Bibliotheca Asiatica

Bibliotheca Asiatica is a series of reprints and some translations of books, both historic and recent past, containing first-hand descriptions and narratives by travellers in Asia, as well as research monographs and studies related to a wide range of aspects of Asian culture. Classified by country; this series includes a consolidation of the contents of the former series Bibliotheca Orientalis and Itineraria Asiatica.

Thailand Himalaya & Tibet Malaysia Korea
Burma China India Cambodia


Brahmanical Gods Of Burma
A chapter of Indian art and iconography
by Niharranjan Ray
1932, 2001. 109 pp., 30 b & w plates. 19 x 13 cm., softbound.
ISBN-10: 974-8299-30-9 $15.95
ISBN-13: 978-974-8299-30-3

A study of the Hindu elements in ancient Burmese religion, and their implications regarding early Indo-Burmese relations, based on the analysis of extant religious sculpture and images on cast coinage. An important work originally published in 1932, long out of print and until now unavailable.
A Handbook of Practical Information
by James George Scott
1906, 1910, 1921, 1999. viii, 536 pp., 67 sepia plates, map.
19 x 13 cm. Softbound.
ISBN-10: 974-8299-41-4 $28.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8299-41-9

A compendium of information on Burma including such subjects as the country and climate, government, industries, archaeology, language and literature. Also offers ‘Hints to Visitors or New Residents’. Still further information is provided in appendices on the administrative divisions, flora and fauna, metals, minerals, gems.

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The Burmese Empire a Hundred Years Ago
by Vincenzo Sangermano
1838, 1885, 1995. 352 pp., 19 x 13 cm., softbound.
ISBN-10: 974-8299-38-4 $23.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8299-38-9

Father Vincentius Sangermano, a Barnabite missionary, lived and worked in Burma from 1783 to 1808. As Symes recorded at the time: ‘he seemed a very respectable and intelligent man and wrote the Birman language fluently, and was held in high estimation by the natives for his exemplary life and inoffensive manners’. His book is divided into sections on: Burmese Cosmography; Burmese History; Constitution of the Burmese Empire; Religion of the Burmese; Moral and Physical Constitution of the Burmese Empire; and Burmese Code. The last of these is significant for being the first translation of any of the numerous codes of law written on palm leaves. Sangermano was also one of the earliest Christian missionaries to study the languages, literatures and institutions of the people, and in this book, no matter how dry the subject matter, his empathy with the Burmese people is evident. In addition, because of his language skills, the high regard in which he was held, and his access to the king’s officials and Pali scholars, Father Vincentius was able to tap original sources unavailable to others either at the time or since. No wonder his book has been treated as an authority by those writers who have followed him.
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Burma’s Icy Mountains
by Frank Kingdon-Ward
Second edition 2006 (first edition London, 1949). 296 pp., 16 b & w plates, 2 maps, index, 21.5 x 15 cm., softcover
ISBN-10: 974-524-084-2 $26.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-524-084-1

Burma’s Icy Mountains describes two expeditions to Burma-one on his own and a second, with a larger American party close to the Burma-China border-completed by the intrepid explorer and plant hunter, Kingdon-Ward, prior to the outbreak of WWII. Not published until the post war period some ten years later, the book is of particular interest in light of the more recent traumatic history of this region, and has become one of the author’s most sought-after titles.
   Aside from its relevance to those interested in Kingdon-Ward’s own focus on the rich botanical diversity of this still inaccessible region, his vivid descriptions of the terrain, the fauna and the peoples-including Tibetans, Lisu, Lashi, Kachin and Nung-encountered enroute make this true chronicle of hardship and perseverance come alive.

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The Gentleman in the Parlour
A Record of a Journey from Rangoon to Haiphong
by W. Somerset Maugham
1930, 1995. 280 pp. 19 x 13 cm., softbound, hard slipcase.
ISBN-10: 974-8299-58-9 $18.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8299-58-7

Among the many memorable books on travels in Burma before the Second World War, Somerset Maugham’s leisurely progress from London via Colombo, then up the Irrawaddy to Mandalay and onwards through the then peaceful Shan States to Thailand and Cambodia ranks among the most enjoyable. He was not only a sharp-eyed observer of human nature but writes about his encounters with a good deal of empathy quite uncommon among travel writers of the 1920’s. With an introduction to the present edition by H.K. Kuløy.
History of Burma
Including Burma Proper, Pegu, Taungu, Tennasserim and Arakan. From the earliest time to the end of the first war
by Sir Arthur Phayre
1883, 1998. xii, 312 pp., 3 maps, 3 illustrations, 19 x 13 cm., softbound.
ISBN-10: 974-8299-00-7 $25.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8299-00-6

