The Oldest Manuscripts from India and Their Histories

A Re-assessment of IO Loth 4 in the British Library


  • Muntazir Ali Archaeological Survey of India, India
  • Marijn van Putten Leiden University, The Netherlands
  • Alison Ohta The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, UK
  • Sebnem Koser Akcapar Social Sciences University of Ankara, Turkey
  • Michael Willis The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, UK



Qurʼān—manuscripts, Islamic illumination of books and manuscripts— India, British Library—Collections, India Office Library—manuscripts, ʻAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib—Caliph, Indian manuscripts — seals and notations, Shāh Jahān — Emperor of India, Ismāʿīl I—Shāh of Iran (1487–1524)


This essay examines a copy of the Qur’ān from India, now in the India Office Collections at the British Library. The manuscript, registered as IO Loth 4, belongs to the reasonably large group of early Qur’āns that date to the eighth and ninth centuries CE. While some of these manuscripts have charted histories, what is not widely known is that early Qur’āns also made their way to India. There they have their own special histories, meanings and associations. In attempt to address the long ‘after-life’ of these manuscripts, this paper will examine a single example that arrived in India in the Mughal period and was eventually presented to the Library of the East India House by Lord Dalhousie in 1853. While not the earliest of the Qur’āns brought to India, it nonetheless dates to the circa ninth century CE, making it older than any surviving manuscripts in Sanskrit or Prakrit in India proper.


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How to Cite

Ali, Muntazir, Marijn van Putten, Alison Ohta, Sebnem Koser Akcapar, and Michael Willis. 2022. “The Oldest Manuscripts from India and Their Histories: A Re-Assessment of IO Loth 4 in the British Library”. Cracow Indological Studies 24 (2):59-89.