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Indien 757. Sir Walter Elliot's Impressions of Copper Plates

Cote : Indien 757  Réserver
Ancienne cote : Indien 112
Sir Walter Elliot'scollection of impressions of original Indian copper-plate grants
19th c.
South India, Tamilnadu. Paper. Very good state of preservation. 364 impressions from 53 individual copper-plates sets. 470 x 340 x 50 mm. Tamil, Nāgarī, Nandināgarī.
Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des Manuscrits

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Microfilm en noir et blanc. Cote de consultation en salle de lecture : MFILM Indien 757. Cote de la matrice (pour commander une reproduction) : R 52790.

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Présentation du contenu

This bound volume contains impressions/rubbings of 53 Indian copper-plates sets made for Sir Walter Elliot (1803–1887). Sir Walter Elliot was born in Edinburgh, served as civil servant in India and is notably known as an orientalist, with his publications about Indian inscriptions, architecture and coins. During his years in India he was able to assemble a collection of copper plates, a smaller part of which is today in the Edinburgh University Library and another, larger part, in the British Library. It appears that he had his own collection and any copper plate he could put the hand on rubbed in several copies, that is, duplicate impressions. Of these duplicate impressions, several sets are today kept in various institutions:

(1) One volume of impressions of at least 75 copper plates, Edinburgh University Library. This volume contains also transcriptions and eye-copies of inscriptions. This is the most complete of all the sets of impressions. As indicated on its first folio, this volume was given by Sir Walter Elliot to James Burgess, Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India in the 1880s, and presented by the latter to the Edinburgh University Library in 1906.

(2) One volume of impressions of at least 40 copper plates, British Library (Asian and African Studies).

(3) Impressions of at least 30 copper plates, British Museum. These were recently found in the "injector room".

(4) Impressions of 35 sets of copper plates were reported in the ex-Prince of Wales Museum, now Chhatrapati Shivaji Museum, in Bombay/Mumbai. These were reported in the Annual Report on Indian Epigraphy 1962‒1963.

In the BnF volume, several individual sets of impressions (each individual set being the impressions of one individual set of copper plates) are, depending on the size, grouped together.

At the time of examination of the volume in 2020, the individual sets were bound in the volume, with the result that, sometimes, the left part of impressions is covered by the binding and not accessible. The grouped sets are separated from the other grouped sets by folios in blue paper. The structure of the volume is thus as follows: front cover; 2 guard folios; 27 grouped sets (with a total of 28 folios in blue paper); 2 guard folios; back cover.

The BnF impressions are numbered consecutively, from “1” to “364,” in black ink in the upper right corner.

The copper plates of which the impressions are in the BnF are of various dates, in various scripts and languages. We find, for instance, Pallava, Pāṇḍya, Rāṣṭrakūṭa, Cāḷukya or Vijayanagara copper plates. Languages represented are, e.g., Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada. Scripts represented are, e.g., late Brāhmī, early Telugu/Kannaḍa, Grantha, Devanāgarī, Nandināgarī, Tamil, Vaṭṭeḷuttu. Most of these are copper-plate grants, that is royal documents produced in the chancellery and recording land-grants to Brahmins (brahmadeya) or to a god (devadāna). They are charters remitted to the donee(s) so as to serve as proof of ownership “as long as the sun and moon endure” as the epigraphical formula goes.

As mechanical reproductions, impressions have the advantage to be faithful in dimensions to the original plates, which, in some cases, are no more accessible. Such impressions were obtained in using the plates like printing plates. See J. Burgess (1873, p. 185), quoting J. Burnell: “From the cleaned plate an impression (reverse) is to be next taken by passing a roller charged with ink over the plate, and then printing from it as from an ordinary copperplate.” The resulting impression is reversed or mirrored and thus not easily readable, in contradistinction to rubbings or estampages, where the paper is first applied on the stone and then inked on the outer surface of the paper (“estampage à la chinoise”). In order to use such an impression, one can read it from the non-inked verso by transparency or flip a photo of the inked recto through computer software.