This was the first comprehensive history of Burma, and has become regarded as a classic reference. The author draws upon Burmese written records and the narratives of European travellers and residents before him. The book is accompanied by several maps and two Appendices which provide comprehensive lists of the ‘Kings of Burma’ and the ‘Kings who Reigned in Pegu’.
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In Farthest Burma:
The record of an Arduous Journey of Exploration and Research through the Unknown Territory of Burma and Tibet
by Frank Kingdon-Ward
Second edition Orchid Press 2005 (first edition Seeley 1921), 192 pp., 2 maps and 23 b & w pl., appendices, index,
21.5 x 14 cm., softbound
ISBN-10: 974-524-062-1 $26.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-524-062-9

Records the 1914 expedition of Kingdon-Ward, the famed plant-collector and explorer, along the eastern branch of Burma’s great Irrawaddy River. A classic travel and botany account, told in the author’s inimitable style, with much vivid description of both the populace and flora of this still remote region. One of Kingdon-Ward’s scarcest titles.

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Journal of a Tour Through Pegu & Martaban
In the Suite of Drs McClelland and Brandis
by Robert Abreu
1858, 2002. vi, 240 pp., 21.5 x 15 cm., softbound.
ISBN-10: 974-524-000-1 $19.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-524-000-1

One of the earliest accounts in English of conditions in the ‘newly acquired’ possessions of the British Empire, as recorded on three forestry inspection tours in the 1850’s. As a forester, Abreu gives detailed accounts of the forests and other vegetation of the areas traversed, but he also writes of the villages and their peoples. He concludes with a detailed listing of the flora and fauna of Pegu.
Journal of a Voyage up the Irrawaddy to Mandalay and Bhamo
by Talboys Wheeler
1871, 1995. 102 pp., six colour plates. 19 x 13 cm., softbound, hard slipcase.
ISBN-10: 974-8299-67-8 $16.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8299-67-9

A little known volume containing an official report on a visit up the Irrawaddy river to Mandalay and Bhamo a decade before that last part of Burma was incorporated in the British empire, and its king exiled to India. Illustrated with contemporary watercolours not in the original edition.

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Note on a Tour in Burma in March and April 1892
by F. O. Oertel
1893, 1995. 120 pp., 39 rare photographs. 26 x 19 cm., softbound.
ISBN-10: 974-8299-73-2 $20.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8299-73-0

This almost forgotten report on Burma contains a detailed survey of historical sites, and includes photographs not previously reproduced. A rare work not found in most bibliographies on Burma.
Our Trip to Burma
With Notes on that Country
by Charles Alexander Gordon
1875, 2002 278 pp., 31 b/w plates, 6 color plates, 19 x 13 cm., softbound.
ISBN-10: 974-524-002-8 $19.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-524-002-5

The diary of the Surgeon-General of the British Forces in Madras who spent three weeks in Burma in 1874-75. He records observations of Burmese life and customs, and over one-third of the book is devoted to notes gathered from other sources on the history, peoples, government, religion, festivals, flora, fauna, geology and climate of the country. Includes over 30 photographs, chromo-lithographs, pen-and-ink sketches and woodcuts. First published in 1875.
An Outline of the History of the Catholic Burmese Mission from the Year 1720 – 1857
by Paul Ambrose Bigandet
1887, 1995. vii, 152 pp., 19 x 13 cm., softbound
ISBN-10: 974-8299-75-9 $16.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8299-75-4

The first (Portuguese) Christian missionaries arrived in Burma in the early decades of the 17th century. They were followed by a formal mission of the Italian Barnabite Fathers in 1721, which was briefly taken over by the Oblats of Turin in 1840, before the French Society of Missions Étrangères was put in charge in 1856. The author, Head of Mission in the 1880s, bases his compilation on the records of travellers and his own interviews for the period up to 1840, in which year all mission records had been accidentally destroyed by fire. The details of specific missionaries and their activities are placed within the broader context of the political ebb and flow of the rivalries between the kingdoms of Ava and Pegu, and later with the wars against Britain. As well as giving details of churches and schools founded, the author provides descriptions of the towns and villages (and their inhabitants) where missionaries were active, and relationships between the Church and Burmese royalty.

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Return to the Irrawaddy
by Frank Kingdon-Ward
Second imprint 2007 (first edition London 1956). 224 pp., 46 b & w plates, 2 maps, index, 21.5 x 15 cm., softcover
ISBN-10: 974-524-086-9 $26.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-524-086-5

The legendary botanist and explorer records the details of his last expedition, in 1953, to his beloved northern Burma, prior to his death five years later. Frank Kingdon-Ward combined an insatiable taste for adventure, and the persistence to overcome any danger in his path-not to mention recalcitrant officials who attempted to block it-with the raconteur’s gift to recount his adventures in a vivid and often thrilling manner.
   Rich in description of the unique flora, fauna and tribal customs of this still little-known region, Kingdon-Ward’s account covers not only the magnificent rhododendrons and other tropical floral rarities that were the object of his travels, but also the customs of the various tribal groups encountered, the use of plants in local medical practice, the natural occurrence of tea varieties in the region and much more. A last look at a spectacular, then unspoiled, corner of Burma which since then has been inaccessible and largely devastated by protracted civil war.

