ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

A Well-Told Tale of the Book

The Province of the Book: Scholars, Scribes and Scribblers in Colonial Tamil Nadu by A R enkatachalapathy (Ranikhet: Permanent Black), 2012; xvii, pp 292, Rs 795 (hardback).

Book history is now sufficiently established in south Asian academia as to not require any special pleading. Over the past two decades, there have been some excellent studies of the history of the book in the region. Unlike book history projects in the west, a national book history project is inconceivable in south Asia because of the large number of languages and dialects and the uneven history of print. The first two centuries of print in India, beginning with the accidental arrival of a press in Goa in 1556, have often been described as a “non-history” of printing owing to its stop-start nature while creeping along the coastal regions of India without quite being able to penetrate into the hinterland.

During this so-called non-history, Tamil became the first Indian language to be printed in Indic characters in 1577, in Goa (there had been a previous Tamil volume printed from Lisbon in 1554, but in Roman script). This was followed by the establishment of Danish Lutheran missionary Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg’s famed press in Tranquebar, which, among others, printed the New Testament in Tamil exactly three centuries ago, in 1714. This was the first full translation of the New Testament in any south Asian language.

Dear reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here


(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Back to Top