1801 - 1950

Rare Books on Indian Textiles and Clothing from the 19th and early 20th century 

Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum

Ethnographic surveys and visual documentation projects were sanctioned by the then British Government in India from the eighteenth to early twentieth centuries in an effort to maintain a record of the people, culture, lifestyle, attires and religious customs of the people from various Indian Presidencies. Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum's collection has several of these rare books such as 'The People of India' by John William Kaye and John Forbes Watson, 'The Textile Manufactures and the Costumes of the People of India' by John Forbes Watson, 'The Costume of Hindostan' by Balthazar Solvyns, 'Typical Pictures of Indian Natives' by F. Coleman, 'Indian Pictoral Education' by F. Coleman, published by The Times of India, 'Women of India' and 'Peoples of Bombay' by O. Rothfeld, illustrated by Rao Bahadur M.V. Dhurandhar.

Photograph of Dr. John Forbes Watson from the Journal of Indian Art and Industry, Vol 3, No. 25
Dr. John Forbes Watson was a Reporter for the Products of India at the India Museum in London. Trained as a Doctor, Watson worked as an army surgeon in Bombay (Mumbai) between 1850 - 1853. In 1858 he was appointed as Director of the Indian Museum and Reporter on the Products of India at the Indian Museum. Among his research and documentation projects, was the famous work, ‘The Textile Manufactures and the Costumes of The People of India’. The aim of this project was to catalogue and show British manufacturers a wide variety of popular Indian fabrics so that they could be reproduced in the textile looms at Lancashire and exported to India at a cheaper rate than handmade fabric pieces manufactured locally in India.
The Textile Manufactures of India by John Forbes Watson (1860-67)
20 sets were published of this work, 13 of which were distributed across the manufacturing towns in England. Among the 7 sets sent to South Asia (mainly present day India and Pakistan), the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum has one complete set. These were usually distributed to the Town Halls, Art Schools or Chambers of Commerce.

Regarded as an "industrial museum", the Watson's collection comprised of 20 sets of 18 volumes. Each volume consisted of mounted and classified samples of Indian textiles, called as “working samples” with a total of seven hundred samples in all.

Each page with individual fabric sample is numbered and labeled with detailed information: the name of the material, the quality, the community it is worn by, the length of the fabric, its price, weight, provenance and the place of purchase - all the key information necessary for the English textile manufacturers. 
Each fabric sample was tucked under and held in place on the mount by a horizontal band near the bottom of the page. This fabric sample is printed coarse cotton from Masulipatanam in present day Andhra Pradesh, formerly a part of the Madras Presidency.

An accompanying volume titled 'The Textile Manufactures of India and The Costumes of the People of India' was published in 1866 to guide the British manufacturers how different kinds of clothes are worn in India.

The accompanying volume has several coloured plates detailing the variety of traditional attires and modes of dressing.

The accompanying volume includes a table that shows detailed text about particular fabric samples in specific volume that are referred to in the work 'The Textile Manufactures and Costumes of the People of India'.

The compiled fabric pieces were cut from the textiles in the stores of the India Office in London, which was a repository of archives related to the British East India Company. The volumes of Textile Manufactures include turbans, garment pieces for men and women, dhoti, saris, calicos, muslins, silks, woollens and 'piece goods'.

The Watson collection also includes rare samples of embroidery with gold thread and beetle wings.

The World in Miniatures: Hindoostan, edited by Frederic Shoberl (1822-27)
'The World in Miniatures - Hindoostan, containing a description of the religion, manners, customs, trades, arts, sciences, literature, diversions, etc. of the Hindoos, illustrated with upwards of one hundred coloured engravings in six volumes' (1822-27) was edited by Frederic Shoberl

The Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum's collection includes miniature prints from mainly Volume 4 of this work. These illustrations depict various professions practiced in India, including the processes of manufacturing textiles and the different kinds of textile artisans.

