Wednesday, 29 August 2018

New Book: 'Visual Histories of South Asia' by Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes and Marcus Banks (2018, Primus)

New Book: 'Visual Histories of South Asia' by Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes and Marcus Banks (2018, Primus)

We are delighted to announce the publication of 'Visual Histories of South Asia', edited by Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes and Marcus Banks (with a Foreword by Christopher Pinney). This volume is one of the first comprehensive contributions to the rapidly developing cross-disciplinary scholarship that connects visual studies with South Asian historiography. The key purpose of the book is to introduce scholars and students of South Asian and Indian history to a detailed evaluation of visual research methods as a valid research framework for new historical studies. The volume identifies and evaluates current developments in visual sociology and digital anthropology relevant to the study of contemporary South Asian constructions of personal and national identities. The thirteen contributions selected for this volume are of immediate relevance to visual theorists and historians, sociologists and cultural anthropologists, as well as to scholars of South Asian history and culture. The volume includes contributions by Denis Vidal, Marcus Banks, Josefine Baark, Thomas Simpson, Teresa Segura-Garcia, Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes, Imma Ramos, Xavier Guegan, Adrian P. Ruprecht, Aaron Bryant, Ronie Parciak, Souvik Naha, and Siddharth Pandey.

'This volume provides a rich feast of materials for anyone interested in the visual cultures and history of visual representation in South Asia and is notable as well for its fascinating exploration of the intersection of Western and local photographic practices’ – David MacDougall, Australian National University.

'This is a remarkable, genuinely interdisciplinary collection, and both a marvellously rich addition to the study of the life of visual images in South Asia, and a highly sophisticated contribution to debates of the interdisciplinary study of visual culture' – James Laidlaw, William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology, Head of Division, Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge.

'This is an outstanding contribution to a timely and relevant focus on transregional visual history and historiography of South Asia. This rescaling of what is often times an India-centric visual history is accompanied by remarkably heterogeneous approaches from across disciplines and methods, challenging notions of political, cultural, religious or ethnic reifications. The book offers insights into original material and a framework of rich epistemologies, entanglements, relationalities and translations. It will encourage new generations of scholars to further push boundaries of established canons and exploring new frontiers of visual culture and history studies' – Christiane Brosius, Chair of Visual & Media Anthropology, Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies, Heidelberg University.

'This is a unique and excellent contribution to the field of South Asian visual studies, art history and cultural analysis. This text takes an interdisciplinary approach while keeping its focus on the visual, on material cultural and on art and aesthetics. It brings together empirically rich and theoretically sophisticated analysis on representations from colonial and post-colonial eras ranging from colonial era photography to "tribal art," temple and video art. In doing so it bridges a major gap in our understanding of South Asia's modern history by using the idiom of visual culture and the politics of representation' – Kamran Asdar Ali, University of Texas at Austin

Sunday, 15 July 2018

An architect's collection H.A.N. Medd

H.A.N Medd (September 21, 1892 - October 26, 1977) who assisted Sir Edwin Lutyens in in the construction of Delhi gave maps and various papers to the Archives of the Centre of South Asian Studies and a collection of 954 photographs which cover New Delhi and India General from 1920 to 1975.
The 41 books which were given by him to the library have recently been catalogued and can be searched on iDiscover under the classmark Archive MED. Seven titles are unique to the Centre including this portfolio of sketches :
The architect's calendar : twelve architectural phantasies, one for each month / drawn by Gavin Stamp. London : The artist, 1973. Archive MED 41

Beautiful illustrations are also found in Poems of Nizami edited by Lawrence Binyon, London : Studio Ltd., 1928 Archive MED 25

and in Tales of Old Sind by C.A. Kincaid, London : Humphrey Milford, 1922. Archive MED 11, only held in the Centre. The illustrations are still in copyright so cannot be reproduced in this blog.

