27 - 28 June 2006
DUTCH EAST INDIA COMPANY. Singaleesch Gebeede-Boek. Colombo, Ceylon [present day Sri Lanka]: Dutch East India Company, 1737.
8o (188 x 127 mm). Woodcut device of the Dutch East India Company on first text leaf. Contemporary red morocco gilt, covers with gilt panels and ornament of the Dutch East India Company at center, smooth spine gilt (covers slightly bowed). Provenance: early inscription in French on flyleaf; purchased from Emil Offenbacher, 1948.
FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST BOOK PRINTED IN CEYLON AND THE FIRST BOOK PRINTED IN THE SINHALA LANGUAGE. The Dutch took possession of the maritime provinces of Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) in 1640. Gabriel Schade conducted the first printing experiments there and the first document published through the Dutch press in Sri Lanka was a notification named plakkaat, on 5th April 1737. The Dutch published this, the first book, on 6th September 1737 in the Sinhala Language. During the Dutch period, all administrative orders were printed in this press. At the British Capitulation in 1796, the Dutch press fell into the hands of the British. The British dismantled the Dutch press at Galle and re-established it in Colombo.
"It was in 1737 that the first printing is known to have been done in the island of Ceylon--then under Dutch rule. The Governor, Gustavus Wilhelmus, Baron Imhof, thought it would be advantageous to provide Christian literature for the Buddhist and Mohammedan population, so in 1736 he imported a press. The first book printed on this press is a Singhalese Prayer book in octavo format, in 1737" (Douglas McMurtrie, Memorandum on the First Printing in Ceylon, Chicago, 1931).
In such a gold-tooled bindings, this copy was probably the gift to the family or colleague of a VOC director. EXCEEDINGLY RARE: McMurtrie's statements were based on information received from the Honorary Secretary of the Royal Asiatic Society. No copies have appeared in American Book Prices Current in at least 30 years and no copies are located in RLG.
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