Collections Within Collections: An Analysis of Tipu Sultan’s Library
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The library of Tipu Sultan of Mysore is one of the most important in the history of South Asian Islamic collections. Unlike many collections which can be regarded as dynastic libraries, Tipu’s was relatively newly-formed. Most of the books had not been acquired before the mid-eighteenth century but nevertheless came from diverse sources. This gives the collection an added importance in a specifically eighteenth-century context. Following his death in 1799 at the siege of Seringapatam (Srirangapatna, an island in the river Kaveri ca. 13 km. north of Mysore) the library was estimated to consist of about 2000 volumes. Of these the British Library holds 540 manuscripts which can be positively identified as part of the original library while others are in the Asiatic Society, Calcutta and scattered around the world. This article is based on a preliminary study of the collection as it exists today in the British Library, together with a few other volumes which have been examined personally. On the basis of paratextual information I attempt an analysis of the collection as a whole and in particular look at the smaller collections of which it is made.