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Scrapbook of a British subaltern


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

The British Empire was a worldwide system of colonies, protectorates, and other territories, brought under the sovereignty of Great Britain and the administration of the British government. The East India Company drove the expansion of the British Empire in Asia. The company's army first joined forces with the Royal Navy during the Seven Years' War, and the two continued to co-operate in arenas outside India. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the British Crown began to assume an increasingly larger role in the affairs of the company. After quelling an uprising and mutiny of sepoys, Indian troops under British officers and discipline, the British crown assumed the East India Company's governmental authority in India with The Government of India Act 1858.

A subaltern is an officer in the British army below the rank of captain, especially a second lieutenant. The term may also reference someone with a low ranking in a social, political, or other hierarchy. It can also mean someone who has been marginalized or oppressed.


"British empire." Oxford Reference. 2012; Accessed 3 Aug. 2023.

The Scrapbook of a British subaltern features poems, vignettes, narratives and illustrations, watercolors and pen sketches. While the compiler is unknown, the writings suggest the narrator is a subaltern. The inside front cover features an inscription to a Rosa dated September 18, 1853, and Rosa appears throughout the album. From the narratives it is likely the compiler was a naval officer in the British military. The illustrations feature shipwrecks, and vessels in dire straits, one captioned "The Pekin in a Typhoon in the China Seas"; there are narratives titled: "a Sailor's Funeral" and "Contents of a Subaltern's room." The compiler traveled to various outposts of the British Empire. Several leaves feature illustrations with vignettes of life in British India: sepoys in ceremonial dress, a gentleman peering at a sign for Bangalore, and a woman carried aloft on a sedan chair.

Also included within the album is an illustration of the porcelain tower Nankin [Nanking', a fifteenth-century Ming Dynasty pagoda, and a number of botanical illustrations. and full page watercolor landscapes.

Sold by Susanne Schulz, Falster Rare Books [Woodstock, England], 2022.

Accessioned as 2022.000138. Samantha Dodd processed, wrote and encoded the finding aid, 2023.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Samantha Dodd
Finding Aid Date
2023 August 3
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Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

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