Rare Raffles' Letters Displayed for the First Time at National Library Exhibition

Release Date : 27 Aug 2012

Singapore, 27 August 2012 – For the first time, 13 letters written by Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore, will be publicly displayed at the Raffles' Letters: Intrigues behind the Founding of Singapore exhibition. On loan from The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart, Scotland, these never before seen letters reveal the personal insights and ideals of Raffles as he sought to secure the future of a British settlement in Singapore in the face of threats from the Dutch and resistance from his own countrymen.

Organised by the National Library of Singapore in collaboration with the Singapore Heritage Society, Mount Stuart Trust and Dr John Bastin, the leading scholar on Raffles, the exhibition will also feature artefacts drawn from various collections. These include The Bute Collection, the Tang Holdings Collection, the Antiques of the Orient Collection, the Lim Chen Sian Collection and the National Library of Singapore Collection.

On display are 86 artefacts including letters, maps, paintings and publications which bring visitors back to the early days of Singapore. Among these include a previously unknown rare map of Singapore in replica from The Bute Collection. Dated c.1820, this hand drawn map is the earliest known detailed landward map of Singapore town that features the early developments of the settlement. Other highlights include maps and prints dating from the 17th century to the mid 19th century from the collections of Antiques of the Orient and archaeologist Lim Chen Sian.

Visitors to the exhibition will also learn that Raffles was a man whose scholarly interests were wide and varied. This was aptly reflected through the 30 rare titles from the National Library collection, some of which date to the early 19th century. Visitors will rediscover Raffles as a scholar of the Malay language and a naturalist who collected all kinds of botanical and zoological specimens. He was also a historian who wrote a comprehensive history of Java in 1817.

In conjunction with the exhibition, a book by Dr John Bastin will be published. Entitled The Founding of Singapore 1819, the book is based on letters written by Raffles preserved in The Bute Collection, Scotland, and in the National Library Singapore, and describes his endeavours to secure a British port south of Penang in order to counter Dutch influence in the Malay Archipelago.

Mrs Elaine Ng, Chief Executive of the National Library Board says “Many of us in Singapore would have learnt about Raffles through our history books. Through this exhibition, visitors will learn how a man synonymous with the founding of modern Singapore made history through his foresight, determination and perseverance”.

The National Library will also organise a series of programmes including talks, lectures and curatorial tours for the public on what Singapore was like before and after Raffles' arrival.

Admission to the “Raffles Letters': Intrigues behind the Founding of Singapore” exhibition is free. The exhibition is held at Level 10 of the National Library Building and will run for six months from 29 August 2012 to 28 February 2013, from 10am to 9pm daily, except on public holidays. Visitors can also refer to raffles.nl.sg for more details on the line-up of programmes.