'The Costume of Hindostan' by Balthazar Solvyns, published by Edward Orme (1808-1812) 
Francois Balthazar Solvyns was a Flemish Artist who lived in Calcutta from 1791 to 1803. "Solvyns provided a prototype for the genre of ‘Company School’ paintings of occupations, done by Indian artists for the British that became popular in the early 19th century.  He can be considered as a predecessor to the later depictions of Indian natives by European artists as his influence is clearly visible in the ethnographic portraits of Indians produced by European artists in the latter half of 19th century." (Hardgrave, R.L., 2002).
In 1794, Sir William Jones encouraged Solvyns to create a collection of drawings to depict Indian lifestyle. Solvyns' ethnographic portraits of Indians are a visual archive of everyday life in Calcutta in the 18th century and was published in 12 parts in 1799. However, this project was a financial failure. In 1804, Solvyns married an English lady in France and using his wife's resources, he prepared new etchings and produced a work with 288 new plates titled 'Les Hindous'. 
This work was published as a set of four volumes from 1808-1812. In 'Les Hindous' Solvyns mentions that "Indians have not been represented accurately by European scholars who have written a lot about India’s history and geography" (Hardgrave, R.L.). The Museum's collection of rare books includes the first and the third volume of 'Les Hindous'.

In 1807 Edward Orme published a pirated copy titled “The Costumes of Hindostan” in which he reproduced 60 select drawings by Solvyns and the text was provided in both, English and French. These drawings were modified and coloured in pastel shades for mass appeal. The illustrations of the artisans depict a craftsman at work in the centre of the page.

'The People of India' Photographic series by John William Kaye and John Forbes Watson (1868-75)
In 1863, John William Kaye, the secretary of the Secret and Police Department of the India Office, wrote to John Forbes Watson, the director of the India Office's India Museum, about the of the value of publishing an ethnological survey of the various tribes, castes and communities of India. It would serve as, “a permanent and more extensively available record of a most interesting and effective effort on the part of the Indian Government to extend our knowledge of our fellow subjects in the east – bringing us so to speak face to face with them.”. The Revolt of 1857 had created an atmosphere of suspicion of the local inhabitants among the British administrators, which, combined with the increased popularity of fields like anthropology and ethnology, resulted in a Government of India memorandum requesting local governments to collect photographs of the indigenous people under their jurisdiction. The culmination of these efforts was large-scale works like the six-volume series titled 'The People of India: A series of Photographic Illustrations with Descriptive Letterpress of The Races and Tribes of Hindustan' (1868). Works like these catered on the whole to a European market more interested in exotic studies than scholarly precision. The classifications are erratic, sometimes by caste, sometimes by tribe other times by sect or even individuals.
The Journal of Indian Art and Industry (1884-1912), Vol III, Issue 25 
"The Journal of Indian Art and Industry was inaugurated by Government of India officials...to preserve and encourage Indian arts and manufactures in the early 1880s" (Hoffenberg, P.H. 2004). The Journal published essays on Indian art manufactures and traditions written by several experts. These essays were often accompanied by photo and chromo-lithographic illustrations by W.H. Griggs and John Lockwood Kipling.
The Museum collection includes clay models, created in the early 20th century, depicting various craftsmen such as the embroiders, which were modeled on W.H. Griggs' sketches of craftsmen and artisans.
W.H. Griggs published seventeen volumes of the Journal before the end of World War I. The Museum’s library has a collection of Journal of Art volumes published in the years 1884 to 1914. John Lockwood Kipling, editor, and Sir George Birdwood, Curator of the Museum from 1858 to 1868, were among the major contributors to the Journal. The selected plates from the journal showcase textile craftsmen.
'Typical Pictures of Indian Natives', Edited by F. Coleman. (1899)
Typical Pictures of Indian Natives, first published by the Times of India Press in 1897, is a collection of hand-coloured photographs depicting various costumes worn by Indians of various castes and occupations. The collection of two dozen coloured studio portraits was intended to enable travellers ‘to present to their friends at home a true rendering of the varied and picturesque costumes worn by the Natives of India’. (Sharma, B.B. 1988 & Pinney, C. 1997)

'Typical Pictures of Indian Natives' helped define a genre of popular imagery that within a few years would be globally disseminated in the form of postcards (Pinney, 1997: 56). The hand coloured photographs were accompanied by text describing characteristics of each community.

This work inspired some of the clay models depicting the cosmopolitan nature and lifestyle of Mumbai in the late 19th to the early 20th century.

'Typical Pictures of Indian Natives' also includes an image showing a "postman standing before a rustic studio backdrop with a letter in his outstretched hand. He is clad in standard-issue clothes, 'a good serviceable blue dungaree uniform and a waterproof cape during the monsoon’" (Pinney, C.1997).

