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Indian copper plate charters, 5th-16th centuries CE

Identifier: Coll-1860/CP

Scope and Contents

This is an important collection of 7 Indian inscriptions in Sanskrit on copper plates recording land grants dating from the 5th to 16th centuries CE. The study of such inscriptions is an important element within Indian epigraphy, especially for the early ones which have survived whereas other perishable writing materials of the period have not. The inscriptions normally record donations by kings of villages or land to the Hindu Brahman elite (who are considered to be particularly deserving by virtue of their learning and holiness). The inscriptions are engraved on one or more copper plates, the outer facing surfaces are often left blank and act as protective ‘covers’. In complete sets, the plates are held together by a copper or bronze ring which is inserted through holes in the plates. This ring usually contains an engraved seal of the donor, which authenticates the document. The plates are most commonly found in south India, and thousands of examples exist but relatively few are to be found in institutions outside South Asia.


  • Creation: 5th-16th centuries CE


Conditions Governing Access

Open, but please contact the repository in advance.


1 linear metre (6 boxes)

Custodial History

Plates 1-6 were originally from the collection of Sir Walter Elliot; excavated mainly during the period 1825-1835. All the plates were later in the possession of Hans Julius Eggeling (1842–1918), Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Edinburgh from 1875 to 1914, and were presented to Edinburgh University Library by his son Major Hans F. Eggeling (b.1878) in 1947.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated to Edinburgh University Library by Major Hans F. Eggeling in 1947.


See also E. Francis, Le discours royal dans l'Inde du Sud ancienne. Inscriptions et monuments pallava (IVème - IXème siècles). Tome I. Introduction et sources (Louvain: 2013), pp.262-3, 268-9.
NB: Although several of these Charters have been translated and published, the publications were often based on inked impressions, not on the original plates, and may be imperfect and incomplete as a result.

Processing Information

Catalogued by Aline Brodin in March 2018, drawing upon descriptions provided by Prof. L.D. Barnett, Lecturer in Sanskrit and Librarian of SOAS, London, in November 1946, and by Emmanuel Francis, Report on the Sir Walter Elliot Archive, Edinburgh University Library (CNRS Paris, 2017), and pers. comm. 2016-18.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379