The Rampur Raza Library is one of the world's magnificent, unparalleled repository of cultural heritage and treasure-house of knowledge built up by successive Nawabs of Rampur State. It contains very rare and valuable collection of manuscripts, historical documents, specimens of Islamic calligraphy, miniature paintings, astronomical instruments and rare illustrated works in Arabic and Persian languages besides 60,000 printed books.
Conceived and personal collection of manuscripts, miniatures specimens of Islamic calligraphy in the last decades of the 18th century, the founder of Rampur State, Nawab Faizullah Khan who ruled the state from 1774 to 1794, established the library with his personal modest collection kept in the Toshakhana of his Palace. As all the Nawabs were the great patrons of scholars, poets, painters, calligraphers and musicians, the library occupied the pivotal place of all library and publication activities. With this humble beginning, the library grew by leaps and bounds and notable additions were made to the collection during the rule of Nawab Ahmad Ali Khan (1794-1840).
Nawab Mohammad Saeed Khan (1840-1855) was versatile mind he created a separate department of library. He shifted the collection to new rooms. He engaged Agha Yusuf Ali Maulavi who was an Afghan Scholar, to organize the collection into a library. The Nawab invited well known calligraphers, illuminators and binders from Kashmir and other parts of India. The Nawab also got a seal with the following Persian inscription
"Hast in muhr bar Kutub Khana : Waali-i-Rampur farzana." in A.H 1268
It means " This is the seal of the library: by the wise ruler (Nawab) of Rampur."
Nawab Yousuf Ali Khan Nazim succeeded his father and was crowned on 1st April 1855. The Nawab was himself a poet of Urdu and took guidance from the celebrated poet Mirza Ghalib. The Nawab's Diwan (collection of verses) written in gold is preserved in the library. After the first struggle of India's freedom in 1857, a large number of eminent poets, writers and scholars came to Rampur and settled here. Nawab Kalbe Ali Khan Khan (1865-1887) showed keen interest in the collection of rare manuscripts, paintings and specimens of Islamic calligraphy. He was himself an eminent scholar and poet. He commissioned scholars to secure rare manuscripts, paintings and art pieces of the Mughal and Awadh libraries. He used to examine the manuscripts and recorded his impression about their importance. The Nawab also went to Haj pilgrimage and brought a good number of rare manuscripts including the unique parchment manuscript of Quran attributed to Hazrat Ali (d. 661) of the 7th century A.D with him. Thus the library collection was enriched enormously.
Nawab Mushtaq Ali Khan (1887-1889) was permanently sick. General Azamuddin Khan was appointed the regent to look after the affairs of the State in 1887. He constituted a managing committee and allotted a budget for the upkeep and development of the library. A new building was also constructed where the library collection was shifted from ToshaKhana in 1892. He also extended facilities to senior academicians and research scholars from other parts of the country.
Nawab Hamid Ali Khan (1889-1930) visited several countries before ascending to the throne. He was highly educated and a prolific builder and built impressive palaces, castle ramparts, and state buildings in Rampur city. He also built a splendid mansion of Indo-European style named Hamid Manzil inside the fort in 1904. The Raza library was later shifted to this magnificent building in 1957. Nawab Hamid Ali Khan added new art objects to the valuable collection and enforced certain reforms in the management of the library. During his time, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Maulana Najmul Ghani Khan and Hafiz Ahmad Ali Khan 'Shauq' managed the library.
Nawab Raza Ali Khan ascended the throne on 21st June 1930. He had his education in India and abroad. He showed a very progressive bent from his early age and introduced modern education in schools and colleges. He also invited educationists of repute to organise these academic institutions. Besides he was a great lover of Indian music for which he purchased several rare manuscripts and books on the subject.
After the merger of the Rampur State in the Union of India, in 1949 the library was controlled by the management of a Trust which was created on 06th August 1951. The trust management continued till July, 1975.
Prof. S. Nurul Hasan, the then Minister of State for Education and Scientific Research, Govt. of India, came repeatedly to the library and took a serious view of the neglected condition of this precious heritage. At his instance suitable measures were taken for providing better management and sufficient financial grants. As a result, the Government of India took over the library on 1st July 1975 under the Act of Parliament and assumed full funding and management of the library. When the library was taken over by the Central Government, Nawab Syed Murtaza Ali Khan was nominated the Vice-Chairman of the newly created Board for the life under sub-section 5(1) of the Act. With his sad demise on Feb 8th, 1982, the post of Vice-Chairman was automatically abolished. Now the library occupies the position of an autonomous institution of national importance under Department of Culture, Government of India and is fully funded by Central Government.