malacca, 1641-1824', Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 37, 2 (1964).
  • Wainwright, M.D., and N. Matthews, A Guide to Western Manuscripts and Documents in the British Isles Relating to South and South East Asia (London 1965).
  • Wilson, H.H., The Mackenzie Collection. A Descriptive Catalogue of the Oriental Manuscripts and Other Articles Illustrative of the Literature, History, Statistics and Antiquities of the South of India; Collected by the Late Lieut. Col. Colin Mackenzie (1st ed. Calcutta 1828, 2nd ed. Madras 1882).

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The VOC archives in the British Library

he majority of the archival materials in the British Library that derive from (or otherwise concern) the Dutch East India Company (VOC) is to be consulted in the Oriental and India Office Collections Reading Room.

The Oriental and India Office Collections include only one collection that can be considered a more or less complete set of archives: those of the VOC factory at Melaka in peninsular Malaysia (founded in 1641 when the Dutch expelled the Portuguese). These archives, for a long time thought to be lost, are referred to as 'Malacca Orphan Chamber and Council of Justice Records c1685-1835'. They make up one of the India Office Records classes and have fonds code R/9. They consist of 98 boxes, stretch c. 13 metres and cover the years (1670) 1685-1835 (1841). They were donated by the Government of the Straits Settlements (see the section on 'Holdings') to the India Office in 1927, after lying, neglected, for many years in the basement at the Court House at Melaka. Only in 1981 have these archives been completely sorted and listed. They comprise 36 boxes of Orphan Chamber records, 54 boxes of records of the College of Justice, 1 box of records of the Political Council and 7 boxes of miscellanea. For the most part the records are written in Dutch, but they also include documents in Malay, Chinese and Tamil. The bulk of the archives relate to the period 1785-1825, i.e. the last years of the VOC administration , the British occupation of 1795-1818 and the second Dutch administration of 1818-1825. A detailed inventory of the archives is to be found in I.A. Baxter, 'Dutch Records from Malacca in the India Office Records', Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 56, 2 (1983).

VOC document VOC record with document in Chinese

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The India Office Records class of 'Returns of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials 1698-1969' (fonds code N), which chiefly consists of materials of British origin, includes a badly damaged Dutch baptismal (and marriage?) register deriving from the church of Cochin (later on known as the St Francis Church), covering the period 1751-1804 (inv. no. N/2/177). It has to be consulted on microfilm (no. Z/N/2/1), where it is preceded by a typescript index to the names in the register. See also C.H. van Wijngaarden i.a. (ed.), 'Het doop/trouwboek van Cochin', Gens Nostra. Maandblad der Nederlandse Genealogische Vereniging, 47, nos. 1-3, 7, 8 (1992), which comprises the publication of several baptismal and marriage registers of Cochin. Part of these may be similar to the register kept in London.

The India Office Private Papers of the Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections comprise about three hundred collections and over three thousand smaller deposits of papers relating primarily to the British experience in India. Though often including papers similar to or complementing the much more extensive official archives of the India Office Records, the Private Papers are distinguished from those records by their provenance from private sources. A general finding aid to these materials is D.M. Blake, Catalogue of the European Manuscripts in the Oriental and India Office Collections of the British Library (London 1998). The Private Papers include a number of documents that might be considered VOC records. Most important in this respect are the four main Mackenzie Collections, compiled by Colonel Colin Mackenzie (c. 1753-1821), the first Surveyor General of British India. During his stays in India (1783-1811, 1815-1821) and Java (1811-1815), he accumulated a great number of manuscripts relating to (south) India and Indonesia. These include several documents in Dutch, which either derive from the VOC (apparently in particular from its archives at Batavia) or are copies of original VOC documents. There are also a number of English translations of Dutch documents. Only materials written in Dutch are considered below.

