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Eastern Encounters pattern
Eastern Encounters

Drawn from the Royal Library's collection of South Asian books and manuscripts

CAT. NO. 84

The Queen’s Travels in Scotland and Ireland, translated into Hindi

Benares: Medical Hall Press, 1875

Printed text in devanagari script on plain paper; ornamented margins and photograph hand-painted in opaque watercolour including metallic pigments and gold leaf; 7 printed illustrations; gilt edges; purple goatskin binding | 230 pp.; 24.8 × 19.5 cm | RCIN 1053105

Queen Victoria’s Leaves from the Journal of our Life in the Highlands from 1848 to 1861, her personal account of the royal family’s trips to Balmoral, and its follow-up More Leaves, which continued her narration up to 1882, were international bestsellers of their day. The first public edition of 1868 caused a sensation, going through many reprints, and reached a worldwide readership after it was translated into multiple languages. In India, Marathi (1871), Hindi (1875) and Gujarati (1877) renditions of the ‘Queen’s book’ were made and presentation copies sent to Queen Victoria by their translators.

The Maharajah of Benares (modern Varanasi), Ishwari Prasad Narayan Singh (1822–89), produced a Hindi translation of Leaves and gave this presentation copy to the Prince of Wales during his tour of India in 1875 to pass on to Queen Victoria. The book was originally bound with an inlaid hard-stone cover (presumably damaged as it is now bound in leather), recorded as made in Agra from designs supplied by the Maharajah himself.[275] It opens with an intriguing painted composite photograph of the Maharajah offering the book to Queen Victoria.

From the early nineteenth century, the Maharajah patronised a family of artists from Patna, the second generation of whom took up photography in the 1870s.[276] In both Europe and India photographs were painted to soften their monochrome harshness, enhance certain features and, in this case, create a fictitious physical context.[277] The Maharajah’s nephew, Prabhu Narayan Singh, adapted the same image when he presented an album of photographs to Queen Victoria some years later. The illuminations are credited to ‘an artist at the Fort in Ramnagar’.[278] The Queen recorded the book’s arrival in England in her journal: ‘My book, translated into Hindustani, beautifully illuminated, containing a painting of me, by a native artist, receiving the present from the Maharajah of Benares, bound in inlaid marble, is very curious & really beautiful.’[279]

The translation into Hindi was particularly significant as Benares at the time was at the centre of a linguistic battle between Urdu and Hindi, as to which should be the official language of local government.[280] The book was printed by Medical Hall, a type press founded in Benares by Welsh doctor E.J. Lazarus who quickly became one of the most important and influential publishers of Hindi and Sanskrit texts in northern India.[281]


  • [275] Memo inserted into book.

    [276] Dallu Lal and Kamalpati Lal later joined their cousins Ganesh and Mahesh Prasad; they in turn were followed by Babu Jageswar Prasad and Madho Prasad who produced portrait photographs and landscapes. See Bautze 1998, pp. 125–8, cat. no. 29; and Gaenszle and Gengnagel eds. 2008, pp. 220–21. See also RCIN 606053: hand-painted photography of Prince Alfred Duke of Edinburgh and his suite with the Maharaja of Benares.

    [277] See Dewan 2012, pp. 19–20.

    [278] Memo inserted into book.

    [279] VIC/MAIN/QVJ (BC): 27 May 1876.

    [280] See King 1989.

    [281] See Stark 2007 and Orsini 2004. 

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