India Office Indian miniature paintings

A young nobleman celebrating Holi with his consort attributed to Nidhamal, Lucknow, 1760-65. British Library, Add Or 5700.

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 using keywords, subjects, individuals and building names in the Library's Explore 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

Further information

An extensive collection of reference works about these collections is available on open access in the Asian & African Studies Reading Room. 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)

How to guides

Get a Reader Pass

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How to order images

Instructions on how to order images of the British Library's collections from our Imaging Services

Find Persian manuscripts

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

Find Arabic manuscripts

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

How to handle prints, drawings and photographs

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Find Hebrew manuscripts

Guide to finding Hebrew manuscripts in our online catalogues

Search the India Office Records for baptisms, marriages and burials

How to search the India Office Records for baptisms, marriages and burials

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