The Medd collection includes guides to museums, art history, wildlife and the history of mountaineering. The oldest book in the collection is T.H. Hendley, Handbook to the Jeypore museum, Calcutta : Central Press, 1895 (Archive MED 19) which includes 16 plates, including 3 collotypes, 2 floor plans, and 11 photochromolithographs, whilst Roy Craven, Concise history of  Indian art, London : Thames and Hudson, 1975 (Archive MED 28) was purchased shortly before he died in 1977.  The highlands of Central India : notes on their forests and wild tribes, natural history, and sport by James Forsyth was originally published in 1871, Medd's copy was published in London by Chapman and Hall in 1919 (Archive MED 16). Another copy was presented by Col. H.B. Hudson (Archive HUD 12).

The mountaineering books collected by Medd include Eric Shipton's Nanda Devi, London : Hodder, 1936 (Archive MED 35), H.W. Tilmann's Ascent of Nanda Devi, Cambridge: University Press, 1937 (Archive MED  33) and Kenneth Mason Abode of snow : a history of Himalayan exploration, London : Rupert Hart-Davis, 1955 (Archive MED 29). A previous blog discussed other mountaineering books held in the Archive collection.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Digitising a scroll

News from Edinburgh University Library - their 72m long 1795 copy of the Mahabharata has been digitised and is now available to view online. They've written a fascinating blogpost about the project here and you can see the digitised manuscript itself here.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

97th SAALG Conference, the Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, Friday 6th July 2018

** NB Booking for this event has now closed **

The 2018 South Asia Archive and Library Group conference, will take place at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, on Friday 6th July, from 1pm to 7pm. 

The Queen’s Gallery upcoming summer exhibitions both relate to South Asia (Splendours of the subcontinent: four centuries of South Asian paintings and manuscripts and Splendours of the subcontinent: a prince's tour of India, 1875-6) and we are very pleased to be able to hold our conference at the gallery to coincide with them. Naturally, there will be a chance to see the exhibitions and the talks will all focus on South Asian material in the Royal Collection.

The detailed programme is as follows:

13.00-14.00   Arrival and lunch

14.00-14.45   Emily Hannam (Royal Collection)
                        The South Asian collections of the Royal Library, Windsor Castle

14.45-15.30   Rachael Smith (Royal Collection)
                        Conserving South Asian art on paper at the Royal Collection

15.30-15.50   Tea/coffee

15.50-16.30   Saqib Baburi (British Library)
                        Distant friends: correspondence of the Nawabs of Arcot with George III

16.30-17.15   Kajal Meghani (Royal Collection)
                        Revisiting the 1875-76 royal tour of India

17.15-18.00   SAALG business meeting or visit to the exhibition Splendours of the subcontinent: a prince’s tour of India, 1875-76

18.00-19.00   Private view of the exhibition Splendours of the subcontinent: four centuries of South Asian paintings and manuscripts

The conference fee, due on the day, will be £25.

Please confirm your attendance by emailing Emma Mathieson (emma.mathieson AT Please advise us of any dietary requirements in your message.

The closing date for booking will be Thursday 14th June

Unfortunately, any cancellations after that date will incur a catering charge, for which we will have to invoice you.

We look forward to seeing many of you in July!

Monday, 14 May 2018

Forestry in Sri Lanka

The eight books given by William Martin McNeill to the Archives of the Centre of South Asian Studies are one of the smaller donations to the Centre but cover forestry, plant biology and the economic background in Ceylon in the 1920s. Five of the books are only located in the Centre but directories such as The Times of Ceylon Green Book and L.J.B. Turner’s Hand book of commercial and general information for Ceylon are also held in the Cambridge University Library, and an edition of H.W. Codrington’s Short history of Ceylon is held in the History Faculty Library.

William Martin McNeill worked for Colonial Forest Service between 1922 and 1938. He served as Assistant Conservator of Forests at Kurunegala, and was acting Captain and A.D.C. to the Acting Governor Mr (later Sir) Bernard Bourdillon, serving twice: April 1930 - September 1930 and again February - March 1931. Various boxes of his papers and photographs are also held in the Archives.
One of the books unique to the Centre is Ceylon trees by T.B. Worthington, with photographs by the author. Colombo [Ceylon] : Colombo Apothecaries' Co., 1959 given to W.M. McNeill MBE TD with the author’s compliments (Archive McN 2). Each tree image has names in different languages and the use that can be made of the timber.

