The RSAA’s library reflects the interests of the Society both geographically and chronologically.

The main collection consists of over 5,000 books covering Asia from Turkey to Japan. Most of these books relate to Asia since the beginning of the 20th Century and deal with history, geography, politics and travel. The collection includes a small number of biographies and books on the religions of Asia.

Those books relating to Central Asia are shelved separately, reflecting the origins of the Society as the Central Asian Society. Some of the books in this section date from the second half of the 19th century.

The catalogue of books can be searched online by clicking below (please make sure you are a member and logged in)

Please login to access the library


The RSAA archives’ unique and varied collection spans from the mid-19th century to the present day. It includes maps, images and personal papers, notably those of Sir Richmond Shakespear, Lieut Col F M Bailey, Lieut Col R C F Schomberg, Sir Stuart Mitford Fraser, E C M Bowra, and Sir Charles Bell. The watercolours and photographs of General Sir Edward Francis Chapman, made during the Forsyth Mission to Yarkand (1873-4), provided the first extensive visual record of Chinese Turkistan, and are good examples of archive material that reflect the mixture of diplomacy and exploration characteristic of the Society’s collection.

The RSAA’s photographic collection contains images from the late 19th century to the present, and our glass slide collection begins in the 1920s. Interesting highlights include images of Kashgar, China, as it was in 1873; a portrait of the 13th Dalai Lama and the crown prince of Sikkim taken in Calcutta in 1910; and a slide made in 1926 of Reza Shah Pahlavi.

We are in the process of digitising our archives and so that they can then be made available online and accessed by members around the world.


The Library and Archive are open only by prior appointment. Please contact the RSAA office to arrange a visit.

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