The Asiatic Society
( Founded in 1784 )




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The publication of the Books became assured when Hunter's Hindoostan Press took up its printing responsibility. Ram Comal Sen, the 'native' manager of Hunter's Press, later on became the 'native' Secretary of the Asiatic Society itself. In 1846, two years after Ram Comal Sen's death, Rajendralal Mitra, then a young man, joined the Asiatic Society as its Assistant Librarian. The Indian Renaissance was made possible and in fact was accelerated by the quiet but far-reaching work going on at the corner of Park Street despite all odds and adverse circumstances.

In 1808 two Committees were formed, the Physical Committee and the Library Committee, the former for the promotion of Natural History, Medicine, Physics etc. and the latter for that of Literature, Philosophy, History, Antiquities etc. William Carey, J. Leyden, A. Lockett and W. Hunter were included in both the Committees. Both these Committees went moribund in no time and the Physical Committee had to be revived in 1818 by a resolution. A new chapter of the Society opened when in 1829 its membership was made open to native Indians. Ram Comal Sen, one of the earliest Indian members of the Society and a close friend of Wilson, the then Secretary, recalled his twenty nine years with the Society when he accepted the post of ‘native’ Secretary, and Wilson appointed Ram Comal to his new post only seven days before the Special Meeting of the Society in which he announced his departure for England. At this Special Meeting held on 19 December 1833 the President of the Society, Sir Edward Ryan spoke highly of the services rendered by Wilson to the Society.

In 1837, only four years after Wilson's departure, James Prinsep, the new Secretary of the Society, deciphered the Brahmi Script and was able to read the Asokan Edicts. It was a world event that revolutionised all future Oriental studies and contributed to the growth of Comparative Philology.

The Transactions of the Asiatic Society were first published under the title of Asiatick Researches in 1788, the subsequent four volumes being published in 1790, 1793, 1795 and 1797 respectively. At first the publication was private, undertaken by Manual Cantopher on the condition that each member of the Society would purchase one volume at a price of Rs. 20. Later on, the Society itself undertook the responsibility of the publication. The publication Asiatick Researches was so much in demand in the literary and scholarly world that a pirated edition of the first volume came into circulation in England in 1798, and some of the volumes of the Asiatick Researches were translated into German as well as in French. Through its published Transactions the Society now came in touch with several distinguished scholarly Associations abroad such as the American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, the Linnean Society of London, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and the Society of Antiquities of England.

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