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Asia: Photographs

The British Library holds one of the world’s richest archives of prints, drawings and photographs from India and other parts of Asia. This page gives information about our photograph collections, which are held in the Prints, Drawings and Photographs Section of the Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections (APAC). 


The 'Black Pagoda'

The 'Black Pagoda' , Chitpore Road, Calcutta, hand-coloured salt print by F. Fiebig, c. 1851. Photo 247/1 (13). Copyright © The British Library Board


Photographs began to be acquired by the East India Company in the mid-1850s and were subsequently collected by the India Office up to the period of Indian independence. The British Library continues to add to these collections. The particular strengths of the collection include archaeology and architecture, topography, ethnography, engineering projects, historical events, social scenes and portraits. The period covered is from c.1850 to the present day, but with particular strengths in 19th century material.

The photograph collection comprises in the region of 250,000 photographs and, in addition to its documentary value, represents a unique resource for the study of the early history and development of photography in India and other Asian countries. Representative material by the most significant amateur and commercial photographers is included, among them Frederick Fiebig, Linnaeus Tripe, John Murray, Felice Beato, Robert and Harriet Tytler, Samuel Bourne, Edmund David Lyon and Lala Deen Dayal. 

Sequential serial numbers have been given to each album or collection of photographs, and sub-numbers to each item. A fully searchable online catalogue of these collections is available. Asian photographs are also to be found in the India Office Private Papers as well as in various 19th century illustrated books, and this material is also listed in the online catalogue.

The online catalogue is at present a text-only resource, but a selection of material from these collections, primarily of archaeological and topographical subjects, can be viewed in the British Library Online Gallery.


Prints, Drawings and Photographs Section
Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7856/7327/7663
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7641