This extensive collection of rare Indian printed books provides a unique insight into the social, political and cultural life of the subcontinent through published works of the 18th and 19th centuries. Explore digitised collection items spanning central themes in South Asian history, and read articles written by academic experts to learn more about topics including food, science, and religion. 


A colour illustration showing a banquet including a roasted goose given to Babur by a Timurid mirza. Artist: Tiriyya, 1507

Royal recipes

Abhijit Gupta shares some exciting recipes from the first cookbooks printed in Indian languages. The cuisines detailed within these books graced royal courts for nearly two millennia.

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A portrait of the philosopher and statesman, Francis Bacon whose essays were translated into Bengali by Ramkamal Bhattacharya and made available online as part of the British Library's major digitisation project Two Centuries of Indian Print.

Ramkamal's Translation of Francis Bacon's Essays

Sukanta Chaudhuri writes about the work of Ramkamal Bhattacharya, who translated Francis Bacon’s Essays into Indian languages. As Chaudhuri explains, Ramkamal’s undertaking reflects the radical changes in the intellectual milieu of mid-nineteenth-century Bengal.

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VT_412_0038 'tea time' showing a group of men drinking and conversing.

Against the Certified Art of Drinking: Two Nineteenth Century Tracts on Alcoholism in Bengal

Sujaan Mukherjee examines two rare tracts on alcoholism in Bengal, illustrating the tactics employed by the authors to discourage such 'shameful behaviour'.

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A colour map of Central Provinces in India showing the railway lines.

Raising steam

The first rail journeys in India aroused such awe and fear in the populace that pamphlets like 'Directions of a Railway Traveller' provided much needed advice for passengers. Abhijit Gupta delves into the pamphlet, revealing the behaviour that early railway users were expected to adopt and the comparison with modern rail journeys in India.

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Front page to ‘The Calcutta Gazette’ quarterly list for the quarter ending 31 March 1875, SV 412/8

Quarterly Lists: Digitally Researching Catalogues of Indian Books

Tom Derrick discusses the value of applying digital research methods to bibliographic sources for scholars of Indian publishing history.

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