Mapping Print Areas
A.R. Venkatachalapathy
PRINT AREAS: BOOK HISTORY IN INDIA by Abhijit Gupta and Swapan Chakravorty Permanent Black, New Delhi, 2004, 251 pp., 495.00
May 2004, volume 28, No 5

The history of the book, or book history, as it is beginning to be called now, has for long been the preserve of bibliographers and antiquarians. This has been especially so in India. Looking at books from a narrow and often bibliophilic, if not bibliomaniac, perspective they were more often than not most concerned with debates no more exciting than who printed the first book, which press came first, the role of Christian missionaries, who contributed more to such-and-such language printing, etc. Often their studies were bogged down with national-origins question of printing. Despite the most obvious fact that the work of historians is largely determined (is not the conventional dividing line between history and pre-history the invention of writing?) by documents, and mostly printed ones, their spectacular blindness to the concerns of book history is both inexplicable and astonishing. While we do have, not only in English but I presume in most Indian languages (I can vouch for Tamil), a significant body of knowledge on the history of printing, very rarely do any of them tackle questions that interest a larger body of scholars across narrow disciplinarian specializations.

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