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The printing Press

Though Printing industry had its origin in foreign countries, it spread to India towards the end of the 18th century. The first press established in Travancore was the Nagercoil Mission Press brought into existence by Rev. C. Mead in 1820 to be utilized as a valuable appendage to missionary work of London Mission Society .

About three years later the Kottayam Press was set up by Rev. Bailey, and he is said to have “cut the first type himself from a description given in the Encyclopedia Britannica. Later still, two more presses came into existence in connection with the Mission work, at Neyyur and Quilon. All these presses were chiefly devoted to the printing of literature. In 1836, Swati Tirunal brought into effect, a new code of regulation for the state and new was felt to print the same. It was printed at the Kottayam Mission Press, but Swathi felt the need for a Govt. Press. In 1838, Government organized a Press under Samathanam Maistry who was one of the first batch of workmen trained in the Nagercoil Press. The first Superintendent of the Press was the Rev. Sperschneider.t represents one of the major steps towards the modernization of social life taken under Sri Swati Thirunal Maharaja. Following are some documents related to establishment of the press. The acting Dewan addressed in the letters is Ranga Rao. It is also evident that Mr. Caldecott, the first Director of the Trivandrum Observatory had a role to play in the establishment of the press:

Specimen of earliest printing from Govt. Press (1848)

The scope of the working of the Government Press was at first very limited being confined to the publication of the Travancore Almanac and the requirements of the English School and one or two more departments. The following is the earliest specimen of printing from the Govt. Press available today. It is, ironically the Travancore Almanac of 1848 carrying the news of death of Swathi Thirunal. Swathi Thirunal’s brother Uthradam Thirunal is who known to have shown great interest in the Govt.

Press. Rev. C. Mead was appointed Superintendent of Government Press in 1863, and through his efforts the stock of printing machine and types received considerable additions. In 1045 M.E. (1870 A.D) a Lithographic Press was added. Now the Press undertakes most of the Government work and private work also to a limited extent, whenever it is possible to do so without detriment to the Government work.No law had existed till very recently to regulate the establishment and working of private presses. In 1898 one Mr. Raman Unnithan, who had been working a press in the British settlement of Tangasseri, applied to the Dewan for permission to establish a press in Quilon. The Government, whose permission was not hitherto sought, though a few presses had been established previously, ruled for the first time that certain conditions prescribed by the British Indian Act XXV of 1867 (regulating printing presses) should be satisfied, and issued an order to all District Magistrates (Dewan peishcars) to insist upon these conditions being fulfilled when application for establishing printing presses were received by them. There were several others who set up private presses under the new rules, but as many presses had been established before the orders were passed, it became necessary to enact a legislative measure prescribing a uniform procedure for the regulation of printing presses. This was done in Regulation II of 1079 M.E. (1903-04 A.D) which prescribes in Part II that no person shall keep in his possession any press for the printing of books or newspapers, who shall not have made and subscribed a declaration, before the Magistrate of the District within those jurisdiction such press may be kept, giving a true and accurate description of the locality of the press, undertaking to print and issue no book or newspaper unless the name of printer and of the press has been printed legibly on it, along with that of the place of printing & c. These rules generally follow similar provisions obtaining in British India. There were, at the beginning of 1905, 28 private presses in Travancore and their names and stations were as follow:-

No. Station Name of Press

1 Cantonment … Keralodayam Press.
2 Do. … Western Star Press.
3 Puttanchanta … Malabar Mail Press.
4 Do. … Shunmukavilasam Press.
5 Attakulangara … Saraswathivilasam Press.
6 Chalai … Subodhini Press.
7 Palavangadi … Bhaskara Press.
8 Tampanur … Lakshmi Vilasam.
9 Seevali Mukku … Akshara Vilasam.
10 Kunnikuzhi … Prabhakaram.
11 Tampanur … Subhashini Press.
12 Mannanam … St. Joseph’s Press.
13 Kottayam … Church Mission Press.
14 Do. … Cananaya Pradipika
15 The Malankara Edavaga
Patrika Syrian Seminary
In Govindapuram Kara … Mar Thomas Press.
16 Kottayam … Malayala Manorama Press.
17 Do. … Malabar Daily News.
18 Alleppy … …
19 Do. … Santa Cruz.
20 Pallithotem … Chenthar Press.
21 Paravur … Saraswathivilasam Press.
22 Do. … Kerala Booshanam Press.
23 Eravipuram … Varnaprakasam Press.
24 Nagercoil … London Mission Press.
25 Devasagaya Street,
Nagercoil … Victoria Press.
26 Kuruntheru … Agastiar Vilasam.
27 Nagercoil … Nanchinesan.
28 Muvattupuzha … Keraleeya Ranjini Press.

