three years at the British Library I have almost ceased to be surprised
by items we hold. However colleague Hedley Sutton managed to come up
trumps during his recent āShow and Tellā for staff.
Here are a selection of some the curious documents from the Asian & African Studies collections he managed to find for us to educate and inform:
ā¢ A copy of the New Testament published in Constantinople (modern Istanbul) during 1914. The text is written in Armenian script.
ā¢ āNatureās Self-Printingā published in Mangalore City (South
West India) by the Mission Press, a publishing house run by
Missionaries who loved India. Appeared to contain samples of pressed
Indian Flora from 1862. Some plant-resins appeared had leaked through
the paper pages, various leaves showed signs of being nibbled by bugs.
ā¢ 1844 examination papers for entrance into the East India
Company (the equivalent of the Civil Service). Any student who wanted
to enter the Company had to study for six months and then pass
examination papers in the Indian language, economy and history, also
Latin, Greek and Mathematics.
ā¢ This was a boxed collection of miniature books from Japan from
the 1960ās and 1970ās. One of the books in was less than one inch
square, with the initials JC embossed on the front; the content was
Jimmy Carterās inaugural speech both in English and Japanese.
ā¢ One of a series: āHogHunters Annualā, an Indian serial
publication from 1928 dedicated to the hunting of hogs/wild pigs (aka
Pig Sticking). The annual detailed ways of killing hogs with spears
while riding on horseback.
Image from www.pigsticking.com
ā¢ Unexpected was a batch of Nazi propaganda leaflets. These were
again a serial publication, written in German around the time of World
War 2 and distributed to Germans living in India.
ā¢ The presentation took a rather grisly turn with the record of
Courts Martial held by the East India Company between 1801 ā 1821. In
the early 19th century East India Company, the attitude to behaviour
was pretty severe. For example, in November 1818 a Private was
sentenced to 1,000 lashes on his bare back for being drunk and refusing
to go to his barrack when ordered to do so. Because all 1,000 lashes
administered at once would kill anyone, the punishment would have taken
place in instalments over several days or weeks. The record also gives
a gruesome step-by-step guide for carrying out an execution by firing
squad, including the music to be played (the Dead March from Handelās
āSaulā) and at what point to blindfold the prisoner.
Many thanks to Heather Morley for sharing her detailed notes of the meeting.