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337-year-old book to be reprinted

Ananya Dutta

KOLKATA: Collectors of rare books will soon be able to lay their hands on a facsimile copy of 17th century book India and Persia by British cartographer John Ogilvie. It is being reprinted by the authorities of the Asiatic Society here.

Published in 1673, the book, which is a part of the Library of the Asiatic Society, is the only known copy in India, said Nirbed Ray, publication secretary of the Society.

While the condition of the original had deteriorated owing to effects of age, the reprint would probably be available in March, nearly 337 years after it was first printed.

The book has unique artwork and maps from India and Persia. It provided the merchants of the East India Company valuable information on India and the Gangetic plains, Mr. Ray said.

While the decision to reprint the book was part of the Society’s constant endeavour of historic revival, it was decided to reprint it as a facsimile to retain the original look and feel of the book, he said.

Since it was essentially a collector’s piece, book lovers prefer it to be as close to the original as possible, which may present its own challenges, Mr. Ray added.

For example, he explained, when reading in one of the typographical fonts that was popular in print in the 17th and 18th centuries, one may confuse the letter ‘s’ for an ‘f’ because of the way it was written. So the word ‘first’ reads ‘firft’ to the unsuspecting reader.

The book was one of several rare texts that the Society hosted in its collection, which also included manuscripts in 31 languages and nine distinct scripts.

Apart from paper, manuscripts written on nearly 12 kinds of material, including the inner bark of the Birch tree, leather, palm leaves, fabric and tin, were also housed in its archives, Mr. Ray said.

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