Treasure House Eclipsed by Heritage Buildings of University College

By John B Monteiro
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February 11, 2020

“The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library” – Albert Einstein (1897- 1955), German-born theoretical physicist who developed theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics.

When the vice chancellor of Mangalore University, Prof P S Yadapadithaya, announced the 150-year celebration of Mangaluru city-based University College, scheduled on February 6, the focus is on the heritage buildings, tiled and painted red, on the campus and their renovations and additions. I would rather talk of the very modern building the campus hosts which is a treasure-house of books of rare heritage. Since Einstein wants us to know location of the library, it is along the southern compound wall, along the road that leads to the railway station and currently marked for underground tunnel. In fact, there is an entry for people and vehicles from this side street. It is a building which is modern, aesthetically designed and functional - an attraction in itself. But, what is inside it is mind-boggling for book lovers. My own exploration of it goes back to 2005.

It may be noted that the present University College was started as Government Provincial School in 1866 and later graduated to the title of Government College, and then renamed University College.

Sir William Temple, English diplomat and writer (1628-1699) wrote: “Books, like proverbs, receive their chief value from the stamp and esteem of ages through which they have passed.” The University College Library has many books of “stamp and esteem of ages”. Here is a short list of the significant books that have crossed the century mark and form the treasure of the library.

The Holy Bible contains the Old and New Testament translated into Canarese out of the original tongues by a committee of missionaries from Germany, London and Wesleyan Missionary Societies for the Madras Bible Society and printed at Basel Mission Press, Mangaluru, in 1865. The Old Testament takes 848 pages while the New Testament is covered in 246 pages.

The English-Carnataka Dictionary has a 52-page introduction and 1181 pages of main text. Unfortunately, this library edition has no publisher’s information. It is apparently Kittel’s Dictionary which was published in 1894 by Basel Mission Press, Mangaluru. The library’s copy of Chennabasavana Purana is dated 1851, Mangaluru. Another book, Saguna- A Story of Native Christian Life by S. Sathianadhan, is dated 1895, Madras. This is the second edition of the book first published in 1892. There is a Comparative Dictionary of the Languages of India and High Asia by WW Hunter dated 1868 – London. There is also a collector’s copy of the Constitution of India in folio size. This could be the only such copy in Mangaluru.

By far, the most important treasure of the library relates to the works of Shakespeare with illustrations and annotated by Charles and Mary Cowden Clarke and published by Cassel. This too has no date of publishing, but the state of the volumes indicates the age to about 165 years. The most outstanding and rare volume is ‘William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories and Tragedies -1664 , faithfully reproduced in facsimile from the editions of1664 by Methuen and Co London- 1905. It was published according to true original copies. The third impression and unto this impression is added seven plays, never before printed in folio. The volume includes the following poem composed by Ben Johnson below the portrait of Shakespeare.

To the Reader

This figure that thou here seest put,
It was for gentle Shakespeare cut;
Wherein the graver had strife
With nature, to out-do the life
Oh, could he but drawn his wit
As well in brasse, as he has hit
His face, the print would then surpasse.
But since he cannot, leader, look
Not on his picture, but his book.

It is interesting to note that a British housewife got bequeathed, in 2004, by an unknown relative one of the few first editions of Shakespeare’s plays – only six are known to be in private hands. The last such copy fetched $ 6.4 million in an auction in 2001. That reflects the material value of rare books and underlines the need to protect them with proper security measures so that vandals and robbers are kept at bay. The volume in the University Library, being the third edition, is the grandson of the edition that raked in seven million dollars. Take care!

 

Comment on this article

  • Dan M, Dubai / Mangalore

    Sun, Feb 16 2020

    But the greatest treasure in the library is the Everlasting Book, The Bible and Why ? And the insight and how to study the same,

    Best way to attain Eternal Life, a life of Love, Peace, Joy through and as,

    Bible = Book Indeed Book of Love Eternal.
    Bible = Book Indeed Book of Life Eternal.
    Bible = Book Indeed Book of Law Eternal.
    Bible = Book Indeed Book of Light (Knowledge) Eternal.

    Bible = elbib = Eternal life bought in book
    Bible = elbib = Ever lasting book in books

    Bible = Body Indeed Body of Lamb Eternal.
    Bible = Blood Indeed Blood of Lamb Eternal.