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Rough Pencillings of a Rough Trip to Rangoon in 1846
by Colesworthy Grant
1853, 1995. 112 pp., including numerous pen drawings, 26 x 19 cm., softbound
ISBN-10: 974-8299-79-1 $20.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8299-79-2

The well known Anglo-Indian artist and draftsman Colesworthy Grant made his first visit to Burma in 1846, and this report with his pencil drawings has long been completely unavailable. Less than a decade later, he accompanied the large Phayre mission to Burma and made numerous illustrations for that mission’s report, but the present work is among the first with illustrations of Rangoon when it was still a small trading post.
Sanskrit Buddhism in Burma
by Niharranjan Ray
1936, 2002. 130 pp., 19 x 13 cm., softbound
ISBN-10: 974-8299-81-3 $15.95
ISBN-13: 978-974-8299-81-5

A monograph on the influence of Mahayana, Tantric and other northern Buddhist schools on early Burmese Buddhist traditions. In completing this important study, the distinguished Indian scholar draws not only on Sanskrit literary sources but also on a wide range of archaeological evidence, epigraphical remains, sculptures and paintings.
The Second Burmese War
A Narrative of the Operations at Rangoon in 1852
by William Ferguson Beatson Laurie
1853, 2002 280 pp., 2 b&w plates, 4 fold-out maps and plans, 19 x 13 cm., softbound. Limited edition of 500 copies.
ISBN-10: 974-8304-02-7 $19.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8304-02-1

An account of the Second Anglo-Burmese War, undertaken to promote the activities of British colonial merchants in the region, and to avenge perceived “insults … injustice and oppression” of British representatives by the Burmese court. A detailed account of the campaign, first published in 1853, as seen through the eyes of an English officer, with sketchmaps of the defenses of Rangoon and Bassein.
The Soul of a People
by Harold Fielding Hall
1898-1911, 1995. vi, 320 pp., 19 x 13 cm., softbound
ISBN-10: 974-8304-17-5 $18.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8304-17-5

This book ran into four editions and a further six reprintings between 1898 and 1911. No wonder. The author provides delightful insights into Burmese thought, based on his long years of residence and travel throughout the country. The book uses his understanding of Burmese Buddhism as the framework for explaining Burmese attitudes towards government, crime and punishment, war, death, manners of behaviour, women, divorce, the monkhood, prayer, festivals, nat spirits, and the avoidance of killing many living creatures. The book’s charm also lies in the obvious love the author had for the Burmese people and his straightforward writing style.
The Talaings
by Robert Halliday
172 pp., 12 sepia plates, index. With an introduction to the 1999 reprint by Michael Smithies. 19 x 13 cm., softbound.
ISBN-10: 974-8299-11-2 $23.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8299-11-2

Robert Halliday is by most scholars acknowledged as ‘the father of Mon studies’. A missionary with the American Baptist Mission, he lived among the Mon in the first three decades of the twentieth century in Burma and Siam, and wrote extensively about this distinguished race through which Theravada Buddhism was imparted to the immigrant Burmese and Siamese.
     The publication of Halliday’s major work on the Mon, The Talaings, was apparently delayed by the First World War, and appeared in 1917 with the Government Press in Rangoon. In retrospect it is unfortunate that the title of his work was given the somewhat pejorative Burmese word for the Mon. As Halliday himself remarks, ‘In Talaing books usually and in ordinary Talaing speech, the name Mon only is used’. The term Talaing only had currency in Burma; among the Siamese and others, Western linguists included, the word Mon is generally used. In his book Halliday based his observations from his stay in and around Ye in southern Burma, but interpolated his detailed knowledge of Mon communities in Siam, and was careful to distinguish variant practices in the different countries. One has the impression that even in the second decade of the twentieth century, the Mon of Burma were well on the way to assimilation. Subsequent research in Thailand in the 1970s showed a similar trend.
     At last this work, categorized with understatement as ‘not readily accessible’ by Foster in 1973, has become available.
Theravada Buddhism In Burma
by Niharranjan Ray
2002 xiii, 302 pp., 19 x 13 cm. Softbound.
ISBN-10: 974-8299-87-2 $24.95
ISBN-13: 978-974-8299-87-7

A pioneering study, and still the most comprehensive to date, of the history of Theravada Buddhism in Burma, based on epigraphic, archaeological and literary sources, in particular through examination of Pali and Sanskrit inscriptions. This and the two preceding titles are republished on the one hundredth anniversary of this great Indian scholar’s birth.