  • Mackenzie Private Collection (95 volumes, until 1813): papers relating chiefly to Java and the Dutch East Indies, collected by Mackenzie while serving as Chief Engineer on Java in 1811-1813, comprising copies and translations of published and unpublished books and documents, chiefly Dutch and Javanese; also materials relating to India. Finding aid: C.O. Blagden, Catalogue of Manuscripts in European Languages Belonging to the Library of the India Office. Vol. I: The Mackenzie Collections, Part I: The 1822 Collection & the Private Collection (Oxford 1916). This is by far the most important Mackenzie collection with the respect to the VOC. Relevant materials are too numerous to be described here in detail. They concern copies or duplicates of VOC records, of which in most cases the originals or other copies are kept in the Arsip Nasional at Jakarta. The above-mentioned catalogue by C.O. Blagden contains (on p. vi) a concordance with those records in Jakarta as numbered in J.A. van der Chijs, Inventaris van 's lands archief te Batavia, 1602-1816 (Batavia 1882). (Within the framework of the TANAP programme, new inventories of the materials described in Van der Chijs are being compiled. See the TANAP web site for the inventories that are already available.) Some of the Dutch documents in the Mackenzie Private Collection do not seem to be present in Jakarta and thus may be unique.
  • Mackenzie General and Miscellaneous Collections (179 items, until 1821): translations and miscellaneous papers chiefly relating to south and central India, collected by Mackenzie throughout his career; also material concerning Ceylon and Indonesia (among other regions). Finding aid: J.S.Cotton, J.H.R.T. Charpentier and E.H. Johnston, Catalogue of Manuscripts in European Languages Belonging to the Library of the India Office. Vol. I, Part II: The Mackenzie General and Miscellaneous Collections (London 1992). These collections include only a few Dutch documents. Inv. no. 26, pp. 55-92, consists of notes by Cornelis van Meeckeren about the inhabitants, customs and politics of Malabar (c. 1735). Inv. nos. 84-85 comprise a description of the south coast of Java and Dutch translations of Javanese texts deriving from the Mataram court (c. 1810).
  • Mackenzie Translations (70 volumes, until 1821): translations of works in various Indian languages, Javanese, Dutch, and other languages, collected by Mackenzie throughout his career. Finding aid: pp. 549-579 in H.H. Wilson, The Mackenzie Collection. A Descriptive Catalogue of the Oriental Manuscripts and Other Articles Illustrative of the Literature, History, Statistics and Antiquities of the South of India; Collected by the Late Lieut. Col. Colin Mackenzie (1st ed. Calcutta 1828, 2nd ed. Madras 1882). Class XIV of this collection consists of 34 documents, chiefly translations of Javanese and Dutch texts relating to Batavia and Ceylon. Some documents are in Dutch, however: no. 3, proceedings of the Ceylon government (1699); no. 4, papers relating to the defence of Batavia; no. 9, includes a Dutch text possibly concerning dams in Mullenawe on Ceylon (this piece is numbered 6 but bound with no. 9 and not to be confused with the actual no. 6).
  • Mackenzie 1822 Collection (28 volumes, until 1813): translations of works in Dutch and Javanese relating chiefly to Java and the Dutch East Indies collected by Mackenzie while serving as Chief Engineer on Java in 1811-1813. Finding aid: C.O. Blagden, Catalogue of Manuscripts in European Languages Belonging to the Library of the India Office. Vol. I: The Mackenzie Collections, Part I: The 1822 Collection & the Private Collection (Oxford 1916). This collection does not include actual VOC materials.

The part of the India Office Private Papers referred to as Minor Collections and Miscellaneous Manuscripts is also relevant. A general finding aid to these materials is G.R. Kaye and E.H. Johnston, Catalogue of Manuscripts in European Languages Belonging to the Library of the India Office. Vol. II, Part II: Minor Collections and Miscellaneous Manuscripts (London 1937). These materials can also be searched with the help of a data base on the Internet (http://prodigi.bl.uk/iosm/emsform.asp). The following documents can be considered to derive from the VOC:

