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Home to the first printing press in India, Goa is a lot more than just the land of beaches!

Let's take a quick peek into the history of the development of the printing press in India, via Goa.

While bibliophiles today have the privilege to explore oceans of finest texts with just a simple click on their computers or mobile phones, the beauty of tracing books remains unparalleled even today. And while some people call it cumbersome and outdated in the digital era, there was once a time when the printing press revolutionised the landscape of texts and communication.

To put things in perspective, let's outline the history of the first printing in India and its epicentre at Goa. A story that pivots through circumstantial events, colonial rule and the intention to propagate missionary work, the country chanced upon this invention - and the rest has been 'written' as history!


Printing & imprinting history

The art of the printing press, found its impression via Goa. In a letter dated April 30, 1556, Father Gasper Caleza wrote to St. Ignatius of Loyola, to tell him about a printing press that was made to sail from Portugal to Abyssinia (current-day Ethiopia) with the agenda of supporting missionary work there. However, the then circumstances created a scenario where the press could not leave India. And this, marked the start of the printing press in the country.

The Portuguese base, Goa, became the centre of the printing activities, with the press finding its seat at the St, Paul's College in 1556. It might be a fact of surprise for many, but the first set of prints from this machine were not books; they were in fact, Conclusoes. To put it simply, these were loose sheets that carried contested points among those in St. Paul's College priestly training.

As far as the first book is concerned, it was the Conclusiones Philosophicas. In 1557, the works of poet St. Francis Xavier were published posthumously in the second book printed here, by the name, Catecismo da Doctrina Christã. This was followed by other works, such as the Compendio Spiritual Da Vide Christaa (Spiritual Compendium of the Christian Life) by Gaspar Jorge de Leão Pereira. Notably, this book by the Portuguese Archbishop of Goa, is the oldest remaining printed book in the country.

Indian script finds its ink!

Joao Gonsalves from Spain, takes the credit for preparing the first printing of the Indian script- Tamil. The first book in this language was the Thambiran Vanakkam, also known as Doctrina Christam. As per texts, it was published in the year 1558 on paper, which was imported from China. It is also said that the Jesuit Father printed the first Indian language manuscript in Kerala, on October 20, 1578, followed by which, the Jesuits found a Chaldean (Syriac) printing press in 1602 at Vapincota.

The Goa centre also started to print Konkani letters in Latin styles - a form that is still prevalent here. Konkani language used in other areas was also printed in toe corresponding scripts. It is said that the Portuguese banked on the Roman Script in the Goa colony for greater regulation and surveillance here. In all, it thundered a new era of documenting and circulating the same message to a larger population, with convenience

Knock Knock

The printing press in India was a stepping stone of progressing development, communication, literature and eventually mass movements in the future. It laid the groundwork for the beginning of vernacular printing in the country which influenced people, out of the scope of the foreign colonial administration.

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