Publications. GOVERNMENT PUBLICATIONS. The most important Government publication is the Travancore Government Gazette, issued weekly from the Government Press on Tuesdays. It contains all important orders of Government, particulars as to appointment and change of officers, the regulations and rules passed by the Government from time to time, the proceedings of the Legislative Council, reports of the important orders of the High Court, departmental rules, orders and, in fact, all matters which it is necessary or desirable that the public should be aware of. It is priced cheap so as to be within the reach of all.

The Almanac is an annual publication issued from the Government Press, which furnishes a lot of useful information, and is a splendid vade mecum to be referred to on all points connected with the administration of Travancore. It contains besides trade list, list of factories, plantations, roads and canals, postal and telegraphic rules, & c.The Annual Administration Report, issued every year, contains a summary of the year’s progress in the work of each department of the State.The Travancore Law Reports, though not issued at regular intervals, are authoritative publications of important decisions of the High Court.The above are the most important publications of general interest. Besides these, there are many other Government publications such as the Unrevealed Regulations, the school text books, departmental rules and regulations, & c. Copies of these are made available for sale to the public at the Government Book Depot, attached to His Highness the Maharajah’s College.

PRIVATE PUBLICATIONS. Books. Wherever printing presses and printed publications exist, it seems to be the rule for the Government concerned to exercise a kind of supervision over them with a view both to protect public interests and to safeguards the rights of the people who, by an exercise of their intellect and intelligence, contribute to the literary and scientific advancement of their countrymen. Regulation II of 1039 M.E. (1863-64 A.D) was passed with a view to encourage the publication of useful books in Travancore by securing to the authors copyright and proprietary interest in their works for 42 years from the date of their first publication. The Regulation requires that an author applying for copyright of his book should get the name of the book and the author registered in a Book of registry of copyright and of its transfers, kept in the Dewan’s Office. Any one infringing the right is made liable for damages to the author. By an agreement with the British Government all English publications possessing a copyright in British India, are treated as copyright under the local law and rice versa. Since the passing of the above regulation literary activity has considerably increased and a large number of books, pamphlets, magazines and newspapers are being issued from the Travancore Press.

The Printing department was a favourite establishment of the Maha Rajah, for , from its very establishment, His Highness was in the habit of getting several little things printed for himself. His Highness, while Elia Rajah, had a portable hand – press, expressly made to order in England, which was capable of printing a page about 7 inches long and 3½ inches broad.

The Travancore Calendar, Which was half English and half Malayalam, was altered at His Highness’ suggestion, and two separate Calendars were printed, one in English and the other in Malayalam. Both of these were improved every year, the Maha Rajah himself correcting the proof shects, especially the Malayalam Calendar, and so in time the Travancore Calenders, Particularly the Malayalam one, became a repository of various information concerning science, literature and politics.

As regards His Highness’ encouragement of literature, the Reverend Mr. Bailey’s letter published in his English and Malayalam Dictionary would be the best evidence, and the same is hereunder annexed:-


The Government Press was established in the year 1011 M.E. The London Mission Society had a printing press at Nagercoil as early as 995 M.E. (1820) and three years later the Church Mission Society started another at Kottayam.

For a long time the scope of the operations of the government Press was limited, the demand for printing being confined to the publication of the Travancore almanac and the requirements of the English schools and one or two Departments. But the establishment was considerably enlarged and measures were adopted to improve the quality of the work turned out when the demand for the services of the institution increased in later years. The stock of printing machinery and types received valuable additions from 1040 to 1044 M.E. A lithograph press was added in 1045 M.E. with an establishment to work it. Further improvements were effected in 1064 M.E. and arrangements made to reduce clerical work in the Public Offices by the introduction of printing on a more extensive scale. The press was reorganized in 1072 M.E. and the salaries of the staff increased. Stereotyping was introduced in 1077 M.E. (1902). When the Central Prison Press was started, all printing and binding works relating to the Anchal, Excise and Judicial Departments as well as the printing of the departmental forms, which were previously done in the Government Press were transferred to that institution, the Government Press attending to the printing of the Gazette and other Government publications. In 1098 M.E. (1923) the latter was amalgamated with the Government Press.

In 1100 M.E. the working of the Press came under close scrutiny in pursuance of the recommendations of the Press Committee appointed by Government to enquire into the working of the institution. The schedule of piece-work wages was revised and further retrenchment effected in 1107 M.E.

In addition to the Government Gazette published every Tuesday, the most important items of work done by the government Press in conjunction with the Central Prison Press are the printing of the Statistical Volume, the State Administration and Departmental Reports, Forms for use in Government institutions and the proceedings of both the Houses of the Legislature. Private work is undertaken in special cases. The government Press is now under the charge of a Superintendent with an Assistant Superintendent under him



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