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India and the World of Print

Manuscripts before the Age of Print :-

India had a very rich and old tradition of handwritten manuscripts – in Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, and other vernacular languages. Manuscripts were copied on palm leaves or on handmade paper. Pages were beautifully illustrated. These manuscripts were bound between wooden covers or sewn together for preservation. Manuscripts were produced in India even after print technology was introduced.


Hand written Manuscripts

Manuscripts were expensive and fragile and had to be handled carefully. It was difficult to read manuscripts as they were written in different styles.

During the pre-colonial day an extensive network of village primary schools was developed in Bengal. In these schools lessons were dictated and the children were taught to write. So printed text books were not popular. Thus many became literate without reading any kinds of texts.

Print Comes to India :-

  • The printing press first came to Goa with Portuguese missionaries in the mid-sixteenth century.
  • Jesuit priests learnt Konkani and printed many books.
  • In 1579 Catholic priests printed the first Tamil book at Cochin.
  • By 1674, about 50 books were printed in Konkani and Kanara languages.
  • By 1710, Dutch Protestant missionaries printed 32 Tamil texts.
  • In 1713 the first Malayalam book was printed by the Catholic priests.
  • The English language press started in India much later. In the mean time the English East India Company began to import presses from the late seventeenth century.

    Indian started publishing Indian news papers. The first to appear was the weekly

    Bengal Gazette, brought out by Gangadhar Bhattacharya.

    James Augustus Hickey began to edit the Bengal Gazette, a weekly magazine. It was a private printing press and thus printing in English was introduced in India. The magazine published a lot of advertisements including those that related to the import and sale of slaves. He also published a lot of gossip about the Company’s senior officials in India. Enraged by this, Governor-General Warren Hastings persecuted Hickey. Officially sanctioned newspapers were soon printed to rectify the damages caused by Hickey’s magazine.

    Hicky's Bengal Gazette

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