'Women of India' by Otto Rothfeld, illustrated by M.V. Dhurandhar (1920)
'Women of India' by Otto Rothfeld, a British political agent posted in Rajkot, with 48 coloured illustrations by M.V. Dhurandhar, an eminent artist from the Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai. 

This book included Rothfeld's observation about the lifestyle, marriage, aristocratic classes and attitudes of Indian women from various sections of the Indian society and the traditional regional attires.

M.V. Dhurandhar was renowned for his paintings of Indian lifestyle and communities, many of which were used as illustrations or postcards.

Indian Pictorial Education. Vol 1: Issue 1-11. Edited by F. Coleman, (1930)
Indian Pictorial Education. Vol 1: Issue 1-11. Edited by F. Coleman and published by the Times of India Press in 1930 contained photographs of Indian landscapes, landmark monuments, people, lifestyle, occupations and manufacturing industries. Each volume dealt with a specific topic and included an illustrated cover, an index map, advertisements and approximately 20 pages of full-page photographs accompanied by a descriptive text.
'The Peoples of Bombay' by Percival and Olivia Strip, illustrated by M.V. Dhurandhar (1944)
'The Peoples of Bombay' by Percival and Olivia Strip is a descriptive account of the prominent communities seen in Mumbai in the late 19th and early 20th century. This work includes 15 prints, illustrated by M.V. Dhurandhar, an eminent artist from the Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai, who eventually became the School's Director. 

"Khojas. They are the followers of Aga Khan".

Each illustration had a title of the community and a short description.

M.V. Dhurandhar was renowned for his paintings of Indian lifestyle and communities, many of which were used as book illustrations or postcards.

'Peoples of Bombay' highlighted the traditional attires of different types of communities such as the Kolis, the Parsis, the Bohras, the Bhatias, the Khojas, Pathan, and many more.

Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum
Credits: Story

1. Watson, J.F. 1867. The Textile Manufactures and the Costumes of People of India. London: George Edward Eyre & William Spottiswoode.
2. Brij Sushan Sharma, ‘Typical Pictures of Indian Natives’, History of Photography, xii, 1 (1988), pp.77-82.
3. Pinney, C. 1997. Camera Indica: The Social Life of Indian Photographs. Pp. 56-57. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
4. Coleman F. 1899. Typical Pictures of Indian Natives (Reproductions from Specially Prepared Hand-Coloured Photographs) 4th ed. Bombay: Times of India Press.
5. Hardgrave, R.L. Jr. "A Portrait of Black Town: Balthazard Solvyns in Calcutta, 1791-1804." Changing Visions, Lasting Images: Calcutta Through 300 Years, edited by Pratapaditya Pal, 31-46. Bombay: Marg, 1990.
6. Hardgrave, R.L. 2002. Francois Balthazar Solvyns: A Flemish Artist in Bengal, 1791-1803. IIAS Newsletter #28. Page 15.
7. Solvyns, B. 1807. The Costume of Hindostan (Taken in the Years 1798-99). London: Edward Orme
8. Solvyns, B. 1808-1812. Les Hindous. Tome Premier. Paris: Chez L'Auteur.
9. Dewan, D. 2004. The Body at Work: Colonial Art Education and the Figure of the ‘Native Craftsman’. Pp. 118-134. Confronting the Body: The Politics of Physicality in Colonial and Post-Colonial India (Ed. James H Mills and Satadru Sen). London: Anthem Press.
10. Falconer, John, “Pioneers of Indian Photography”. In India: Pioneering Photographers 1850-1900, The British Library Publishing division, 2001.
11. Pinney, Christopher, Camera Indica: The Social Life of Indian Photographs, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1997.
12. Memorandum from John Forbes Watson to John William Kaye, dated 18 July 1863, discussing plans for the publication of The People of India; IOR/L/E/6/37, item 39. From Falconer, John, “Pioneers of Indian Photography” in India: Pioneering Photographers 1850-1900, 2001.
13. Hoffenberg, P.H. 2004. 'Promoting Traditional Indian Art at Home and Abroad: "The Journal of Indian Art and Industry", 1884-1917' published in Victorian Periodicals Review, Vol. 37, No. 2, The Nineteenth-Century Press in India. pp. 192-213
14. Mitter, P. 1994. Art and Nationalism in Colonial India, 1850-1922: Occidental Orientations. Cambridge: University Press.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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