Cabaton (1912, p. 111) describes the manuscript as follows:

Recueil de fac-similés d'inscriptions en nāgarī, grantha, canari et telugu, rapportés de l'Inde par Sir Walter Elliot. Actes de donation provenant de Madras, Mysore et pays Telugu.

To be more precise, the following copper plates (CP) impressions are found in the BnF volume:

Gaṅga: CP 1, f1‒f4.

Telugu Cōḻa: CP 2, f5‒f13.

Pallava, Prakrit, Sanskrit & Sanskrit/Tamil: CP 3 (Māṅgaḍūr), f14‒f24; CP 6 (Guṇapadēya), f33‒f36; CP 8, f43‒f48 (Rāyakōṭa); CP 9 (Uruvupalli), f49‒f57; CP 51 (Utayēntiram), f357‒f361.

Kadamba (of Kaliṅga): CP 4, f25‒f28.

Rāṣṭrakūṭa: CP 5, f29‒f32.

Śālaṅkāyana, Vidētūrapallikā grant: CP 7, f37‒f42.

Pāṇḍya, Sanskrit/Tamil, Tamil: CP 10, f58‒f70 (Śrīvaramaṅgalam); CP 11, f71‒f88 (Velvikkuṭi); CP 33, f230‒f239, f241‒f242 (Tiruppūvaṇam).

Orissa: CP 12, f89‒f92.

Cāḷukya (Eastern & Western), Sanskrit : CP 13, f93‒f96; CP 16, f111‒f118; CP 17, ff119‒f122; CP 18, f123‒f126; CP 19, f127‒f135; CP 20, f136‒f143; CP 21, f144‒f155; CP 22, f156‒f159; CP 23, f160‒f163; CP 24, f164‒f171; CP 25, f172‒f179; CP 26, f180‒f187; CP 27, f188‒f195; CP 28, f196‒f199; CP 29, f200‒f205.

Cintakamanta plates: CP 14, f97‒f106.

Ānandagotra, Gōraṇṭla plates, Sanskrit : CP 15, f107‒f110

Reḍḍi, Sanskrit, Sanskrit/Telugu: CP 30, f206‒f221; CP 31, f222‒f227

Vijayanagara, Telugu : CP 32, f228‒f229.

Tamil: CP 34, f243‒f246; CP 35, f247‒f248

Vijayanagara, Sanskrit : CP 36, f249‒f258; CP 37, f259‒f262; CP 38, f263‒f274; CP 39, f275‒f282; CP 40, f283‒f290; CP 41, f291‒f299; CP 42, f300‒f307; CP 43, f308‒f315; CP 44, f316‒f323; CP 45, f324‒f331; CP 47, f340‒f344.

Telugu and Kannada: CP 46, f332‒f339; CP 48, f345‒f346; CP 49, f347‒f348; CP 52, f362‒f363; CP 53, f364.

Bāṇa: CP 50, f349‒f356.


Burgess, J. (1873). On Copying Inscriptions. Indian Antiquary 2, pp. 183‒187.

Cabaton, Antoine (1912). Catalogue sommaire des manuscrits indiens, indo-chinois & malayo-polynésiens. Bibliothèque nationale. Département des manuscrits. Paris: E. Leroux. — See p. 111.

Francis, Emmanuel (2019-10-14). BnF INDIEN 757 BnF: Sir Walter Elliot’s Impressions of Copper Plates. https://tst.hypotheses.org/512

Informations sur les modalités d’entrée

Given by Friedrich August, Earl of Noer and prince of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, 1875, August 2nd.

Informations sur les modalités d’entrée

Don du comte de Noer, prince de Schleswig-Holstein, 2 août 1875.

Informations sur le traitement

This catalogue entry has been redacted by Emmanuel FRANCIS (CNRS, CEIAS UMR 8564, EHESS/CNRS) & Dr. G. Vijayavenugopal (EFEO, Pondicherry) for the research program Texts Surrounding Texts (TST, FRAL 2018, ANR/DFG). Version 1, May 2020.