Archive McN 2

Other unique books are :

The butterflies of Ceylon by W Ormiston. Columbo : H.W. Cave, 1924. (Archive McN 5) and
Cooly Tamil as understood by labourers on tea & rubber estates : specially arranged for planters and planting students  by W.G. B. Wells. Columbo :  Ceylon Observer, 1921. (Archive McN 8).

The Royal Commonwealth Society in the Cambridge University Library Digital Library Sri Lanka collection has material which predates the McNeill collection. Notably the Photograph collection of John Abercromby Alexander (Y303E)

John Abercromby Alexander (b. 1854) was appointed Acting Forester in Ceylon's North-Central Province in 1886. He may have been resident in Ceylon earlier, possibly engaged in a planting enterprise. Alexander served as Forester, North-Central Province, 1887-88 and then as Assistant Conservator of Forests, Central and Southern Provinces, from 1889 until 1893, when he left the forestry department. He appears to have remained on the island until around 1896. He joined the Royal Colonial Institute in 1892. Abercromby lived at Venture Estates, Kalthuritty, Travancore, India, 1896-1898.

Friday, 11 May 2018

A Burmese collection

Christopher Lorimer was employed with Steel Brothers at their rice-mills in Rangoon from 1926 to 1942. He left Burma during the evacuation in 1942, using the Tamu route into India.
The papers Christopher Lorimer donated to the Archives of the Centre of South Asian Studies consist of eight boxes covering the period 1695-1944.  They include letters to his mother (1929-30) and his diaries which cover the whole of his service in Burma (1925-42) and give an insight into the social and business life of contemporary Burma ;  historical documents - the nine army commissions of the East India CO., conferred on Colonel John Crow (1779-1813 and a distant relative) which cover his career from Ensign to Colonel ; and, relating to the Mutiny period in India, the papers of Major Laughton, Chief Engineer at the siege of Delhi until 22 June 1857. He also gave 57 photographs relating to Burma.
He gave twenty seven books to the Archives, the earliest is An account of an embassy to the kingdom of Ava : sent by the Governor General of India in the year 1795 by Michael Symes. London : Printed by W. Bulmer and Co.; and sold by Messrs G.&W. Nicol and J. Wright, 1800 (Archive LOR 22)

Plant descriptions in appendix to
Embassy to Ava. Archive LOR 22

and, printed in 1828, Charles D'Oyly, Tom Raw, the griffin : a burlesque poem, in twelve cantos illustrated by twenty-five engravings. London : R. Ackermann. (Archive LOR 24).

In addition to books on the history of Burma and Steel Brothers and the Bombay Burmah trading company he also gave a book by B.E. Smythies, Birds of Burma containing 31 coloured plates from paintings by A.M. Hughes. Rangoon : American Baptist Mission, 1940 (Archive LOR 19) with a note on the fly leaf that it has been kept safe for him during the occupation of Burma and his name erased.

He continued to collect books in his retirement including India and British portraiture, 1770-1825 by  Mildred Archer. London ; Karachi : Philip Wilson for Sotheby Parke Bernet : Oxford University Press, 1979, (Archive LOR 1)

Annotations in his books give additional background to his work and family history :
I bought this book when I was on leave from the army ..
a "refugee" from Burma staying in Calcutta.
At the Officers' dance one night at the club
I had the good fortune to catch the Princes
 of  Berar in a "Paul Jones"

Archive LOR 11
Paul Chater, Assemblage of Indian army soldiers and uniforms. London : Perpetua Press, 1973 with a note "Christopher Lorimer, grand nephew of William Wyld, 4th Bengal Light Cavalry (Lancers). Their uniform was pale blue with yellow facings.