A unique collection of over 21,500 images. We’re committed to the preservation and proliferation of knowledge.

About the SP Lohia Hand Coloured Rare Book Collection


Mr. S.P. Lohia began acquiring a small number of old colour plate books around 2008. Little did he know that it was an interest and a hobby that only a decade and a half later would expand and grow into one of the world’s premier private collections of the genre.

As his interest grew and he purchased more and more books, he had the vision to provide a platform for anybody to access, see and appreciate the colour plate books you see today on this dedicated site. A website that lists and provides a brief description of every book, and most importantly, details and lists every colour plate in every book in the entire collection.

The text of the books housed within the collection is not described or covered in any detail for one very good reason. Mr. Lohia rightly reasoned that even if you speak English and no other language(s) or did not have a high literacy level, you could still access all the magnificent coloured images and appreciate them aesthetically in your own right.

As the saying goes: ‘A picture paints a thousand words.’

In 2012, the collection was expanding rapidly, and dedicated staff was urgently needed to describe the books, photograph all the colour plates and digitise them all for this website.

In 2015, the collection received a tremendous boost both in terms of physical book numbers and overall quality via the acquisition of the Norman Bobins Collection from Chicago. The original S.P.Lohia Collection and the now amalgamated Bobins Collection combine to complete the collection as it stands today.

The Collection

The collection stands today at upwards of 2,000 separate titles and nearer 2,500 volumes in total when multi-volume books were taken into account, with over 21,000 different images listed on the website.

The books cover a broad and diverse range of subjects, are arranged (loosely) in 64 different categories; ranging from Architecture, Botany, Military, Costume, Customs, Theatre, Sports and Pastimes, Countries, Christian and Islamic works, Portraits, Caricatures, and Travel, to name but a few. Dates range from the 16th century up until the 20th century.

Many of the books in the collection are uncommon or scarce to obtain, and in some instances, they are rare and extremely hard to obtain.

Book sizes range from:

Services Offered

First and foremost, the primary service offered is free access to the collection, with the ability to click on an individual book and go through each image one by one, as if you had the book to hand and you were flicking through it.

Secondly, you may choose to have any image that particularly interests you in a higher resolution, providing vastly greater depth and clarity. This additional and popular service is provided free of charge and has proved an excellent resource for the serious research scholar and casual browser alike.

Collection Uses

The collection keeps many vital books of the colour plate genre complete and intact, housed in ideal conditions, and free from the constraints of commercial activities.

The collection website generates hundreds of image inquiries each year from interested browsers from all over the world, with the most significant proportion coming from Europe and the United States.

Most requests are from private individuals or small societies, who are fascinated by a book’s images, or the book resonates somehow with them for any number of reasons; associations, time, place, memories, etc.

Other people simply wish to use some images to enhance a lecture or a talk they are giving to other members of the public or at seminars or to group meetings.

A fast-growing request group is that of the university professor or student who requires some additional visual information to add to a thesis, or a paper they are currently working on, some of which eventually get published.

Requests have been made by television production companies that wish to use images in connection with a specific television program or to celebrate and commemorate certain events and activities. People in the fashion world have asked for relevant images for their work, perhaps to provide both perspective and inspiration!

Future Plans

Although the collection will continue to grow via small and targeted acquisitions, the collection as it stands is almost complete. It is now ready to move on to its most innovative and exciting next phase, that of improving knowledge of and further access to the collection itself.

Future plans include a more effective platform on social media. This presence will link into a younger demographic and introduce that audience to the unique potential and wonders of the collection.

Knowledge is king. The collection is also well placed as a fundamental educational tool for schools and further levels of education. This is a direction that is firmly in the sights of all those involved with the collection. The possibilities and opportunities to use and utilise the knowledge contained within the collection are almost limitless. This is another clear example of the far-reaching visions held by Mr. Lohia for the collection.

Another plan is to use international embassies to promote exhibitions with a collection of books focusing on their own countries, cultures, and identities.

It is our mission to enact the plans and visions of Mr. Lohia to make the collection available to as many people in as many mediums as is possible to promote knowledge, culture, understanding, and respect for this unique collection of rare colour plate books.