The British Library's Stein and Central Asian collection includes the world's oldest paper archive and many other items of enormous international cultural significance. Therefore, its preservation is of paramount importance. In order to protect the precious originals, in the first instance, ALL visitors should refer to surrogate forms, i.e. microfilms, photographs or digital images.**
If you wish to request to see original material please complete the form below giving detailed reasons for your request and a complete list of those manuscripts you wish to consult, as well as precise dates of your intended visit. Some manuscripts may not be available because they are being conserved or awaiting conservation. Please give at least one month's notice. You will also need a Readers' Pass.
*Pressmarks including: Or. 8210, Or. 8211, Or. 8212, Or. 8672, Or. 9268, Or. 9609, Or. 9611, Or. 9612, Or. 9614, Or. 9615, Or.12380, Or.12637, IOL San, IOL Khot, IOL Tib, IOL Toch.
**More than half of the manuscripts from the British Library can already be viewed in high quality colour images on the IDP Interactive Web Database and readers are encouraged to use this where possible.
In addition, there are microfilms of all the Stein materials. Concordances for the sequences Or.8210, Or.8211 and Or.8212 are to be found in the British Library APAC Reading Room on the reference shelves at ORL CHI MSS 8. The canonical Buddhist texts are clearly reproduced on microfilm.
Non-canonical Chinese materials have been published in Dunhuang Manuscripts in British Collections/ Yingcang Dunhuang wenxian to be found in the APAC Reading Room on the Dunhuang reference shelves at OIT 011.31. The Dunhuang Baocang volumes are shelved nearby. These contain images of all the microfilms from Or.8210/S.1 to S.6980. The Chavannes and Maspero Chinese woodslip catalogues with photographs of are at OIT 011.31 and Professor Oba's catalogue which contains new photographs of the same woodslips is at OIT 011.31. There are other catalogues in this section containing photographs of other manuscripts.
In addition, there are usually several Central Asian manuscripts on display in the Treasures Exhibition Gallery the British Library. Entrance is free.
For information on applying for a British Library reader's pass please refer to the British Library web pages.
For further guidance on viewing Chinese and other Central Asian manuscripts please contact us.