Oriental Translation Fund

Scope and Content

The collection features a range of material highlighting the activities of the Oriental Translation Fund both from its origins in 1828 and after being revived in 1888 by Forster Fitzgerald Arbuthnot. The material comprises the following series:

  • OTF/1 Committee minutes
  • OTF/2 Correspondence
  • OTF/3 Publications
  • OTF/4 Purchases and Stocks

Administrative / Biographical History

The Oriental Translation Fund was established in 1828 by a committee of the Royal Asiatic Society under the Chairmanship of Sir Gore Ouseley. Its purpose was to translate and publish such "interesting and valuable works on eastern History, Science, and Belles-Lettres as are still in MS... The object proposed is, to publish, free of expense to the authors, translations of the whole or parts of such works...generally to be accompanied by the original texts printed separately." King George IV became patron of the Fund. In its early years the fund was financed by subscriptions and the list of subscribers included: Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, the Prime Minister (Wellington), the Archbishop of Canterbury and one of the founders of the Royal Asiatic Society, Henry Colebrooke.

The Oriental Translation Committee who controlled the Fund was independent to the Society and an annual subsidy of 100 guineas was received from the East India Company. Various works were published throughout this period and these formed Series One of the publications (1828-1879). However, operations were suspended in 1860 due to a lack of funds and the Committee disposed of most of its stock.

The Royal Asiatic Society Council considered reviving the fund in 1888 due mainly to the efforts of the British Orientalist, Forster Fitzgerald Arbuthnot. He led the management of the Fund and donated finances. He was also supported by the former Viceroy of India, Lord Northbrook, and a prominent Sanskrit Scholar, E.T. Sturdy. This led to the Series Two publications. The Fund is still operational today.


  • OTF/1 Committee minutes
  • OTF/2 Correspondence
  • OTF/3 Publications
  • OTF/4 Purchases and Stocks

Access Information

Open. Please contact the archivist. Contact details can be found here . The archive is open on Tuesdays and Fridays 10-5, and Thursdays 2-5. Access is to any researcher without appointment but it will help if an appointment is made via phone or email. Please bring photo ID.

Acquisition Information

As part of the institutional records, they have always been part of the Society's possessions.

Conditions Governing Use

Digital photography (without flash) for research purposes may be permitted upon completion of a copyright declaration form, and with respect to current UK copyright law.

Custodial History

These records form part of the institutional archives of the Society.


As the Fund is still in operation accruals should be expected in the future.

Related Material

Copies of all the Oriental Translation publications are held within the collections.


Further contextual information about the Oriental Translation Fund can be found in: 'The Royal Asiatic Society, it's history and treasures' edited by Stuart Simmonds and Simon Digby. Copies of this are held within the Library.