Simpson was first sent to India in 1859 by the publisher William Day to work on a large-scale illustrated work showing the country in the wake of Mutiny, a project that was eventually wrecked by Day's bankruptcy in 1866, 'the biggest disaster of my life' as Simpson later put it. Throughout his travels in the subcontinent, which often took him to areas virtually unknown to Europeans, Simpson kept sketchbooks which were to contribute to his magnum opus. A number of them are well known and were drawn upon in Mildred Archer's publication on the artist Visions of India, 1986. The present sketchbook was drawn upon in Simpson's own article 'Architecture of the Himalayas' in 1882 but since then has remained unpublished. The sketchbook covers his second expedition in the Himalayas, beginning in the Rajput cities of Udaipur, Ajmer and Jaipur and ending in the mountain villages of Tibet.
In 1983, three similar albums by Simpson were sold at Christie's London. One album dated 4 November 1860 to 10 Febrauary 1861, must be that which immediately preceeds the present sketchbook (15 November 1983, lot 116, 5,184).