The Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, founded in
1891, is rightly known all over the world for its unique collection
of about 21,000 manuscripts including some very rare ones, 2000
paintings of different Indian Schools, 250,000 printed books on a
wide range of subjects and 3000 letters of eminent personages. At
the same time, it also has a modest collection of antiques and art
objects, numbering about 250.
This collection of antiques mainly
consists of the objects belonging to the Khuda Bakhsh family. Some
additions, mainly in the form of gifts – and a few through purchases
– have further enriched the collection. These antiques are of metal,
glass, porcelain, stone, clay, shell and wood. They cover a wide
range such as astronomical instruments, mechanical clocks, weapons,
medallions, commemorative gifts, badges, ring-seals, decorative
boxes, pottery, crockery inscribed with Quranic verses or decorated
with Chinese and Japanese art, engraved pen-holders and inkpots,
etc. Over the last four years, these antiques have been duly
catalogued and a Register of Antiques offering a complete
overview of these articles is to be published by the end of this
year. The present album offers a sample view of the most important
of these antiques: the scientific instruments.
The Khuda Bakhsh Library has 12 scientific instruments
preserved in its collection of antiques. The most numerous are
astrolabes, followed by sun-dials, a celestial globe, a
quadrant-cum-nocturnal or Roznuma-o-Shabnuma and a surgical
forceps. These are undoubtedly an important source for the study and
reconstruction of science and technology in the pre-Modern period.
They also provide an insight into the development of sciences like
astronomy, surgery and geography in pre-Modern India.