The Indian Princely State Legal Documents Collection

ca.1890 - ca.1960
(about 12,000 manuscripts in 20 boxes)


These are manuscripts and typescript documents of 34 different princely states that existed as distinct political entities in pre-independence India. Although the majority of these states were tiny principalities in western India (primarily in what is now Rajasthan), some (e.g., Hyderabad) were located in other regions of India and represented major powers in the region at that time.

The documents date from the 19th century through World War II, and are in English, Hindi, Rajasthani dialects, Urdu, Persian, Gujarati, Malayalam and other languages. The scripts employed include Devanagari, Urdu (Perso-Arabic script), English, Gujarati and Malayalam. The documents themselves appear to cover many aspects of official life of these states: decrees by local government officials, requests and petitions to the court, commercial permits, trade documents, land dispute documents, court affidavits (sometimes bearing thumb-prints and/or signatures), etc. Almost all the documents are one or two pages in length and bear the colorful imprint of the seal of a given princely state government. Most of these imprinted papers were available in various denominations, sometimes referred to as "court fees", and someone submitting documents to the court had to purchase an appropriately-denominated imprinted sheet on which to write out the document. Many of them, in addition to having the denominated seal or imprint on the sheet, also bear one or more printed "court fee" stamps (affixed to the sheet like postage stamps) to make up the required amount. These court fee stamps are philatelically interesting to collectors, and like the imprinted sheets, were issued by individual princely state authorities, usually bearing colorful symbols or portraits of the local rulers.

See also the online images of the collection of Court Fee and Revenue Stamps of the Princely States of India at UC Berkeley.


This collection is housed in Columbia's Rare Book and Manuscript Library, sixth floor, Butler Library.


Available for faculty, students, and researchers engaged in scholarly or publication projects. Permission to publish materials must be obtained in writing from the Librarian for Rare Books and Manuscripts.


The materials are arranged geographically by princely state, and then subdivided by denomination and language/script. Where there are significant variations in the selas, imprints and affixed stamps from a given state, these have been kept apart in separate folders.

Finding Aid

There is a contents list, listing all the princely states, with a key to the folder numbering system.


Materials are in many different languages of the princely states, especially English, Hindi, Rajasthani dialects, Urdu, Persian, Gujarati, Malayalam, etc.


A gift of Professor Ainslie Embree (1992) and Dr. Kenneth Robbins (1996 and 2000).

Subject Cataloging

  1. Administrative proceedings--India
  2. Land titles--India
  3. Legal instruments--India
  4. Representation in administrative proceedings--India
  5. Revenue stamps--India--States
  6. Alwar (Princely State)
  7. Baghat (India)
  8. Baoni (Princely State)
  9. Bharatpur (Princely State)
  10. Bikaner (Princely State)
  11. Bundi (Princely State)
  12. Chitrakuta (India)
  13. Dholpur (India : District)
  14. Dungarpur (India : District)
  15. Gondal (Princely State)
  16. Hyderabad (Princely State)
  17. India
  18. Indragarh (India)
  19. Jaipur (Princely State)
  20. Jaisalmer (Princely State)
  21. Jhabua (India : District)
  22. Jhalawar (India : District)
  23. Jodhpur (Princely State)
  24. Kolhapur (Princely State)
  25. Kota (Princely State)
  26. Madras (India : Presidency)
  27. Muhammadgarh (India)
  28. Muli (India)
  29. Mysore (Princely State)
  30. Narsingharh (Princely State)
  31. Nagod (Princely State)
  32. Sailana (India)
  33. Sikar (India : District)
  34. Thikana Sathin (India)
  35. Tonk (Princely State)
  36. Travancore (India)
  37. Udaipur (Princely State)
  38. Wankaner (India)
  39. Affidavits
  40. Agreements
  41. Certificates
  42. Claims
  43. Contracts
  44. Decisions
  45. Decrees
  46. Deeds
  47. Depositions
  48. Legal documents
  49. Legal instruments
  50. Oaths
  51. Permits
  52. Petitions
  53. Powers of attorney
  54. Proceedings
  55. Reports
  56. Seals
  57. Tax stamps
  58. Judges
  59. Lawyers
  60. Notaries

Collection acquired and processed by David Magier, South Asia Librarian, and Bindu Bhatt, South Asia Library Specialist, Columbia University Libraries.