seal (writing & printing)

13.2.48/13

This is a wax seal was actually made from a compound material, that sometimes including beeswax, and dyed with vermillion. Seals are formed by pressing a stamp into hot wax and then allowing it to cool; the stamp is shaped so that, when the wax cools, images and text--here in an Indo-Persian script--are visible in the wax. The seal can then act as a personal identifier. This seal was used by a clerk named Narsinghadev on behalf of Rana Bhagwant Singh, the ruler of Dholpur in India, sometime between 1840 and 1860. Seals were used to close and protect important documents, and a broken seal indicated that the document had been tampered with and that its contents had been read by someone without permission. Seals also conferred authority. A document with a seal attached, bearing the name of a ruler, such as this seal, bore the weight of that ruler's own voice and power. Seals began to be dyed red in the sixteenth century, and this rapidly became usual practice across Europe and Asia, signifying authority and authenticity of the contents of the document to which they were affixed.

Wax seal from India. The Horniman wax seals 13.2.48/12, 13.2.48/13 and 13.2.48/15 all communicate the same information. They follow an honorific formula and mention a ruler called Bhagvant Singh, but who exactly this ruler could be is hard to ascertain . The seals are written in Indo Persian (a form of Persian influenced by Hindi) in the Nasta’liq script. The language used on the seals harks back to the rule of the Mughals in India when Persian and Indian cultures and languages intermixed. The influence of the Mughals can be seen today in Urdu, the official language of Pakistan which is very similar to Hindi, but written in a Persianized script . The inscriptions are difficult to date but they are probably from the mid nineteenth century. Wax seals like the Horniman examples are still commonly used to secure the padlocked doors and gates of important cabinets, offices and buildings in India and Pakistan. The seals were donated to the Horniman by Dr G Batten in 1948. This commentary by Saqib Baburi and Clifford Wright

Collection Information

These objects are only a part of our collections, of which there are more than 350,000 objects. This information comes from our collections database. Some of this is incomplete and there may be errors. This part of the website is also still under construction, so there may be some fields repeated or incorrectly formatted information.

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