    Please read Gospels according to Matthew, Mark and Luke in sequence and find Eternal Life in Gospel of John.

    Agree [2]

  • Henry Mascarenhas, Greenville, NC, USA

    Sat, Feb 15 2020

    Dear Mr. Monteiro,

    Thank you for enlightening us of the rare literary treasures. I hope the custodians of this library will continue to protect them for posterity. Treasures such as these are a testament to the cultural heritage of South Kanara.

    Agree

  • Dr. Cynthia Menezes, Mangalore/Bangalore

    Fri, Feb 14 2020

    Dear Mr. Monteiro,
    Thank you for your awesome article. Visiting this library on our next trip will be our priority.

    Agree [2]

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel Mangalore

    Fri, Feb 14 2020

    Not all Women are Blank; not all Men Saints!
    Thank you Mangalurean for your insightful comments about daughters-in-laws lighting fire with pages from rare, classic books to light the fire in the kitchen. This veiled accusation, if true, is both sad and hilarious. In the sad absence of my dear wife, Lynette, who would have defended the ladies, let me try my hand by relating a similar case in which a thoughtless man sent houseful of ladies and children to bed starving - also kitchen-venue experience.
    It was the age when no telephones were there in Tulunadu to visit relatives by appointment. So, a newly-minted son-in-law of a house visited his wife’s abode to see his firs-born who was delivered in her parental house as was the custom - for ‘mama knows best’. He reached there after sundown and was soon served dinner along with the males of the household. Our visitor, hungry with day-long work on his farm and a long padayatra, gorged on the food as if there was no tomorrow. And all that cooked for the household got finished. The visitor with his raised belly got into a deep slumber indicated by loud snoring in the out-house.
    This was when the lady of the house put a fresh batch of rice to boil – for the left-out ladies and children. At this stage, the erstwhile snoring son-in-law suddenly barged into the kitchen and asked what was going on to be told that they had some clothes with sticky stains and these were put in the boiling water to ease out the stains. In a jiffy he ran to the bath room and came back with a ball of cloth. Before one could say Jack Robinson, he said that his Komana ( Langot in Hindi) was also vary dirty and dumped it into the boiling pot.
    Needless to say the women and children went to bed on empty stomach.

    Agree [4]

  • Mangalurian, Mangaluru

    Thu, Feb 13 2020

    Yet another great article from you, Mr Monteiro. Thank you.

    I was not aware that the institution held such valuable tomes. Hopefully they take good care of them.

    In my own (extended) family there were some books of great historical significance. But the ladies who joined the team as wives did not think much of them and used the leaves to light fires for cooking.

    Much later some enquiry was made only to realise that all the books had gone books' heaven.

    Agree [3]

  • KR.Ballal, MANGALURU

    Thu, Feb 13 2020

    Thank you for the excellant piece of writing.Infact many of the Mangaloreans do not know the existance of the library.I for one came to know of it's importance only after reading this artcle.

    Agree [1]

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel Mangalore

    Wed, Feb 12 2020

    Thank you Naveen for your insightful comments on this offline subject. Apart from technology weaning away potential readers from books, keeping books in healthy condition is a big problem with insects and weather posing problems for conservation. The Shakespearean monumental tome whose grandfather edition fetched $ seven million at end of last century is in a sorry state in Mangalore with weather conditions turning pages bristle and touch-me-nots.
    The good news is that the helpful and computer-savvy Librarian Vinaja assures that digitization is on and things will be okay before long. Hats off to her.

    Agree [3]

  • Naveen Frank, Sharjah

    Wed, Feb 12 2020

    Dear John.
    Thank you for bringing to light the fast disappearing treasure-trove of learning. Letter writing is no longer taught in schools. Perfect grammar has replaced short forms and emojis. Visiting a Library and doing extensive research has now been swept out by Google. Perhaps this is the last of the generation that will cherish reading, visiting libraries with vast aisles of book selves.
    Your beautiful article highlighting the rich heritage of Mangalore should be a warning bell to those of us who still cherish the treasures of learning. Unless we pass on this rich heritage to our younger generation, the seat of learning will be only tables, chairs and wall.

    Naveen Frank
    Sharjah, UAE

    Agree [5]

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel Mangalore

    Wed, Feb 12 2020

    Thank you Daiji for featuring this article. The photos supporting this article are thanks to my friend Binu Mathew.

    Agree [3]


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