An important collection of the IGNCA reference library is the rare volumes, published in the 18th and 19th centuries. The rare book collection in IGNCA comprises out of print volumes, and also the books which are published in limited number. For the sake of convenience, and also for extra care these rare volumes are shelved and classified separately. They are kept in a micro-climate with round the clock temperature and humidity control. Besides, the books are periodically checked and conservation measures taken as and when required.
The Illustrations / drawings published in these rare volumes throw important light on the art, architecture and culture of the bygone eras and the contents provide valuable information which with the passage of time, has faded and distorted due to various reasons. The first hand accounts of foreigners visiting India is undoubtedly valuable for the inquisitive scholar in the field of art and culture.
The paper used in the rare books ranges from hand-made to machine made paper with different GSM. The cover of the books is of leather, cloth and resins and the bookbinding is traditional as well as of commercial nature. The manufacturing technique and make of material make it prone to deterioration. If the optimum levels of temperature and humidity are not maintained the paper is bound to become brittle and prone to insect attack as well. It is in view of these factors that the books are shelved separately and hence kept in a round the clock temperature and humidity controlled environment.
The illustrations documented from the illustrated rare books and manuscripts focuses on—painting, sculpture, decorative art, costumes, Hindu deities, dances and its relevance could be best studied and appreciated in context with the textual information. Nevertheless, the illustrations are feast to eyes and generate curiosity and interest to the art connoisseur and common folk alike. The additional data available in the libsys and further the detailed information provided in the books could quench the thirst of a serious researcher in the field.
To make these drawings / illustrations available for scholars for an in-depth study in the field. IGNCA has taken up the task of documenting the drawings / illustrations published in these rare volumes. So far 1200 illustrations / drawings have been documented and slides prepared. The data of the slides is available in the libsys database and the material accessible to scholars. Further, IGNCA is in the process of microfilming this collection. Picture post cards of the illustrated rare books are also available at the sales counter of IGNCA. Along with the slides prepared from the illustrations / drawing a new dimension for a more comprehensive coverage of the Indian art is provided.
Since the rare collection is small it needs to be kept separately and under controlled environment. The contents in the rare collection can be converted into microform and illustrations / drawings transferred into slide form so that there is minimum handling of the original material.
IGNCA has brought out the picture post cards of the illustrations published in rare books. 5 sets each, with 12 illustrations from the following rare books are available at the publication sales counter of IGNCA.
Indian Pigeons and Doves (1913) by E.C.Stuart Baker’s,
Picturesque Illustrations of Ancient Architecture in Hindostan (1847) by James Fergusson,
Calico Painting and Printing in The East Indies in the 17th and 18th centuries (1921) by G.P.Baker,
Birds of Paradise (1873) by D.G.Elliot,
A picturesque voyage to India by the way of China (1810) by Thomas Daniell & William Daniell, etc.
The task of photo-documenting the illustrations in the rare books was initiated with the view to make it available to the academic community at large. It involved selecting the rare books, studying the illustrations as well as noting down the contents. The next phase involved photo-documentation them and preparation of slides. These slides are from rare books which are a valuable asset to the IGNCA collection and would find reference in the future publications. It would also create interest and awareness among the scholars to study this valuable treasure left behind by our predecessors and also to take proper preventive measures for its up keep.
This work will not end here and it is proposed to document the illustrated books housed in other libraries for a better understanding and appreciation of the art heritage.