Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Asiatic Society of Bombay
The Asiatic Society of Bombay is a public state library in the city of Mumbai, India. The society, founded by Sir James Mackintosh was then known as the Literary Society of Bombay, and first met on November 26, 1830. It was later moved to the present Town Hall building which was built in 1804. The library is currently run on an annual grant by the state of Maharashtra.
Among the rare works are:
- One of the only two known original copies of Dante's Divine Comedy
- The Vasupujyacharita (12th century) Sanskrit text following the life of the Jain Tirthankara Vasupujya
- The Shahnama of Firdausi (1853), written in Persian
- The Aranyakaparvan (16th century) manuscript contains illustrated text from the Mahabharat and is written in Sanskrit.
- Five Buddhist caskets excavated in the ancient port town of Sopara near the suburb of Nala Sopara.
The Divine Comedy
The Divine Comedy held by the society, written by Dante Alighieri in the 14th century, is one of the only two known surviving original manuscripts. It was given to the Society by Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor of Bombay and President of the Society from 1819-1827 and bears his signature.
In 1930, the Italian government under Mussolini offered the society one million pounds, citing it to be a national treasure. Mussolini believed that the offer could not be refused, but to his shock, the Society turned down his request stating that it was donated by an ex-member of the Society and hence it was their property.
The book is leather bound and is in a good condition. A visit to the Society by the Italian Minister of Culture in 2002 confirmed that it was in a much better condition than its other survivor which is currently in Milan.
Functions of the society
- Holding: Preserving, conserving, cataloguing and documenting holdings
- Research: Generating supporting and disseminating research in its chosen fields
- Public interface: Providing a forum for debate and discussions on topics of public interest.
The adopt-a-book scheme was recently introduced by the Society which allows patrons to fund the upkeep of rare books. The Society is in financially in the red with a loss of Rs 1 crore (10 million). Due to the availability of information from the internet, membership has dropped significantly in recent years.
The Town Hall building was originally built by the British as the town hall in 1804. It is a heritage structure, heavily influenced by Greek and Roman architecture. It has a portico with eight Doric columns. A flight of 30 steps lead up to the town hall and a wrought iron divided Regency staircase leads to the vestibule. In 1930 Sir John Malcolm, governor of Bombay stated: "It is the most magnificent structure that taste and munificence combined have as yet erected in India."
- Homepage of the Asiatic Society of Bombay
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