India Office: Indian miniature paintings

Rao Arjun Singh worshipping Sri Brijnathji in a rose garden
Rao Arjun Singh worshipping Sri Brijnathji in a rose garden, Kotah (India), 1720-25. British Library

More than 3000 Indian miniatures are held in the Library’s collection and date from the 16th to the mid-19th century.

About the collection

These unique holdings originate mainly from the library of the British East India Company and the India Office, although the Library continues to make acquisitions. The majority of the paintings come from the collection of Richard Johnson, who was in India in the East India Company's service 1770-90. The Company purchased his collection for its Library in 1807.

Johnson’s collection consists of 18th century Mughal paintings, including many portraits, and provincial Mughal paintings, especially those from Lucknow, Hyderabad and Murshidabad. Johnson's collection also includes some Mughal masterpieces of the Akbar and Jahangir period, including the famous Squirrels in a Plane Tree by Abu'l Hasan, and some rare early Deccani paintings from Bijapur and Golconda. There are also some later Deccani, Rajasthani and Central Indian miniatures, as well as a small number of Persian miniatures collected by Johnson in India.

What is available online?

Prints, drawings and paintings can be found on the India Office Select Materials Catalogue. Please note that this catalogue will be decommissioned in Winter 2015 and integrated with the Archives and Manuscripts catalogue.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Prints, drawings and paintings from the India Office collections can be viewed in the Print Room, located in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room. Viewing is by appointment only, Monday-Friday. For appointment details, please email apac-prints@bl.uk

Further information

An extensive collection of reference works about these collections is available on open access in the Asian & African Studies Reading Rooms. Key publications include:

Company drawings in the India Office Library, by Mildred Archer (London, 1972)
Indian miniatures in the India Office Library, by Toby Falk and Mildred Archer (London, 1981)
Miniatures from Persian manuscripts in the British Library and British Museum, by N.M. Titley (London, 1977)
Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire, by J.P. Losty and M. Roy (London, 2012)
Persian paintings in the India Office Library, by B.W. Robinson (London, 1976)

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Details of Persian manuscripts are to be found in a number of catalogues

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Details of Arabic manuscripts are to be found in a number of catalogues

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