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    Portuguese Printing

    Map Academy

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    The practice and technologies of printing introduced in India by the missionaries of the Jesuit Society, Portuguese printing was used from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries for two primary purposes: the dissemination of information about the country and the production of texts and books to accompany the mission of proselytisation by Catholic missionaries. The blocks used by the missionaries, the earliest specimen of which dates back to 1561, were carved for use in relief printing. Subsequent to its introduction in India, more printing presses were installed in Goa itself and in Bombay, driven predominantly by the evangelising mission of the Society, resulting in a body of Christian texts whose translations were published in vernacular languages.

    The first movable printing presses was set up by a Spanish Jesuit brother João (or Juan) de Bustamante in 1556 at Saint Paul’s College in Old Goa, when circumstances prevented them from being taken to Abyssinia for where it was originally bound. The first texts that are believed to have been printed from the press that year and the next were the Conclusões E Outras Coisas (These and other things) and Dotrina Christam by Francis Xavier. The printing press was operational until 1578, following which two other presses were established by the missionaries in Rachol, Goa at the College of St. Ignatius, which operated until 1668. Around thirteen books are known to have been published in Goa alone from the time of founding of the first press till 1588. Other printing presses were established by the missionaries between 1570s and 1580s, mostly in coastal towns such as Kochi and Kollam, Kerala; Punicale (now Punnaikayal and Tranquebar (now Tharangambadi) in Tamil Nadu; and Fort William in Calcutta (now Kolkata).

    Printing in vernacular languages was proposed and spearheaded by the Jesuit Priest Henrique Henriques. He was responsible for setting up the first Tamil printing press in Quillon (now Kollam), Kerala, and printing the first Tamil book, a translation of the Doctrina Christam titled Thambiran Vanakkam (1578). He is also credited with writing and publishing the first Tamil–Portuguese dictionary. He eventually moved to Goa, where he established his own press.

    Portuguese printing presses ceased operations towards the end of the seventeenth century with the advent of intaglio printing and other technologies and with the emergence of other centres of printing, such as Calcutta (now Kolkata), Bombay Now Mumbai) and Tranquebar, dominated by competing colonial interests.


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