Edward Byles Cowell: Correspondence and Papers

Scope and Content

MS.Add.4225: Translation by E.B. Cowell of Ellis Wynne's Gwelidigaethan y Bardd Cwsg ('Visions of the sleeping Bard'), c. 1873, 22 folios.

MS.Add.4501: Miscellaneous papers, in various hands, in French, Bengali, Welsh, English and Latin, 1841-1902, 195 folios.

The papers include passports; proverbs; letters; deeds of covenant; a short story; a report on an examination in Urdu; certificates of election to various institutions; reports on the Sanskrit College and Nuddea schools, Bengal; vouchers of the Great Eastern Hotel, Calcutta; lectures; Oude claims; papers concerning the Calcutta Public Library; a report of the syndicate of the University of Bengal; a cheque-book; and the announcement of the resolution to offer Cowell the Hon. Degree of Doctor of Laws at the University of Edinburgh.

MS.Add.4502: Miscellaneous papers, in various hands, in English and Bengali, 1857-1899.

1. Transcript from the British Library, Harl. MS 4254, John Marshall's Memoranda concerning East India, 1668-1672; 2. 'An Acount of Jaina Doctrines from the Sarvadarsana Samgraha'; 3. E.B. Cowell, examination papers for the Brotherton Sanskrit Prize, 11 December 1896 and 12 June 1899; 4. Calcutta Vernacular Literature Society, letters, vouchers and other papers, 159 items; 5. Gopeekissen Mittra, incomplete draft of 'Alalerghuru Dhoolal'; 6. Calcutta Sanskrit College, printed letters, testimonials and other papers, and a letter from Nilmani Mukerjea to [E.B. Cowell], 6 January 1896.

MS.Add.4503: Correspondence and translations from Welsh, in various hands, in English and Welsh, 1873-1887.

1-14, 16 and 17. English: letters from John Williams to [E.B. Cowell], 10 October 1873 - 24 May 1878; 15. Welsh: Williams to [Cowell], 5 July 1876; 18. E.S. Roberts to [Cowell], 18 September 1878; 19. English: Williams to [Cowell], 17 October 1878; 20. T. Powell to [Cowell], 3 June 1882; 21-26. Williams to [Cowell], 23 September 1882 - 18 January 1887 and two undated; 27-34. Welsh and English, in the hands of Cowell and Williams: extracts, and translations of Dafydd ap Gwilym and others; 35. English: drafts of translations of Dafydd ap Gwilym, 39 leaves; 36. Fifth hand, in Welsh: 'Paham y dirmyga'r Annuwiol Dduw'(?), 6 leaves; 37. Cowell's hand: transcripts of two poems by Taliessin, with an English translation of the former, 6 leaves.

MS.Add.4509: Miscellaneous papers, in various hands, in English, French and Greek, 1835-1889.

1. English: letter from E.B. Cowell to [ ], 25 March 1886; 2. 'Gardener's Calendar for Burstall', 1835-1836, 10 leaves; 3. E.B. Cowell: 'Sakoontal...an Indian Drama. Translated into English...from Sanskrit of Klidsa. By Monier Williams, M.A.', 24 leaves; 4. Various testimonials, 1859-1867 and undated; 5. Poems and translations; 6. Miscellaneous notes and letters; 7. Papers from Messrs Cowell's offices in Ipswich, including a maltster's licence (24 December 1847), a bill of lading (8 February 1847), lists of prices current, and an account with M.&R. Keighley&Co., Hull. On the versos of two of the papers are scraps of Persian and mathematics in Cowell's hand; 8. Cowell, incomplete manuscript of 'Sdi, the Persian Poet'; 9. Cowell, manuscript of 'Jami, the Persian Poet'; 10. Essays, translations, notes and transcriptions; 11. Manuscripts and drafts of various published works; 12. Manuscripts of unpublished papers and lectures, 1845-1874.

MS.Add.4510: Miscellaneous papers, in various hands, in English and Persian, 1842-1899.

The papers include various notes and verses; a letter from W.W. Skeat to [E.B. Cowell], 17 March 1873; a letter from Mrs S.L.M. Westcott to Cowell, 29 March 1899, with photographs; notes on Plato's Phaedrus, 1842; Cowell's transcript of Bodleian MS Ouseley 140, 'Omar Khayyam' (1856), with two letters from Cowell to Edward Fitzgerald (22 July and 20 December 1856), and the following note in Cowell's hand: 'This is the copy which I made from my own transcript of the Bodleian MS of Omar Khayyam in Sir W. Ouseley's Collection & gave to Fitzgerald in June 1856. We were both staying at my Mother's house as Rushmere near Ipswich, before I went to India. I read the Persian with him. (I had only recently discovered the MS at Oxford.) This transcript first introduced Omar to his future translator. It came back to me after my friend's death. E.B.C.'; and a copy of 'Omar' made in India from MS 1458 in the Library of the Bengal Asiatic Society, Calcutta, with a note in the hand of Fitzgerald.

Administrative / Biographical History

Edward Byles Cowell (1826-1903), scholar and man of letters, was born at Ipswich on 23 January 1826. He studied Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic, before training in his father's business as a merchant and maltster from 1842. He entered Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1850 (B.A., 1854), and catalogued manuscripts for the Bodleian Library. Cowell was Professor of English History at Presidency College, Calcutta, 1856-1864, and became Principal of the Sanskrit College in Calcutta in 1858. He returned to England in 1864, and became the first Professor of Sanskrit at Cambridge University, 1867-1903. He founded the Cambridge Philological Society in 1868, and became a Fellow of Corpus Christi College in 1874. Cowell died at Cambridge on 9 February 1903.

Access Information

Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

MS.Add.4225 was presented by the executors of Professor E.B. Cowell, 1903; MSS.Add.4501, 4502/1, 4502/2, 4502/4-6, 4503, 4509 and 4510 were presented by the family of Professor E.B. Cowell, 1903-1907; MS.Add.4502/3 was presented by C.W. Moule, 1910.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives. The biographical history was compiled with reference to the entry on E.B. Cowell in Sidney Lee, ed., Dictionary of national biography, 1901-1911, Vol. I (Oxford University Press, 1927), pp. 427-430.

Other Finding Aids

Additional Manuscripts Catalogue. Full details for MSS.Add.4501 and 4502 are also available in the Manuscripts Reading Room. There are accompanying lists to MS.Add.4509 by Miss C.M. Ridding, who arranged the papers.

Related Material

Cambridge University Library holds other Cowell papers, MSS.Add.4193, 4195-4199, 4201-4204, 6406-6409 and 6441.


'Sakoontal' (see MS.Add.4509) was printed in the Edinburgh review, July 1858, pp. 253-270.