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Prints, Drawings and Photographs Section

'The Delhi Book' of Thomas Metcalfe

In 1844 the daughters of Thomas Theophilus Metcalfe received a gift from their father. While working in India as the Governor-General's Agent at the Imperial court of the Mughal Emperor, Metcalfe assembled an album containing 120 paintings by Indian artists. He wrote his own descriptive text alongside these paintings, and sent the precious 'Delhi Book' to his children in England. This cherished possession remained in the family for almost 150 years.

Add.Or. 5475, f.59v(9).
The Resident Sir Thomas Metcalfe and his assistants taking part in the Mughal Emperor's procession to celebrate the 'Id festival. Metcalfe is the man seated on the red chair at the front. This detail shows merely one of the twelve panels that make up this painting.

Enlarged image [60kb]

Included in the Delhi Book is a spectacular painting showing the Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah (1838-58), proceeding in state to celebrate the Muslim 'Id festival. Metcalfe accompanied the Emperor on this procession, and can be seen riding atop an elephant. Most of the Delhi Book's paintings show monuments and houses in Delhi, some of which are no longer standing. Other entries include a portrait of the Mughal Emperor, and an Urdu poem composed by the Emperor and dedicated to Metcalfe.

The British Library recently acquired the Delhi Book with the generous assistance of the National Art Collections Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is a fascinating document on one man's life in 19th Century Delhi, and a wonderful addition to the British Library's collections of Company Drawings. It is on display in the British Library until 1 October 2003.

Bibliography: Kaye, Mary M. The Golden Calm. Exeter: Webb & Bower, 1980.

Bahadur Shah: The Last Mughal Emperor of India

Houses in Delhi, 1840s

Other Company Drawings in the British Library