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India Office Company Drawings Collection

Collection Details

India Office Company Drawings Collection held at Asian and African Studies [Institution record]

Description of Collection

Content description

'Company' drawings were made for the British chiefly by Indian artists from the late 18th century onwards, and their style and subject matter reflect British techniques and interests. The collection includes examples from all the main centres where Company drawings were produced: in South India at Tanjore, Madras, Trichinopoly, Madurai and Malabar; and in the North at Murshidabad, Calcutta, Patna, Benares, Lucknow and Delhi, as well as other more minor centres through the sub-continent Some from Trichinopoly, Patna, Murshidabad and Benares are painted on sheets of mica. Some 500 by Chinese artists at Canton also reflect western influence and patronage.

The 'Additional Oriental' collection also includes drawings from Tibet (the 'Wise Albums' of vernacular maps, etc.), Nepal, South-east Asia and the Middle East. There is also a small collection of drawings by modern Indian artists such as Gopal Ghose and Avinash Chandra.

History and development

The drawings reflect the interests of the British in Indian life and culture, especially castes, occupations, methods of transport, religious festivals and gods. Acquired principally in the 19th and early 20th century as gifts to the Library in collections or albums.


Particularly strong in transitional and early drawings of all the major schools, and in major examples of the work of important artists of the 19th century. Major collections of this material include the Johnson, Wellesley, Hyde and Hastings collections The most recent addition to these collections is the Hastings Collection of albums of drawings by Indian (mostly by Sita Ram) and Chinese artists.

General arrangement and access regulations

The collections of Company drawings are either in bound album form or kept in individual mounts. The collection of mica drawings are mostly encased between perspex shields, and then boxed. They are accessioned by Add.Or. number, and are stored in the Print Room where they are also consulted by readers.

Subjects of the Collection

Regions of Asia

East Asia, Near & Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, South East Asia.


Burma, China, India, Iraq, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand.


Agriculture, Anthropology, Archaeology, Arts, Education, History, Industries, International relations, Law, Medicine, Music, Recreation, Religion, Sociology, Travel, Women.

Collection Material and Size of Collection

Material Types

Visual materials (includes photographs, prints, drawings, videos & films).

Total size of collection

4500 Company Drawings

Collection Management Information

The collection is being actively developed, and the average intake has stayed the same.

Annual intake

A small number of drawings p.a.

Content date range

1770 to 1850 AD

Collection Catalogue Information


Printed catalogues available up to 1970s. Subsequent acquisitions are catalogued in a dedicated computerised database available in the OIOC Reading Room. This is now available on-line at

Collection printed catalogues

Company Drawings in the India Office Library.
Archer, Mildred.
London, 1972.

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