Who was Tipu Sultan?
Tipu Sultan was the Sultan of Mysore (r. 1782–1799). Known as the ‘Tiger of Mysore’, he is renowned for having challenged the British during the Anglo-Mysore wars. After his death at Seringapatam in 1799, his treasure and library were divided up and the British Library now holds about 600 manuscripts from his former collection.
Tipu Sultan was known to be a devout Muslim and his library contained at least forty-four complete copies of the Qurʼan. Several contain interpolations and notes added under his instructions. This copy, however, differs from the others in including a double-page opening with rosettes at the beginning (ff. 23v–24r, digitised image 2) and a cartouche at the end of the final Surat al-nās (f. 520r, digitised image 4), both of which mention Tipu Sultan’s special readings, indicating a personal significance. The Qur’an itself probably dates from the 17th century and begins with an illuminated double-page containing the first Surah, the Surat al-fātiḥah (ff. 25v–26r, digitised image 3).
Tipu’s special binding
This manuscript was rebound by Tipu Sultan in a particularly fine gold decorated and inscribed binding (digitised image 1) which is found on several volumes in his collection. The cartouche at the top carries the official name of his kingdom, Sarkār-i khudādādī (‘God-given government’). In the centre a medallion is stamped with the names of Allah (at the top) and underneath Muhammad, followed by his son-in-law and daughter and their two sons: ʻAli, Fatimah, Hasan and Husain. The four corners contain the names of names of the four first Caliphs, Abu Bakr, ʻUmar, ʻUthman and ʻAli, The two side cartouches contain the words of the Islamic creed the Shahadah while the two pendants are inscribed ‘Allāh Kāfī’ (‘God is sufficient’).