A rare view of ‘The Adi Granth’ in English for the world
The first English translation of ‘The Adi Granth’, or Holy Scriptures of the Sikhs, is among a series of rare Indian books and manuscripts made available by a UK-based book dealer as part of its first interactive catalogue, entitled ‘The Indian Sub-Continent – from the 18th to the 20th century’.
Ernest Trumpp’s translation of the Sikh holy texts is believed to be the first into any foreign language and forms part of a 40-item collection of what is described as “colourful glimpses” into life in the Indian Sub-Continent in the period of British colonial rule as part of London-based Peter Harrington’s new catalogue. Sikhs and Sikhism feature prominently, including several travel narratives set in the kingdom of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and military handbooks dedicated to the customs of the Sikhs – hailed as “the bravest and steadiest of soldiers”.
“We have seen an increased interest in the last 20 years from collectors of works from the Indian Sub-Continent, and the demand for 19th and early 20th century British accounts of this fascinating period in colonial history continues to attract a core group of collectors based both in the region and diaspora in the UK and beyond,” said Glenn Mitchell, the senior book specialist at Peter Harrington, responsible for curating the collection.
“Topics that remain enduringly collectable include those focused on military exploits, colonial exploration, seminal religious texts, ethnographical, geographical, botanical and zoological accounts, and of course administrative, historical and political works,” he said.
The catalogue also includes illustrated works and eye-witness accounts such as those of Johann Martin Honigberger, a Romanian-German court physician in the Sikh state whose ‘Thirty-Five Years in the East’ features plates of a hakim or local doctor, an attar or druggist, a B’hangee, or Hemp-Plant Drinker, and a Faqueer Postee, or Poppy-Head Drinker, together with portraits of members of the durbar or ruler’s household. Other idiosyncratic observations include those contained in ‘Wanderings of a Pilgrim’ by Fanny Parks – a unique insight into 19th-century India based on the journal and sketches of a woman who travelled up the Jumna River to Agra, and up the Ganges to Fatehgarh, and spent nearly a year visiting Cawnpore, Meerut, Delhi, and Landour in the Himalayas.
Other interesting catalogue inclusions cover subjects such as arboriculture or the study of trees, serpent worship in the region, Buddhist rock cut temples and big game hunting for wild boar, tigers, buffalo and bears. Unique military memoirs are another highlight, including pen and ink cartoons depicting the misadventures of a newly arrived young military officer in India in the mid-19th century, and a novelisation of the events written by Captain Lakshmi, the woman appointed by Subhash Chandra Bose as commander of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment – the first ever all-female infantry unit in military history.
Pom Harrington, owner of Peter Harrington, added: “While we have curated selections on Asia in the past, this is our first dedicated catalogue on works from India. The wealth of rich illustrations, lithographs, maps and coloured plates really lent themselves to creating an interactive and immersive digital-only catalogue that allows our clients to scroll through details and additional images of these fine works.
“Our goal was to create a format that was mobile-friendly and really brought the books to life on mobile devices, as this is where an increasing number of our customers access our content.”