Phillipps Collection of East India Company Papers

Scope and Content

Richard Johnson's papers include correspondence with Lord Cornwallis, Warren Hastings and others, reports, statements, legal papers and notes. These are useful for anyone interested in Warren Hastings and in Indian affairs in the second half of the 18th century, and particularly in the management of the East India Company.

Administrative / Biographical History

Richard Johnson (1753-1807) was an East India Company servant and collector of oriental art and manuscripts. In 1769 he was appointed a writer on the Bengal establishment of the East India Company. Through an appointment in the personal office of the governor, he began a sometimes difficult relationship with Warren Hastings. Johnson aimed to advance his career as quickly as possible in order to pay off family debts. He obtained a valuable contract for his younger brother, Alexander, to join him in India. As well as his official service, Johnson joined in partnership with Richard Croftes, his superior at the Company, to form a private agency business specializing in arranging remittances to Britain. However, the business failed and was dissolved in 1785. When Croftes died insolvent the next year, Johnson was left with heavy debts, compounding his financial problems.

In 1780 he became deputy to the company's resident at the court of the wazir of Oudh at Lucknow; in this lucrative appointment Johnson became the patron of poets and acquired a large number of Sanskrit and Persian manuscripts and miniatures. He later served in Hyderabad and Calcutta. Johnson settled in London as MP for Milborne Port from 1791 to 1794.

Source: P.J. Marshall, 'Johnson, Richard (1753-1807)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

Warren Hastings was born at Churchill in Oxfordshire on 6 December 1732. In 1743 he attended Westminster School, where he became king's scholar and captain of the school in 1747. In 1750 he travelled to Calcutta [Kolkata] to work as a writer in the East India Company's Bengal service. Hastings' first appointment was at Cossimbazar, near the nawab's capital at Murshidabad.

In 1756 he married Mary, née Elliott (d. 1759), widow of Captain John Buchanan. From Britain, Hastings sailed for Madras in 1769. During the journey he met his second wife, Marian, née Anna Maria Apollonia Chapuset (1747-1837). Hastings spent two successful years at Madras and his management of the company's commercial concerns was particularly commended. In 1772 the directors of the East India Company appointed Hastings as governor of Bengal. From the outset of his government Hastings felt obliged to impress on British opinion the importance of what Britain had acquired in Bengal. He believed that Bengal must be governed in ways to which its people were presumed to be accustomed. Indian methods of government and Indian law must be preserved. During his time as governor he moved the central government to Calcutta under direct British control and remodelled the justice system. In 1774 he acquired the new title of governor-general.

He retired in 1785 and returned to England. In 1786, Edmund Burke introduced an impeachment process against him on charges of corruption, and following a trial that lasted from 1788 to 1795, Hastings was acquitted. In 1813 he was asked to give evidence to the House of Commons on the renewal of the East India Company's charter. In his later years he received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University and was made a privy counsellor. He died in 1822 and was buried in Daylesford churchyard.

Source: P.J. Marshall, 'Hastings, Warren (1732-1818)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

Access Information

The collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library, via the London bookseller Bernard Quaritch, at the Sotheby's auction of the Bibliotheca Phillippica on 27 June 1919, lots between 746-774.


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan and Jo Klett with reference to:

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1928 (English MSS 173-197).

Custodial History

These manuscripts were part of the collection of the great bibliophile Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872), numbers 15910, 16689, 16496 (2 items), 17178, 17180, 17204, 17206, 17213, 17248, 17249, 17251, 17394, 17605, 17607, 21388, 21395 (2 items), 21491, 21492, 21493, 21629, 23556, 24536, 28195, 33378 and 33399. Most previously belonged to Richard Johnson, but some may have come from the collection of Warren Hastings, which later passed to Phillipps. After the death of Phillipps in 1872 his library was intermittantly dispersed by auction throughout the rest of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Related Material

For other India-related papers in the English Manuscripts sequence of the John Rylands University Library see:

  • John Charles Mason Collection of East India Company Papers (GB 133 Eng MSS 141-169 );
  • Warren Hastings Indian Maps and Charts Collection (GB 133 Eng MS 469 );
  • Melville Papers (GB 133 MEL );
  • Pitt Collection (GB 133 PIT );
  • Diary of William Rawlinson (GB 133 Eng MS 970 ).

The British Library, Manuscript Collections, holds correspondence of Richard Johnson with Warren Hastings, 1779-1805 (ref.: GB 0058 Add MSS 29144-93 ). The British Library, Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections, holds correspondence of Johnson relating to India, 1784-1800 (ref.: GB 0059 Home misc series ).