Friday, 29 June 2007

The fate of Tippu Sultan's Library

Sultan Fateh Ali Tippu (1750-1799), Tippu Sultan, known also by the English as the Tiger of Mysore

He was the son of Haider Ali, ruler of Mysore and Fakhr-un-Nissa and died fighting the English, being considered a national hero in India for his long time struggle against the British colonial forces in India who aimed at subduing and eventually annex his states.
A capable administrator, poet and military leader and a devout Muslim, Tippu Sultan was an example of tolerance towards other religions, protecting Hindu temples and having built the first Christian church in Mysore.
Tippu Sultan died in battle defending his capital Srirangapattana.
Detailed biographies can be found at
The Sword of Tippu Sultan, by Dr. K. L. Kamat and in the Website dedicated to Tipu Sultan and at Wikipedia

Tippu Sultan left a splendid library rich in manuscripts and books on government, law, religion and the sciences which was plundered by the British army after his defeat at Srirangapattana (more... in Lost treasures - Seema Alavi - Assistant Professor, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi).

It is also known that «Tipu used to put his signature and stamp on every book he read. Most of the books in his library bore his signature and stamp. He used to put his signatures in an artistic and intricate style. First, he used Tipu Sultan as his name ‘Nabi Malik’. According to Kirk Patrick, the British supervisor of the library appointed by the Company, his wittings were superior to others and exceptionally lucid and compact» (quoted from

On the whereabouts of Tipu Sultan’s library, see:
«Oriental & India Office Collections (OIOC) section of the British Library in London - The nucleus of the collection itself was from the private Library of Tipu Sultan of Mysore, who had built it from the treasures of various Indian rulers conquered by himself and his father Hyder Ali. After the British defeated Tipu Sultan, this library of 2000 manuscripts was divided between the Cambridge and Oxford Universities in Britain and the College of Fort William in Calcutta. Meanwhile Robert Orme, the historiographer of the East India Company had collected a large number of manuscripts, books and letters during his career and requested the East India Company to create ‘a repository for Oriental Writings.» (quoted from;
A Guide to Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu Manuscript Libraries in India, by Omar Khalidi - Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and
Towards a database of the Arabic manuscripts in The British Library: a case history, Colin F. Baker, The British Library, London, United Kingdom.

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