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Rare Book Collections

SOAS Library holds an exceptionally rich and varied collection of rare books and periodicals, relating to Africa, Asia, the Middle East and beyond. 

Our rare books collections can be consulted in the Special Collections Reading Room on Level F of the Library. Notable collections include the historic libraries of missionary societies and individual missionaries; as well as significant collections compiled on particular subjects, such as the Burma campaign during World War II.

Notable Rare Book collections

The Burma Campaign Memorial Library [E Coll 3]

Approximately, 1200 English language and 600 Japanese language publications.

The Burma Campaign Memorial Library was created by the Burma Campaign Fellowship Group as a permanent memorial to those who fought and those who died in the Burma campaign (1942-1945) during World War II. The Burma Campaign Memorial Library is a comprehensive collection of published and unpublished writings about the war in Burma [Myanmar] between 1942 and 1945. The longest continuous and, at the time, least publicised campaign of the conflict.

An overview of the Burma Campaign Memorial Library

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Council for World Mission Library [CWML]

Approximately 13000 publications.

The collection comprises the historical library of the London Missionary Society (LMS), a protestant missionary organisation founded in 1795, as well as publications held by the LMS’s successor the Council for World Mission (CWM), an international Christian fellowship.

The collection includes various histories of the CWM and LMS and monograph accounts of its work in particular regions. It also includes several CWM and LMS periodicals, including the Annual Report of the London Missionary Society, and Chronicle of the London Missionary Society. The collection includes accounts of individual missions and institutions, as well as biographies and autobiographies of individual missionaries. There are also many works on the geography, history, anthropology, and religion of the regions and communities in which the LMS worked, as well as early dictionaries, grammars and translations of Asian, African and Pacific languages. 

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Methodist Missionary Society Library [MMSL]

Approximately 7000 publications.

The Methodist Missionary Society Library comprises the historical library of the Methodist Missionary Society (founded 1932), and its predecessors, including the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society (1813-1932); the Primitive Methodist Missionary Society (1820s-1932); and the United Methodist Missionary Society (1907-1932).

The collection consists of the publications of these organisations, including institutional histories, annual reports, and periodicals. These publications provide descriptions of the work of the various societies, accounts of specific mission fields, and works on individual missionaries. The collection also includes publications, on religious and general subjects, covering the areas and communities in which the societies were active, as well as works, particularly religious texts, in the languages of Asia, Africa and the Pacific. 

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Robert Morrison Collection of Chinese Books [RM]

Approximately 15000 volumes, comprising 1000 titles.

The library of Dr. Robert Morrison (1782-1834), first Protestant missionary to China. The collection includes works acquired by Morrison while living in Canton [Guangzhou] and Macao [Macau], China between 1807 and 1823. The library was presented to University College London in 1837 and later transferred to SOAS Library in 1922.

The collection primarily comprises 17th and 18th century woodblock editions, and is representative of the publishing output of early and mid-Qing China (c.1750s-c.1820s). The collection covers a broad spectrum of subjects, including Chinese history, philosophy, law, medicine, popular beliefs and institutions. 

The published 'Catalogue of the Morrison Collection of Chinese Books', (1998), by Andrew C. West, containing a detailed subject index, is available to consult in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Browse the Robert Morrison Collection

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