Asia in 18th-century Edinburgh institutions: seen or unseen?
Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Royal Society of Edinburgh, Advocates' Library
Asia; China; Egypt; Scotland; UK
18th century, early modern
The paper is intended to show how Asian material and its display influenced perceptions of Asia, and vice versa, and to what degree involvement in Asia was considered to be a part of Scots’ self perception in the late 18th century. In Part 1 Asian material donated to Edinburgh institutions (the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Advocates’ Library) is compared and discussed in the context of owners and donors (including private collectors), acquisition and value, display and learning, and organization. Gifts and prices are listed in two tables. Part 2 is divided into several sections: (i) communications on Asia delivered to the institutions are contextualized; (ii) 18th-century perceptions of ancient Egypt and China are discussed as these were crucial in contemporary discourses of antiquity; (iii) the university and scholarship are examined to show J Robertson’s attitude towards the teaching of oriental languages; (iv) the reading of manuscripts and the translation of texts from Asia are discussed to show the impact they had in Scotland; (v) the impact of orientalist William Jones and the Asiatic Society is assessed.