  • MSS Eur D3 (also referred to as K4, c. 200 pages) consists of statutes of Batavia from 1659; most of these are copies made in 1803, but pp. 193-206 are original (for an extensive description, see the above-mentioned catalogue, pp. 5-7, no. 4);
  • MSS Eur F1 (also K5, 126 pages) comprise (copies of ) correspondence between Batavia and Melaka in 1672; all documents seem original (extensively described in the catalogue on pp. 8-12, no. 5);
  • MSS Eur D8 (also K19, c. 300 pages) is a copy (probably contemporary) of the memorie van overgave (final report by a departing official) of the Directeur of Surat, Christiaan Lodewijk Senff, from 1768 (extensively described in the catalogue on pp. 56-61, no. 19).
Logo EIC Arms of the English East India Company

Worth mentioning is also the India Office Records class of 'Records relating to other Europeans in India 1475-1824' (fonds code I). This class consists of two small artificial collections, made in the India Office in the late nineteenth century, of documents dealing with British relations with the French and Dutch in Asia (coded I/1 and I/2). With these has been placed a collection of transcripts and translations of early documents in Dutch and Portuguese archives, made for the India Office in the 1890s (coded I/3). Inv. nos. I/2/1-32 chiefly comprise materials of the British East India Company dealing with the Dutch in Asia, dating from the years 1596-1824. Of these, inv. nos. I/2/6-8 include a few documents in Dutch, mostly letters sent to the British and chiefly concerning eighteenth-century Bengal. Inv. nos. I/3/1-106 consist of transcripts and translations of VOC records, the originals of which are probably to be found in the Archives of the VOC, kept in the National Archives of the Netherlands at The Hague. This series consists of the following sections:

  • Inv. nos. I/3/1-86, referred to as 'Letters from India 1600-1699', probably copied from the overgekomen brieven en papieren series (inv. nos VOC 1053-3986 in The Hague);
  • Inv. nos. I/3/87-94 are referred to as 'Letters from the Seventeen to India 1614-1700' (letters from the directors of the VOC), probably copied from the series of kopieboek van uitgaande missiven ... van de Heren XVII ... aan de kantoren in Indi� (inv. nos. VOC 312-344 in The Hague);
  • Inv. nos. I/3/95-106 are referred to as 'Letters from the Governor-General to various Factories 1617-1699', probably chiefly copied from the Batavia's uitgaand briefboek series (inv. nos. VOC 849-1052 in The Hague).

Finally, the India Office Records class of 'General Correspondence 1602-1859' (fonds code E) is of some interest. It consists of four series: 'Home Correspondence' (coded E/1); 'Correspondence with the Board of Control' (coded E/2); 'Correspondence with the East' (coded E/3); and 'Correspondence with India' (coded E/4). This class includes some correspondence between the British East India Company and the directors of the VOC (Heren XVII). In the Archives of the VOC, this kind of correspondence has mostly been lost. Therefore, the records of the India Office contain virtually all there is left of it. Somewhat surprisingly, this correspondence seems to be found principally in the E/3 series: 'Correspondence with the East', covering the period 1602-1753. Inv. nos. E/3/1-83, referred to as 'Original Correspondence', consist of received letters, in which relevant documents can be found with the help of tables of contents. Inv. nos. E/3/84-124, termed 'Despatch Books', comprise outgoing letters, most of which are accessible by way of an index. This index contains about twenty references to letters sent to the Dutch East India Company, either at Amsterdam or Middelburg (in addition to letters to the VOC at various places in Asia). The E/1 series, 'Home Correspondence', may occasionally include correspondence with the directors of the VOC as well.

In addition to Oriental and India Office Collections, the 'general' Manuscripts collections of the British Library (to be consulted in the Manuscript Reading Room) are of some relevance. These contain a number of miscellaneous manuscripts that appear to originate from the VOC. They can be searched with the help of a data base on the Internet (http://molcat.bl.uk/, search for 'Dutch').

The Map Collections of the British Library also include materials that seem to derive from the VOC. These can be identified with the help of data bases (http://molcat.bl.uk/ and http://www.copac.ac.uk).

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