A Short History of Penang’s Malay Publishing Industry

loading The Jelutong Press.

The Malay printed word in Penang had its beginnings in the late nineteenth century, peaking just before the Second World War.

In a dusty shop on the second floor of Chowrasta Market, yellowing cardboard- bound books lie tied up with cord. Many of these are printed in Tamil and Jawi, and some in romanised Malay. These are the remains of Penang’s early Malay publishing industry which once dominated northern Malaya. These are books written, printed, bound and sold in Penang – a self-sustaining trade that extended to journals and newspapers, once almost comparable to the products of London’s Paternoster Row.

Printing in Penang began in 1806, when the London Missionary Press established a Mission that employed wooden blocks of typeset Jawi held in place by a wine screw press. This was the first press to be established in the peninsula.

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