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300 years on, Ziegenbalg set to get his due

Staff Reporter

Missionary established first Tamil press


  • Sent by the Danish monarch, he did not restrict himself to religion
  • Contributed to various fields including education, printing and Tamil

    CHENNAI: The 300th anniversary of the arrival of Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg, a German who came to Tranquebar in 1706 as the first Protestant missionary to India sent by the Danish monarch, will be marked beginning July 3.

    The missionary was a person who did not restrict himself to religion. His arrival in South India served as the launchpad for several pioneering developments in the fields of education, printing and Tamil. Addressing press persons on Wednesday, S. Muthiah, historian, said that printing, which had died out in 1674, was revived by Ziegenbalg. He introduced the first Tamil printing press in Tranquebar in 1712, from which the first Tamil book was printed.

    He also started the first paper mill in Kaduthasipattarai in 1714. Describing him as a remarkable linguist, Mr. Muthiah said he authored a Tamil dictionary and translated Tamil grammative prose into Latin. He also published several books on the Tamil language and culture, he added. His other contributions include the first translation of the New Testament in Tamil and an interpretation of Tamil culture to Europe.

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